A glamorous haze swathed the boxing ring, sliced by a single blue spotlight.
This was no cigar smoke. This was purple haze, Hollywood style: a giant humidifier spewing out mineral oil-laden vapor. It seems the shimmery stuff looks good under stage lights.
Hollywood came to Orange County Tuesday as the makers of "Kickboxer II" took over the Bren Events Center at UC Irvine and recruited nearly 2,000 extras to pack the auditorium for several fight scenes.
"It's basically a 'Rocky'/'Karate Kid'-type story of revenge," explained location manager Edward T. Parmelee, who chose the $15-million gymnasium-auditorium for its "modern and glitzy" look.
"It's what we call a 'virgin location,' " Parmelee explained. "So much of what you see has been filmed over and over again."
Yes, it is a sequel. The original "Kickboxer" starred martial arts buff Jean-Claude Van Damme as an American kickboxer taking revenge on an evil Thai fighter who had paralyzed his brother, raped his girlfriend and crippled his dog.
Van Damme is killed in the opening scenes of "Kickboxer II," according to line producer Tom Karnowski. Sasha Mitchell of "Dallas" and "Spike of Bensonhurst" fame plays another brother forced out of retirement to face the terrible Thai. In both versions, the fearsome Tan Po is played by Michele Qissi, a 6-foot-1 Belgian boxer in Asian makeup and a four-foot ponytail.
"I like it when they hit each other," said one extra, Don Ricco, a 20-year-old UC Irvine student.
"I don't think anybody goes for the plot. We go for the fight," said Jon Chan, a UC Irvine biology major who had waited 2 1/2 hours for a seat in the stands.
Other bleacher creatures included high school students cutting class for a glimpse of glitz, martial arts aficionados, mostly male, and more than a few overdressed young women who said they had come to see the muscular stars.
"Is Jean-Claude Van Damme going to be here? That's why I'm here," said Melanie Mistretta, 26, who had driven down from Temple City.
"Jean-Claude, he's a stud," said 16-year-old Thad Martin of Irvine. "We envy him."
Behind the scenes, world kickboxing champion Benny (The Jet) Urquidez, who trained the actors, and stunt man Jimmy Nickerson, veteran of "Rocky" and "Raging Bull," were choreographing the action.
Urquidez said kickboxing does not deserve its reputation for violence.
"It's a beautiful art," he said. "We've never had a death, never had a bad injury."
As he spoke, Urquidez wound bandages around the fists of props coordinator Tiger Barry. They were making casts for a scene in which the fighters dip their fists in resin, then in ground glass.
Barry made the harmless version by coating the bandages with soft silicone ice. To make the bloody bandages for the later scenes, he makes the fake silicone "glass" with karo syrup and red food dye.
"When they have all the cuts, the makeup takes four hours," Barry said.