Chris Farley Didn't Skimp On His Martial Arts Training For Beverly Hills Ninja

Chris Farley is one of the greatest comedic what-ifs in recent history. The actor-comedian was an electric standout performer on "Saturday Night Live" and had almost unlimited star potential. Farley tragically died of a drug overdose in 1997, right when his film career was taking off. Had he lived longer, I can only imagine the comedies he'd have put out by now. I could also imagine a world where an older Farley takes a later-career dramatic turn, like his peer, Adam Sandler. He was truly a once-in-a-lifetime comedic talent.

The tragic story of Farley's early end is told again and again, so most people today are aware of his immense comedy skills. He also possessed other, more unexpected, abilities. Farley's last feature film before his passing was "Beverly Hills Ninja." A favorite film of Christian Bale, the movie followed Farley as an orphan who is raised by a gang of ninjas. Naturally, he picks up some ninja skills there and uses those skills to solve a mystery. It's not a great film.

According to a 1996 interview with Farley and the film's director Dennis Dugan, Farley actually picked up some real-life martial arts skills to prepare himself for the role. It's well known that Farley was able to kill on stage with his jokes, but it seems he also received some training to kill in a different way.

A natural warrior

Perhaps Chris Farley's best skill was his physical comedy. For a large guy, he could move around extremely gracefully, and he would often use his physical size to the benefit of gags, like his famous "fat guy in a little coat" bit from "Tommy Boy."

It was because of this surprising agility that, when he was sent to train for "Beverly Hills Ninja," he impressed everyone with his ninja fighting aptitude. "You know, one of the things you've got to do is, in order to look bad at something, you have to be good," said Dennis Dugan in the 1996 interview. "So I said [to Chris Farley], 'You have to, you just must go practice.' And he practiced three hours a day, he knocked me out."

I assume, and hope, that Dugan didn't mean he knocked him out literally. But it's no shock that Farley took to ninja skills like a fish to water when you consider his sports background. "I played a little football, nose guard and center, and I played high school football, that was a lot of fun. Then I wrestled, so wrestling helps a lot, you know," said Farley in the same interview. 

Farley got the opportunity to practice with some deadly weapons as well. "Robin [Shue] trained me in weapons, too, and he's great," he said. "The nunchucks and the three-sectional staff, along with swords, you know like that big a sword [I used for] the flower move and stuff like that."

In the modern era, a man of Farley's heft and speed became a fantastic comedian. But if he had been born in an earlier time period, perhaps he would have unlocked his innate combat abilities as well. I imagine a warrior that huge and fast would have been quite intimidating.