Based on the popular and famously gory video game series, 1995’s Mortal Kombat was the first Hollywood video game adaptation to be a genuine box office hit. While certainly no critical darling, it was an undeniable cultural phenomenon, spawning a platinum-selling soundtrack and a live stage show that launched a nationwide tour at Radio City Music Hall.
But while the video game series continued to go on strong, the movie franchise took a sharp and sudden downward turn with the brutally panned and borderline unwatchable sequel, 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. A planned third film in the series never came together, and neither the Mortal Kombat TV show nor the rebooted web series really took off. Warner Brothers’ Mortal Kombat 2021 reboot is the first attempt to bring the franchise back into the Hollywood mainstream in over 20 years.
As a result, the original 1995 film is a nostalgic cult classic, and its stars remain the iconic screen portrayals of characters like Liu Kang, Shang Tsung, and Sonya Blade. While making Mortal Kombat was a physically strenuous affair, its actors were rewarded with a rare and precious moment in the life of a Hollywood performer — three weeks at the top of the US box office, the likes of which none of them would ever see again. But what have they been doing since then? Well, here’s what happened to the cast of 1995’s Mortal Kombat.
Christopher Lambert is a globe-trotting film star
Already the star of another fantasy/action franchise as Connor MacLeod in The Highlander, Christopher Lambert was given top billing for his supporting role as Lord Raiden (occasionally spelled Rayden) in the original Mortal Kombat film adaptation.
Lambert declined to appear in the sequel, citing scheduling conflicts at the time but revealing years later that he simply didn’t think the script was any good. He was succeeded in the role by James Remar of The Warriors and Dexter fame in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and by Tadanobu Asano in the 2021 remake. In 2019, Lambert briefly returned to the role for the game Mortal Kombat 11, recording new voice lines for a downloadable skin for the character that bears his likeness.
While appearing in fewer blockbuster productions, Lambert has continued to perform in film and on television across continents, from the French comedy series Call My Agent! (where he appeared as himself in 2017) to the Academy Award-nominated Russian historical drama Sobibor. American audiences most likely saw him last as Bastien Moreau in a 2019 arc of NBC’s The Blacklist. In addition to acting, Lambert also co-owns a vineyard in Argentina, travels, and customizes automobiles.
Robin Shou kept fighting for another decade after 1995’s Mortal Kombat
The true lead of 1995’s Mortal Kombat is Liu Kang, portrayed by actor and martial artist Robin Shou. Mortal Kombat was Shou’s first major Hollywood production, but he brought with him nine years of experience as a stunt performer in both Hollywood and Hong Kong. Shou also assisted fight choreographer Pat E. Johnson in staging some of his martial arts battles in Mortal Kombat, and he accepted the producers’ offer to take the lead as fight choreographer for the sequel. In 1997, Shou reprised the role of Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, as well as playing Gobei opposite Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja.
Shou would reunite with Mortal Kombat director Paul W.S. Anderson for his 2008 remake of Death Race. Shou also portrayed his Death Race character, 14K, in the film’s first two sequels, Death Race 2 and Death Race: Inferno. Plus, he has the rare distinction of having played both a Mortal Kombat character and a Street Fighter character, portraying Gen in 2009’s Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. He also played a small role in the 2006 film adaptation of DOA: Dead or Alive, giving him the rare "fighting game movie adaptation" hat trick.
According to a 2020 interview with the podcast Monsters, Magic, and Metal, Shou has since dedicated himself to parenting.
Linden Ashby watched over werewolves
Linden Ashby was just breaking into major motion pictures when he was cast as Hollywood big-shot Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat, having recently played supporting roles opposite Kevin Costner in Wyatt Earp and Luke Perry in 8 Seconds. On Mortal Kombat, Ashby enjoyed the freedom to improvise and influence his characterization, but he found shooting the fight sequences to be a punishing experience. Unhappy with the role he was offered for the sequel, Ashby declined to return for Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. (Johnny Cage, now played by Chris Conrad, is killed in Annihilation‘s opening battle.)
After Mortal Kombat, Ashby continued to appear in smaller action films and thrillers throughout the 1990s and 2000s, but his most famous role would come in 2011, when he was cast as Sheriff Noah Stilinski in MTV’s TV remake of Teen Wolf. Playing the father of one of the lead characters, Ashby appeared in 88 episodes of the hit series. However, all these years later, Ashby hasn’t forgotten his video game days. In 2019, Ashby recorded new voice lines and lent his likeness to the "Hollywood Kombatant" retro skin for Johnny Cage in Mortal Kombat 11.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is still the quintessential Shang Tsung
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is one of those great "I Know That Guy!" actors, a perennial movie ensemble player and TV guest star. He appeared in action films like Showdown in Little Tokyo and Rising Sun before becoming the villainous Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat. While appearing only in a cameo capacity in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Tagawa is the one original actor to reprise their role in the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, appearing in three episodes in 2013. He also returned as Shang Tsung in 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11, not as a bonus "retro" skin but as the game’s canonical version of Shang Tsung. (He is, however, succeeded by Chin Han in the 2021 Mortal Kombat film.)
Outside of Mortal Kombat, Tagawa remains a constant on-screen presence. He played a recurring role on the Netflix reboot of Lost in Space, and he portrayed Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi on three seasons of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. However, Tagawa has voiced frustrations over the limited roles available to Asian actors in Hollywood, which has led to his long tenure playing villains. In a 2006 documentary exploring this issue, The Slanted Screen, Tagawa said, "If I’m going to choose between a wimpy businessman and a bad guy, I’m gonna play a bad guy because I got balls."
