Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 16yo Kiwi Arnold Sun 'proud' to be youngest Kiwi to join the MCU

Like most 16-year-olds, Arnold Sun's Instagram page shows off all the coolest things going on in his world. 

There are pictures of his drawings - he's not a bad artist - his cat hanging out in his room, him mucking around to entertain his mates, and snaps from his participation in events like the 2018 Wushu Championships and the student-run Chinese Extravaganza. 

More recently, and very unlike most 16-year-olds, Sun's social media content shows him on set of Marvel's new movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, performing stunts and making his acting debut as the youngest ever Kiwi to join the illustrious MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

That's only the biggest, most successful movie franchise in history.

Sun, who has been training in Wushu for more than a decade, was plucked from obscurity - with no former acting experience - to play a teen Shang-Chi in the flick, based on the comics starring the character of the same name. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings had its star-studded premiere in Los Angeles a month ago and has spent two weeks atop the US box office charts, now eyeing it's third since its September 3 release in North America.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 16yo Kiwi Arnold Sun 'proud' to be youngest Kiwi to join the MCU
Photo credit: Marvel

The film opened in many Aotearoa cinemas on Thursday - but for Sun, stuck in Auckland during the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, there could be a while to wait yet before he sets eyes on the finished product. 

Not even those circumstances can take the sheen off what Sun calls the "surreal experience" of being a part of Marvel's latest offering. He spoke to Newshub about all the excitement of portraying the teenage Shang-Chi.

Newshub: How did you start acting? Did you undergo any acting training? 

Arnold Sun: I started acting when I got offered the audition for Shang-Chi. I didn't go through any formal acting training, however I have a performance background in Wushu. I have performed live at many events and competitions, which I think helped with my acting.

Can you tell us about the process of landing the role? What was the audition like? 

In 2019 I got offered the chance to do an audition, by my now-agent who knew of me and was looking for young martial artists for a film shooting overseas. And so I did the self-tape not knowing what film it was for at the time. And after around two self-tapes I was told that I landed the role for teen Shang-Chi.

How does it feel to be the youngest Kiwi to ever join the Marvel Cinematic Universe? 

I feel a sense of pride. I mean it's not everyday that you can represent your country in a Marvel film!

Did you feel nervous on your first day on set?

Oh definitely, I would say it was one of the most anxious days I've ever had. I specifically remember going to the stunt department and being overwhelmed by the incredible skills the stunties had.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 16yo Kiwi Arnold Sun 'proud' to be youngest Kiwi to join the MCU
Photo credit: Marvel

What was it like to be the only New Zealander in the cast? Did you teach the others any Kiwi slang?

Being the only Kiwi in the cast I could share a lot of insights on what New Zealand is like, and the NZ lifestyle. I remember telling the stunties what 'mean' was in Kiwi slang. 

You started training in Wushu at the age of six - what made you want to take that up and stick with it for so long? 

Yep, my dad introduced me to Wushu and I've stuck with it for many years because I enjoy it. A lot of people don't know how long it actually takes to progress. So although I have practiced for ten years; I still have much more to learn. 

I saw an Instagram post from your trainer saying that he pushed you harder than he trains black belts and you never once complained! Is that really true? Surely you whinged a little bit. 

I'm sure I must've whinged at one point due to the pain. But I don't think I've ever complained about the training being too hard or too tiring.  

You didn't get to see the film before its opening weekend overseas, has it been tough waiting to see the final product? 

I am really eager to watch Shang-Chi. Lockdown has definitely made it harder to see the film, and now the NZ release date is here. However I'm still unsure as to when I will see the film in theatres in Auckland.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: 16yo Kiwi Arnold Sun 'proud' to be youngest Kiwi to join the MCU
Photo credit: Marvel

What was your proudest moment from being a part of the film? How about the hardest moment?

I think shooting the scenes were the hardest moment for me generally, because it definitely required a lot of energy and dedication to perform each scene. Filming had to stop and restart a couple of times so after all of this to be able to see everyone's achievements on the big screen will be a proud moment.  

What's next for you? What would your dream career look like?

I would be very happy continuing with the acting career. But I haven't yet made a verdict on what my dream career is.