HE CAN DISH IT OUT AND HE CAN TAKE IT!
VETERAN STUNTMAN ALAIN MOUSSI IS ON THE FAST TRACK TO BECOMING THE NEXT ACTION STAR THANKS TO THE REBOOTED KICKBOXER MOVIES
Let me start by saying that although I’ve seen some mediocre reviews for Kickboxer: Vengeance, I have not heard anything negative about Kickboxer:
Retaliation. I was quite impressed by the fights, and I thought your acting was spot on. Thanks so much. That means a lot.
What was different about the production of the two movies?
In Vengeance, I came in and didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I tried to be an actor and follow what I was told. And everything was cool. The fight units did a fantastic job on the film. However, after that experience, I thought, Hold on, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I know exactly what Dimitri [Logothetis, the producer] is looking for and what the audience wants. And I know my strengths as a performer and a martial artist.
So Jean-Fran•ois Lachapelle, the stunt coordinator in Canada, helped me design the [second] film. He knows me so well that he knew exactly what to showcase. Our stunt coordinator in Thailand was great, too. Thais have such a unique style — they love hitting, which you know if you saw
Ong-Bak. That is exactly what I wanted for Retalia
tion. We had our guys in Canada and the guys in Thailand each doing their thing, and I wanted to take both, so I started bringing the elements together to make something unique. No one person has all the best ideas. Collaborations bring out the best ideas. Then it takes somebody to put all of them together, and that was my role in the second film.
On set, I was performing every day, and at the same time, I was helping train the actors — like for my scenes with Mike Tyson, Wanderlei Silva and Fabricio Werdum. I coached them through what we needed them to do. In postproduction, I collaborated with Dimitri and our editor to showcase the shots that would show the best of everybody. We came up with the best martial arts moves while putting the most drama into the fights so you feel for the characters. A fight with no drama is boring.
So far, Kickboxer: Vengeance and Kickboxer: Retaliation have been made. Have you filmed Kickboxer: Armageddon yet?
We’re about to start. We shoot a week in Vegas and then go to Thailand to film in May. It’s supposed to come out in 2019.
What has it been like to have your feature-film debut be in a trilogy that’s based on a Jean- Claude Van Damme classic? Those are some big shoes to fill in martial arts cinema.
It’s been incredible because I grew up on his films — I started training after I saw Bloodsport. To have my breakout role be as Kurt Sloane in Kickboxer, which is actually my favorite Van Damme movie, is incredible. It’s going full circle for me. His movies inspired me to get into films, but at the time, I had no idea how [to do that], so I became a stuntman in 2010. Then Dimitri asked me to audition for a film, and years later I ended up in Kickboxer. It’s been a wild journey.
When you worked with Van Damme on the set, did he regard you as a replacement, someone looking to take over his iconic role? Or did he act like a mentor?
When he heard I got the role, he called to discuss how I felt about it, and we hit it off. Shooting together was the same. He’s very generous on the set. Whether it was his shot or mine, he’d be off camera, throwing the lines at me. He took this on as a new role, and in a way, he is the mentor in the film. And as an experienced actor, he wanted to pass on some of that magic.
In Vengeance, did you set out to make Kurt Sloane your own character or did you try to mimic Van Damme’s performance in the original?
I didn’t want to recreate his character. There’s no way
I first met Alain Moussi in 2016 when James Bennett, a longtime friend of the magazine, brought Moussi and Dimitri Logothetis to the Black Belt office. Apparently, Moussi was the star of the Kickboxer reboot (Jean-Claude Van Damme made the original in 1989), and Logothetis was the producer. They were friendly and knowledgeable, and they showed us a clip from the remake, which ended up being called Kickboxer: Vengeance. Yes, the clip looked great, but one great clip is a far cry from a great martial arts movie.
Fast-forward a few months: Vengeance was released to mixed reviews. Many die-hard JCVD fans didn’t like it — of course — while many action aficionados did. For reference, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 43 percent, which admittedly doesn’t mean much because critics seldom dig fight flicks. I never got a chance to watch the whole thing.
