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Mortal Kombat Missed An Opportunity Casting Sonya Blade

Cynthia Rothrock inspired Sonya Blade but she didn't star in the first Mortal Kombatmovie. Arriving in theaters in 1995, Paul W.S. Anderson's adaptation of the video game series was quickly praised as being the first genuinely good video game movie, and while it's certainly begun to show its age, Mortal Kombat is still regarded as among the few decent entries in the genre. However, looking back, it's a bit surprising that the film didn't recruit Cynthia Rothrock as Sonya Blade.

The premise of Mortal Kombat was heavily influenced by Enter the Dragon, while numerous characters were analogues for famous martial artists, such as Bruce Lee having been the basis for Liu Kang. Rothrock being the inspiration for Sonya Blade isn't too shocking, given her career beginnings in Hong Kong action movies and her omnipresence in American B-movies. Yet Mortal Kombat is one that she was ultimately not part of the roster for.

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The role of Sonya Blade itself went through some noteworthy recasting. Cameron Diaz had originally been set to play Sonya, but a wrist injury prior to production left her unable to participate. This would end up leading to Bridgette Wilson-Sampras becoming the movie's Sonya Blade. When it came to Sonya's famous drill sergeant personality, Wilson-Sampras absolutely hit the bull's eye on this aspect of her, deflating Johnny Cage's self-absorbed attitude at every turn and landing possibly the best fatality in the movie in her slaying of Kano. Yet, it was also unfortunately evident that she was very much a beginner in martial arts. While actors trained specifically for one role can certainly yield great results, such as the cast of The Matrix or Rain in Ninja Assassin, this might explain why Sonya has relatively few fight scenes in the movie compared to Liu Kang or Johnny Cage. Things could've been different if the role went to Rothrock.

Coming from such an extensive martial arts background, Cynthia Rothrock really could have added a lot to the movie by embodying the very character she inspired in the games. While the film's martial arts battles were fantastic for their time in a Hollywood production, and still very good today, Rothrock as Sonya would have elevated this aspect of the movie immensely from what was already a great starting point. Moreover, Rothrock was also really the only woman in the 1990s to have risen to notable prominence in American martial arts films at the time, but the makers of Mortal Kombat may have simply felt they needed a less niche name for the character - even if Diaz, coming off of 1994's The Mask, and Wilson-Sampras were relative newcomers themselves at the time.

Sonya would later be played by Sandra Hess in the 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, with the movie being a complete disaster on all fronts. Star Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan subsequently appeared as Sonya in the 2010 short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and in the first season of the web-series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, while the upcoming 2021 reboot Mortal Kombat will also see Jessica McNamee in the role. In adaptations both great and terrible, Sonya Blade has certainly been brought to life by some fine actresses, but it remains a lamentable missed opportunity of the Mortal Kombatfranchise that despite having been the foundation on which Sonya was built, Cynthia Rothrock never got a shot at showing what she could do in the role.

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