Scene Stealer: How ‘Ping Pong Playa’ got its moves

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The makers of ‘Ping Pong Playa,’ the comedy about a wannabe basketball star turned pingpong champion, hoped to have star Jimmy Tsai whipped into tournament-level pingpong-playing shape for filming -- even though Tsai had only two months to prepare. But he could not have found better teachers than Diego Schaff and his wife, Olympic and Hall of Fame pingpong player Wei Wang, who own two table tennis clubs in Los Angeles. So, did they whip Tsai into top shape? Not quite, but Schaff could also improve the actor’s game as visual effects supervisor. ‘I choreographed their moves without a ball. Then I drew the trajectory of the ball, made sure it had the correct speed, and they sent it to a special effects house,’ Schaff said. For scenes that required bad guy Gerald, played by Peter Paige, to play pingpong on camera, Schaff stepped in as a body double. Schaff even wore Paige’s costume -- the small-budget production had just the one. ‘We had to swap clothes several times that day, and they got pretty sweaty,’ Schaff says. ‘There was a lot of cringing and apologizing.’

-- Patrick Kevin Day