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras settled down with family after 1995’s Mortal Kombat
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (then credited as Bridgette Wilson) had one heck of a 1995. Only two years into an exciting film career that began with Last Action Hero opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wilson-Sampras ended up starring in two hit movies with staying power in the same year. First, she appeared as third-grade teacher Veronica Vaughn in Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison. Next, she would win the role of Special Forces Officer Sonya Blade in Mortal Kombat, which became available when Cameron Diaz — hot off her own comedy debut in The Mask — broke her wrist training for the film.
Wilson-Sampras continued to appear in multiple movies a year, including four feature film roles in 1997, leaving no room on her schedule for sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. (Or perhaps, like some of her co-stars, she merely read the script and decided it wasn’t worth making time for. The role instead went to Swiss actress Sandra Hess.) However, Wilson-Sampras would return to voice the retro Sonya Blade skin for Mortal Kombat 11.
Talisa Soto retired from acting
Following a prosperous modeling career, Brooklyn actress Talisa Soto had already played a prominent role in one blockbuster action film — 1989’s License to Kill — before becoming Outworld’s Princess Kitana in Mortal Kombat. Following the video game adaptation, Soto found herself cast in a string of infamously bad films such as Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the direct-to-video adaptation of the pulpy horror comic Vampirella, and in 2002’s Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, which appears to have been the point when Soto decided enough was enough. She’s made only one credited acting appearance since, in 2009’s La Mission, written and directed by her brother-in-law, Peter Bratt.
Soto has been out of public life for over a decade and has given precious few interviews, but she can often be seen walking the red carpet at premieres and award shows with her husband, actor Benjamin Bratt, with whom she has two children.
Trevor Goddard left a mystery behind
English actor Trevor Goddard portrayed the smirking mercenary Kano in Mortal Kombat with an Australian accent that was later adopted in the games series. So what’s the origin behind that voice? Well, Goddard spent years in Hollywood claiming to have been a boxer from Perth, Australia, which was, according to the Lakeland Ledger, a total invention. Those rare interviews with Goddard that can be found online still cling to this fiction, leaving very little information behind about his real life.
While his film career never took off, Goddard found a home on the CBS drama JAG as Lieutenant Commander Mic Brumby. He appeared in 42 episodes of the series alongside his friend Catherine Bell, who he met on the set of the low-budget action film Men of War in 1994. Sadly, Goddard died in 2003 at the age of 40 due to a drug overdose. His final feature film role, which hit screens a month later, was as Grapple, a pirate aboard the titular vessel in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Chris Casamassa is still teaching new Kombatants
One of most iconic characters from the Mortal Kombat video games, Scorpion was a minor role in the original 1995 film, silent but for his iconic taunt: "Get over here!" Since his only purpose in the film was to fight, the role was filled by stunt actor Chris Casamassa, who also doubled as on-set trainer for his on-screen opponent, Johnny Cage actor Linden Ashby.
Casamassa reprised Scorpion in both Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and four episodes of the short-lived syndicated television series Mortal Kombat: Konquest in 1998. Other highlights of Casamassa’s stunt career include appearing in 1998’s Blade and performing as George Clooney’s stunt double as the Caped Crusader in Batman & Robin in 1997.
Shihan Chris Casamassa is now president and CEO Red Dragon Karate, the school founded by his father Shihan Sensei Louis D. Casamassa in 1965. He’s the head instructor at their Glendora, California location.
François Petit trained some big boys
The man under Sub-Zero’s mask was French martial artist, dancer, and personal trainer François Petit. Petit was involved in the film long before the rest of the cast, working to help bring on the stunt performers. When a suitable actor couldn’t be found for Sub-Zero, it fell to Petit, though his on-set responsibilities led to the role being reduced in scope. In addition to helping to stage the action, Petit was also Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s fight trainer.
Petit has also personally trained huge stars (figuratively and literally) such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. He served on the WWF medical staff during their heyday in the 1990s, and he can be seen tending to Mick Foley after his now-famous 16-foot fall in the "Hell in a Cell" match at 1998’s King of the Ring event. While no longer active in Hollywood, Petit has consulted as a dance choreographer as recently as 2020.
Since 1995’s Mortal Kombat, Keith Cooke has been getting movie stars ready for action
Master Keith Cooke Hirabayashi (credited in Mortal Kombat as Keith Cooke) was already a celebrated martial arts competitor before he began taking roles in Hollywood action movies. In 1990, he appeared in two back-to-back films opposite martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock in China O’Brien and China O’Brien 2. After the first test screenings for Mortal Kombat came back with one prevailing request — "More fights!" — Cooke was brought in to participate in one of the added action sequences as Reptile. Cooke’s decades of experience made him a great dance partner for Robin Shou’s Liu Kang.
Cooke was invited back in 1997 for a fighting and speaking role as the new Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and he would also join Robin Shou in Beverly Hills Ninja that same year. While he no longer appears in films, he is the owner and head instructor of Keith Cooke Studios in Brentwood, California, where he’s trained a number of Hollywood stars in preparation for athletically demanding roles. His list of students includes Djimon Hounsou, Zoe Saldana, Rosa Salazar, and director James Cameron.