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

Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS - IN­TER­VIEW BY: ROBERT W. YOUNG

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.”

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