Hey everyone, Barbarella here wondering why I’m so busy all the time. I feel like I’m barely making a dent in the laundry list of things I need to do, but I continue to plug away. I’m excited to finally share my conversation with Alain Moussi, who stars in the science fiction/martial arts movie JIU JITSU. The action extravaganza came out in theaters and On Demand and Digital this weekend. Sharing the screen with Nicolas Cage, Tony Jaa, Frank Grillo, and others in the genre-blending movie, Alain Moussi continues to add to his action movie resumé, and I was eager to talk with the man behind the punches and kicks.
One of the fun things about conducting interviews is that I get to ask whatever I want, and sometimes, there are just questions to which I have to know the answers. As a GAME OF THRONES fan, I started off with one regarding the actor who played Gregor Clegane in the hit series.
I have a silly question to ask you. I heard a rumor that you actually kicked in the face, Hafþór Björnsson, who played The Mountain on GAME OF THRONES. Is that true and, if so, would you share that story?
“It's absolutely true, I did. I was spin kicking him in the head, and I was supposed to not hit him. I was supposed to wipe his head, and he ended up being a little closer than anticipated, so I ended up slapping him with my foot. I turned around, and it went whack, and I felt it on my foot. We didn't cut, so I'm trying to stay in there, but all I'm thinking at that time is like, "Holy shit. I just kicked this guy in the face. He's going to eat me." And so as soon as they called, "Cut," he's looking at me and glaring at me, then he started to laugh right away. He thought it was hilarious, so we both started to laugh, and we had fun.
“Now, what happened at the end of that day, he's like, "Hey, we should do this cool Facebook Live thing, and you know what I should do? I should slap you in the face because you slapped me with your foot." So later on, he decides that he's going to slap me with his massive hand, "Are you game?" Well, I can't say no, right? I've got to say yes. So, on the Facebook Live later on, he just went and swung his arm and hit me right in the face. I spun around; it was so hard. He didn't even try to hit me hard, just the sheer weight, right? Anyway, my face was red for about an hour after that. But he got his payback.”
Who’s your hero, and why?
“Definitely my dad. I admire my dad so much. He came from Lebanon and came to Canada, went to school, became a huge success. He became a preacher, raised a family. My dad's from a small village in Lebanon with nothing and came to Canada with $20 in his pocket and became somebody. He's always happy. He’s always looking on the bright side of things, so if I can keep on going that way and just end up like my dad, I'd be the happiest guy alive.”
Would you talk a little about your relationship with Dimitri Logothetis and how he approached you for JIU JITSU?
“I met Dimitri in 2011. We were doing stunts on a martial-arts film. I did three of the key fights in film. So, after that, he asked me all kinds of questions, and then the next day I got a call from casting saying they wanted me - he wanted me - to do the film. I couldn't believe it, so I worked on it, auditioned three days later, and then I got a call the next day. It was Dimitri. He wanted to meet up with me and talk about my audition. I did, and we chatted, and he said, "Hey, Alain, you're very good." I'm like, "Okay, cool." I had no experience acting, obviously, but this was my dream come true, so there was no way I was going to give away my chance to try. He said, "I think I can direct you. So how do you feel about doing a bunch of martial arts movies together?" Right away, I said, "Yes.” That’s how it all started, and from there spun KICKBOXER VENGEANCE, KICKBOXER RETALIATION and now JIU JITSU.
“What I love about Dimitri is that I feel he's a visionary filmmaker. He really knows what he wants to see, and he wants to make movies that he would like to watch. He has a great understanding of the martial arts genre. So that being said, when the script that comes from Dimitri is a martial arts script, you're like, "Oh my god, you are nuts ... this is crazy stuff," every time. But it's the kind of stuff that you'd want to see as a martial arts movie fan, right? We're both kids at heart. We’re both people that love to be entertained. He trusts his team. He hires the right people, and he's extremely collaborative which is so much fun.”
You’re sharing the screen with Tony Jaa, JuJu Chan, Rick Yune, Nicolas Cage, and Frank Grillo. Would you talk about the experience working with such an incredible and diverse cast?
“Oh man, it's a dream come true. As much physical talent that they have, they are also incredible actors, so the whole entire cast is the whole package, and that's what I love. Everybody really got into the action because they wanted to do it. They all had their own styles, their own flair. And then they bring so much to the screen with their talented acting. For me, I mean, I'm like, "Oh my god, I get to work alongside Tony Jaa, right? Also, I've been watching Nicolas Cage since I was a kid, admired him from GONE IN 60 SECONDS to THE ROCK, FACE/OFF, so you talk about a dream come true. You ask yourself, "Am I worthy?” I have to say, Nic was so approachable, he's amazing. He wanted only to do good work. He’s passionate. He’s happy to be on set, and he never treated me like a rookie, right? That's something that I thought was so cool. He just treated me like a teammate. He’d say, “Let’s kill this. Let's go." And that's how he approached the whole thing, same with Frank Grillo, same with Marie Avgeropoulos, and same with JuJu Chan. I mean, they're all fantastic.”
In what ways are you similar to, and in what ways are you different from your character, Jake?
“Man ... that's a good question right there. I'm similar in many ways, actually. I have martial arts skills. Obviously, Jake has martial arts skills. Jake is an emotional character as well. You don't always see it because he's an introvert, and so am I. I can be an emotional person, but you don't really see it all that much. I don't show it. I kind of hold it in. Jake is very much like that. That's why, when Dimitri and I talked about the character, I mean, we're always saying, "Okay, well, you can't show too much. We just got to show it through action, show it through what he does." Right? Which is very much like me. I mean, that's how I roll.
