NCAA wrestling champion. UFC middleweight contender. Action movie star?
That’s the career progression that Mark Munoz hopes to follow ahead of the release of the film Lumpia with a Vengeance, in which he is featured in the leading role. Munoz, 42, has been on a movie sets before (including the Kevin James MMA comedy Here Comes the Boom), but this is brand new territory for him as this is the first production he’s been involved with that revolves around him and his character.
A reboot of the film Lumpia, described in a press release as “a 2003 homemade movie that became a cult hit in the Filipino American community,” Lumpia with a Vengeance is directed by Patricio Ginelsa and also stars veteran actor Danny Trejo.
Ahead of the movie’s debut at The 40th Hawaii International Film Festival in Honolulu this Saturday, Munoz spoke to MMA Fighting about the experience and his potential future in acting.
“It was a lot of fun to me,” Munoz said. “It wasn’t like work, it was super fun. After all, I got to throw lumpia around and hit people in the face with it, so that was a lot of fun. And I got to eat lumpia on the set, which is one of the delicacies in the Philippines, which a lot of people would love. It’s an egg roll, and who doesn’t like an egg roll?”
Not only does Munoz play the main character, he is also one of the co-producers on the film, meaning he was on set for the majority of the shooting and that the filming of key scenes had to accommodate his travel schedule (production for Lumia with a Vengeance began in 2017). Since fighting his last UFC fight in May 2015, Munoz has continued to work as a coach in both MMA and wrestling as well as in assisting with military training.
Unsurprisingly, the action-heavy role came naturally to Munoz, who went 9-6 in his UFC career with notable wins over Demian Maia, Chris Leben, and Tim Boetsch. He’s eager to take on more roles like this in the future and follow in the footsteps of some martial arts film luminaries.
“I definitely see myself doing this a lot more,” Munoz said. “If the opportunity arises I would love to do it because to be able to do something like acting, it’s a dream come true. I’ve watched Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, they were able to make a pretty good name for themselves and provide for their families and do what they love.
“It’s the American dream. I would love the opportunity to do it and to be able to do martial arts at the same time, which I fell in love with. Who wouldn’t want to do that, especially in my shoes?”
If there’s a third Lumpia film, Munoz hopes to cast other fighters in it, but for now he’s still getting used to being the star of the show. He describes his character as “a silent avenger” who graduates from dealing with bullies in high school to cleaning up his neighborhood of crooks and drug lords.
The vigilante’s weapon-of-choice is lumpia, a popular food item in Munoz’s Filipino culture, and Munoz laughs as he explains his cartoonish approach to crime-fighting.
“I have a deep fryer on one hip and then I have a freezer on the other hip to keep my lumpia fresh,” Munoz said. “So I would put it in the deep fryer, it would pop up, and then it was ready I would use it like Spider-Man uses his webs to subdue his adversaries. Then I would use my martial arts to do it even more and then boom I take care of business that way.”
Munoz’s adversary in the film is played by Trejo, who’s gravelly features and voice are recognizable to most film fans from his roles in Machete, Heat, Con Air, and countless other hard-boiled genre fair. From the scenes they shared, Munoz could sense movie magic in the air.
At least he hopes that’s the case and if so, that it could lead to future collaborations.
“I had a scene with Danny Trejo and there was a part where he throws a taquito and I throw a lumpia and it explodes,” Munoz said. “But our very first shot, he threw the taquito and I threw the lumpia and it actually hit each other in mid-air where it was supposed to hit. It was like, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy.’
“So I was like, ‘Man, Danny, there’s an instant connection between you and I so we should probably do this a lot more.’”