August 5, 1972
Stockport, Cheshire, England
January 14, 2015
Los Angeles, California, United States
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Gifted martial arts performer Darren Shahlavi parlayed his skills into a prolific career as an actor and stunt man in numerous Hollywood and Hong Kong films, including "Ip Man 2" (2010), and stateside television like "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" (YouTube/Machinima.com, 2011-13). Born August 5, 1972, Shahlavi was raised by his parents, both immigrants from Iran, in the Greater Manchester town of Cheshire, England. His interest in martial arts was sparked at an early age by the films of Bruce Lee, and he began studying judo in a space shared with a theater group. The actors who performed there also captured Shahlavi's attention, and he began to formulate a plan to combine his interest into a career as an action movie star. A seminar on Chinese fight choreography by actor Donnie Yen inspired Shahlavi to relocate to Hong Kong in order to launch his screen career. He began working in the early '90s as a stunt player and bit actor in the city's vibrant cinema industry while also supporting himself as a nightclub bouncer and occasional bodyguard for visiting Hollywood stars. In 1996, famed martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping ("The Matrix," 1999) gave Shahlavi his big break by casting him as the villain in "Tai Chi Master," a sequel to the popular 1993 action film with Jet Li. He was soon working steadily as an actor and fight choreographer in Hong Kong genre films, as well as low-budget American projects like "Hostile Environment" (2000). These projects led to stunt work in Hollywood studio films like "The Chronicles of Riddick" (2004) and "300" (2006), as well as bit parts as tough guys and fighters in pictures like James Gunn's "Slither" (2006) and "Watchmen" (2009). The following year, Shahlavi returned to Hong Kong for one of the most spectacular showcases for his screen fighting abilities: "Ip Man 2," with his idol Donnie Yen reprising his role as the eponymous famed martial arts instructor. Shahlavi was cast as a vicious British fighter whose bouts against Ip Man served as the exciting climax of the picture. A major hit throughout the Asian film community, the success of "Ip Man 2" lent considerable star power to Shahlavi's career, and he returned to the United States to enjoy more sizable roles in features and television. He was a regular presence in direct-to-video action films, co-starring with the likes of Steven Seagal ("Born to Raise Hell," 2010), wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin" ("Tactical Force," 2011) and Dolph Lundgren ("The Package," 2013), and was featured as the D.C. Comics heel Constantine Drakon in the pilot for the CW's immensely popular "Arrow" (2012- ). Shahlavi worked steadily into the 2010s, dividing his time between acting in features and television and web series like "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" and occasional stunt work for projects like "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" (2011). Sadly, Shahlavi died in his sleep at the age of 42 on January 14, 2015. No cause of death was given, but the performer left behind a vast body of work, including appearances in features like Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland" (2015) for Walt Disney Pictures.