“I was able to really feel comfortable in those shoes. At the beginning, Jake's journey is interesting because he’s afraid, and he doesn't know how to deal with it. And then he goes from that understanding that fear is a point, and you have to use it to fuel yourself in order to be at your best, and I think the journey towards the end really brings him to that. That’s very much like me, we have that in common for sure.”
How many different martial arts have you trained in, and what are they?
“I've trained in Therien Jiu Jitsu, which is a Japanese-style Jiu Jitsu, but that was training in Canada. Then I got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and that was since I was 18 years old. I started 10 years old in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, kickboxing when I was 18 years old with world champion Jean-Yves Thériault. And then I got into Filipino martial arts for a while with an instructor, or Guro, that’s what you call it, Jun de Leon in Toronto, and I did some Filipino martial arts with him for about four years on and off.
“One of my instructors, John Therien, he was the head of an international martial arts federation, and it was a multi-discipline martial arts federation, so I dived into Judo, Aikido, Goshindo, a whole bunch of different martial arts. Every year, I would do different workshops there. I dived in and learned a lot of different types of movements to steal elements and bring it to my Jiu Jitsu, which is also fun. But my first love is Jiu Jitsu, and it's always been Jiu Jitsu.”
What was the most difficult style to master, and what made it particularly challenging?
“I'd say Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in a way, because there's no faking it. I mean, you're right in there with grips and with pulls to the ground, and so many different things can happen. It's not like the weapons are just a punch and a kick. It can be anything, it can be throws, it can be so much. So that being said, I mean, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu takes a long time to master. It’s funny, you get beat up a lot until you don't get beat up so much, and then all of a sudden, you're actually winning. It takes time, and it's like one day it clicks, and you start really progressing.”
How many hours or days a week do you train and do you have a set training routine to which you adhere, or do you change it up based on whatever project you're doing?
“I do change it up. I mean, typically I train every day at least two hours, and I do a mix of martial arts and conditioning. Then, depending on the project, I change it up. I stick with circuit training, and I want to work on functional fitness to be very agile, right? This is usually what I do. Also, I'm in the gym pushing heavy weights, and I change up my nutrition in order to put on more muscle to be the size that I want to be on screen. And then martial arts, every week I train a mix of things. I go from striking, acrobatics, acrobatic kicks, some Jiu Jitsu, and then based on the project, I narrow down my training to the elements that I really want to master for that film, that I want to develop for that film.”
One of my pet peeves when watching martial-arts films is when the fight sequences are over-edited, and you can't really see the moves from start to finish. Do you have any pet peeves when you're watching martial-arts films?
“Oh god, that's definitely one of my mine. It's like, cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. So you might as well use anybody to do it at that point, doesn't matter. I mean, I want to see what's happening. I actually did edit a lot of the fights on KICKBOXER RETALIATION and collaborated with Dimitri and my editor. A lot of the action lives in the wide shots because you've got to see it, and you don't cut. Dimitri feels the same way. You want to see the person do it, and then you zoom in to the drama in your medium shot and the close ups. That's what I love…and I don't like shaky cam. Man, keep that camera stable. You know what I mean? Like BOURNE, come on, seriously, I'm getting sick. It’s almost like your brain creates what happened, and you didn't actually see it, because you can't. So yeah, I can't handle shaky cam.”
Have you ever gotten injured on set?
“No, touch wood. I thank God, just like bumps and bruises here and there, but that's about it.”
What's the most daring thing you've ever done in a film?
“It was a fall on the movie WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I was doing a fight scene with Channing Tatum on top of the White House. At the end of that fight, both characters went through a glass roof into a greenhouse. It’s a 25-foot fall through a window, then all the way down to the ground through a table. We had to be suspended over the glass roof when we did it, and they just literally dropped us, and we went right through the glass roof, broke the glass. Then there was a system that would slow us down just a bit right in the middle of it, and then we would free-fall another 12 feet through the table and smash on the ground.
“So that was gnarly. I was scared shitless before we started, and definitely, I was really aware of everything that was going on, everything that could go wrong. But you know what, we did one take and went right through. We hit the ground, both myself and Channing's double, it was Johnny Mac [John MacDonald], my friend. We both got up, everything was safe, nobody was injured, and the shot was amazing. But that was definitely scary. And yeah, I'd say that was the scariest one I've done on set.”
What’s your favorite scene that you've been in?
“There's an awesome scene I did with Nic around a campfire in JIU JITSU, and that's when he really mentors my character, Jake. That's a very intimate scene, and I remember Dimitri coaching me through it. He would talk me through that, and he's like, "I really need you to go on different levels here with this one." And I'm like, "Okay, cool." And then we did the scene a few times and on the close up is when he’s like, "I'm right in your face. You've really got to give to me." I'm like, "Cool." So, we did it. At the end of that take, I remember just looking at the mix, and Nic just smiled and gave me a thumbs up, and I was like, "Oh my god, there you go, I nailed it. I’m so happy.””
Well, I was so happy to have had the opportunity to speak with Alain Moussi, who stars in JIU JITSU. The film's available now in theaters and On Demand and Digital. Suddenly, I want to get in a workout.