Fast-forward again, this time to 2018. A PR company sent me a screener for Kickboxer: Retaliation, the second rebooted movie. I watched — and was impressed by the stunts, the cast and, of course, the fights. That triggered the sequence of events that led to the cover of the issue you’re holding right now.
to recreate something that was done that many years ago. Our only option was to look at the story and modernize it, so Dimitri created a new story based on the same themes. After multiple discussions with him as to how we should attack this, I wanted to bring something unique, something of myself, into it — the same way Van Damme did back in the day. He didn’t have a lot of experience when he made Kickboxer. He came in as a fish out of water, and then he grew. If he was to go back 30 years and shoot Kickboxer again, it would be totally different. He just followed what was on the page and gave it his heart. I took the same approach. I wanted to give it a new flavor. The beauty of it this time around is we get to see everything develop in multiple films.
Clearly, martial arts choreography has changed between the time Kickboxer was made and now. What’s your take on how it’s developed?
It’s more sophisticated now because the audience expects so much more. A big part of it is the implementation of Hong Kong–style choreography in Western filmmaking. Now, when you see films like
John Wick, you see choreography that’s very sophisticated compared to when Van Damme got started. At the time, you’d wind up and throw one kick and that would take about three seconds. Now, within three seconds, you have 10 hits.
With Retaliation, we wanted to bring new elements into the fighting, as well as unique ways of displaying those elements. What I loved about the old style of choreography is the cause and effect. For example, when you saw Van Damme do that big windup, you knew you would see a big hit and a big reaction. With the fast-paced choreography we have today, it’s hit-hit-hit and block-block-block. You don’t really see the cause and effect.
We made it our goal to have both — to have sophisticated choreography and the reality of the hit. In real life, if I kick you in the stomach, you won’t throw something back at me right away. There is reaction and emotion. So when Dimitri and I sat down with our team, we decided we wanted to blend both: cool moves and combinations, and camerawork that would capture the result of every single hit and make it as real as possible.
What do you have planned after the three Kickboxer movies?
We have a new franchise we’re launching. It’s action/martial arts/sci-fi, almost a cross between the Bourne movies and The Predator. It’s going to be called Jiu-Jitsu. It’s cool for me personally because I started in Japanese jujitsu, then went into kickboxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This film will blend everything together. It will be an awesome challenge to design all the action in conjunction with the story that we have. There are two other films that are off the tail end of Jiu-Jitsu, so we’re going to be busy for quite a while.
If someone in Hollywood said, “We want you to star in a remake of Bloodsport,” what would you say?
( laughs) I would listen to the pitch. However, I don’t know if I would do it. It’s an honor to be in the remake of
Kickboxer, but I don’t want to be the guy who remakes two, three or four of Van Damme’s films. That’s not me.
Do you ever get recognized on the street because of the Kickboxer reboot?
It happens once in a while in Ottawa, my hometown, and in other places. Not right now, though, because I don’t look like myself with this long hair and beard. But this is what I need for the new look of Kurt Sloane in the third movie.
What advantages has your stunt background given you for your new gig as an action star?
The major advantage is I know how to kick ass and I know how to get my ass kicked. When you make action movies and you’re doubling an actor, there will be a stunt and you will go out of frame. Then they will take you, the stunt guy, out and put the actor back in. At the same time, they change the camera angle so it’s not a wide shot that shows your back; it’s a shot that shows the actor’s face.
Because of my background, however, they don’t have to do that because the camera can show me getting punched or kicked, then show me falling. From the point where I get hit to the point where I stop, the camera is on me. You can see that I’m taking it. Here’s one example.
There’s a shot in Retaliation where Hafpór Bjšrnsson, our 400-pound monster, sweeps my leg so I’m up in the air and then slams me down with two hammerfists to the body. You see him hit me, and I go flying to the ground and my head hits the stairs. There’s no point where the camera cuts away. That builds anticipation — I’ve seen audiences react to it. That’s how you engage people. It’s no longer just a fight; it’s “Oh my god, what happened to that guy?!” Now they’re caught up in the story.
With your career taking off, do you still do stunt work for other actors?
No. Now I do stunts only for myself. That keeps my busy. Also, in between films, I work on my acting. I’m a big believer in doing reps. If you want to get good at something, do 1,000 reps or 10,000 reps. That’s why between movies, I do two things: I keep on training as a martial artist, and I try to make sure the acting catches up to the physical performance. That takes away any time I might have had to do stunts.
Speaking of martial arts training, which styles have you done?
When I was 10, I started in a style of Japanese jujitsu called Can-ryu jiu-jitsu under John Therien. When I was
“I DON’T WANT TO BE THE GUY WHO REMAKES TWO, THREE OR FOUR OF VAN DAMME’S FILMS.”