WELCOME TO THE CLUB: An Interview With KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE Star Alain Moussi
Imagine that you were called upon to remake one of the most formative works of your youth. Something that ultimately changed the trajectory of your entire life. Now imagine you were tasked with fighting the good fight to rejuvenate the dormant genre that gave birth to it. That was the position that actor/stunt performer Alain Moussi found himself in when he was cast in John Stockwell's reboot of the Mark DiSalle/David Worth-directed action classic, Kickboxer.
Moussi speaks of the experience with boundless energy and enthusiasm. From making the transition into leading man status to going toe-to-toe on screen with the man who inspired him to take up martial arts, Moussi is living some kind of dream... And loving every minute of it.
stunt performer to leading actor?
Alain Moussi: It's definitely a challenge. I've doubled multiple leads. I've doubled Henry Cavill, Hugh Jackman, Jai Courtney so I've always seen them perform and then I go in to do what I need to do when it's time. To do both, it's definitely a challenge. I train so hard physically to build up my skills and maintain my skills. So when I made the transition, I felt like “I need to train”. I had some acting workshops here and there but now I really had to push it. So I hired an acting coach and for five months straight I worked with him nonstop. For me, the only way to get good at something is to practice; it's the same approach I have in martial arts.
I'm a rookie actor, I respect the art and the craft so much. I respect all the actors I work with because it's not easy to build up that skill. My approach is to work at it as hard as I can. I enjoyed the experience a lot and I feel like every time I do it I'll get better. With (Kickboxer) Retaliation, I felt it right away. I felt even better and more confident in the second film than the first. Now that I'm there, I don't want to go back (laughs). I'm enjoying it so much. Hopefully I get to keep on going.
AM: Amazing! I worked with Joey Ansah, and he's an awesome dude to work for and work with; very collaborative and very clear about what he's looking for. So when I auditioned for him, he gave me some notes about exactly what he was looking for. Later on when he offered me Charlie Nash, he and his partner said “after we saw you audition once, we thought 'oh my god, he hit it right on!'”.
Working with him was really cool, he has a very specific vision of Street Fighter and very true the game and the characters and the story. He loves the source material and he was able to work with it in a great way. So working on that project, it was fun to work with him, Christian Howard, Natasha Hopkins, Mike Moh... all the actors I worked with were great. To tackle Charlie Nash was fun because he's such an antihero; he's not your typical nice guy at all. The guy I usually play was Kurt Sloan who's just a nice guy and this was something totally different. He had the garb, he had the graphed skin, the hair; he was an awesome character and it was a really interesting experience as an actor.
AM: Uhhh, most challenging? Guaranteed it was the end fight, that was a beast! We did it in record time, as well. Dave (Bautista) had limited time with us so we had to shoot it in multiple stages going twelve hours a day, nonstop. So, that was a physical challenge on its own but then there was also the weather. We shot that scene in New Orleans and at the time it was really cold, like zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). So we'd perform for a bit and it was hot, and then we'd wait to reset and it was cold, then hot, then cold. We'd do that all night because it was night shoots. To deal with the weather; the warm ups the cool downs, that was a challenge on its own for both of us.
One of my favorite fights of the movie was the one with Jean Claude in the rain. I loved that fight, it was one of my favorite to shoot. Fighting JC, it meant a lot on a personal level and was a really, really important moment in the film. And the elephant fight... that was really great! I think every fight scene had its own charm to it.
That was Demitri, our producer, he directed the Thai unit. He wrote that in a long time ago and he FOUGHT for it. There was no way we weren't doing it; no ifs, ands or buts about it and I'm so glad he fought to keep it in the movie. It really gives it that Thailand feel. It was beautiful.
AM: I got started on Bloodsport and Kickboxer, those got me into martial arts and into kicking. I was pretty obsessed with those movies and Van Damme. And then came Steven Seagal. I really enjoyed his totally different style with Aikido. I was training in Jiu Jitsu and when I saw Wesley Snipes for the first time. I noticed a lot of Jiu Jitsu elements in what he did. So then I started following him after seeing Passenger 57.
My dad was really into Bruce Lee and he showed me Enter the Dragon and then the whole collection. I watched those movies at least thirty times each. And its funny because I still go to watch them today. Bruce Lee's charisma is incredible. His way of making simple things look epic, I love that. And then there's Jackie Chan, who doesn't love Jackie Chan? Rumble in the Bronx is my favorite from him. When I saw it and the way he used the environment in his fights was just so interesting to watch.
Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Above the Law, Passenger 57, Rumble in the Bronx, Enter the Dragon... they were all really influential to me.
AM: Ummm... How can I answer this politely...? Right now, the genre (martial arts) itself has disappeared. Martial Arts is in a lot of movies, and even in a lot of superhero movies like Captain America. I mean, you have John Wick which is an awesome movie. There's not a lot of martial arts movies but you do have a lot of action movies with martial arts elements; anytime Jason Statham does a film, there's lots of martial arts elements in them and they look great. But there hasn't been anyone in the last several years who could push the genre out of the underground into the mainstream.
When the producers showed me their vision for the Kickboxer trilogy, not just one movie but a trilogy, and they really wanted to bring the genre back and really push it. I'm like “that's really cool” because nobody has taken the time to do it that way over the years and then push it even further by having the people do the action for real. Today, that's almost unheard of; I was a stunt double, I know (laughs). I thought that was such a cool thing to do. We're going to take a chance, we're going to risk it today when nobody wants to take risks. We're relaunching this genre in this way, a way that is totally the opposite of where Hollywood is going right now. I thought that was great and I get to be a part of it. I can make these kind of films and possibly inspire people the way I was inspired; man... I'd feel honored by that. I feel like I'm part of something special.
|Promotional photo for KICKBOXER: RETALIATION (2017)|
AM: Man, Retaliation is a beast. One of the things I like about Rocky, is that the movies follow him through different points in his life. Its about where is he as a person, where is he in his relationships, and all the situations built around that. I feel like that was the vision for Kickboxer. Not only are we now moving on to another opponent but we're also moving on to the things surrounding Kurt Sloan and his story: where is he now, where is he going, what's his situation and what's his relationship with Durant? We're following Kurt and his journey as a martial artist and as a person. This new film gets a bit darker and has amazing action sequences. I've done more action in the last 30 days than I've done on some 90 day productions, it's really cool. We're pushing it one step further and I think people are gonna love it.
Kickboxer: Vengeance opens in select theaters and on-demand on September 2, courtesy of RLJ Entertainment.