MAAC sits down with martial arts star Alain Moussi to chat about his role in the sci-fi action thriller Jiu Jitsu.
MAAC: Hello Alain! First and foremost we want to thank you for taking some time to chat with us today. Can you give the readers a little insight on your martial arts background?
Alain Moussi: Let’s start when I was 10 years old, Can-ryu Jiu jitsu which is a traditional form of Jiu jitsu, Japanese style, I kind of did that in Canada. It’s a blend of striking, gripping, throwing, and grappling and but all really made for street defense and self defense. I started training that when I was 10 years old, and I kept on going ever since. And now I’m graded sixth degree black belt in Jiu jitsu, but also started in training in kickboxing when I was 18 years old, and then also Brazilian Jiu jitsu when I was 18 years old. So kickboxing with Jean-Yves Thériault, 23 time world kickboxing champion, and then Brazilian Jiu jitsu I’ve been graded black belt under Carlos Machado and the Machado brothers. My mentor in BJJ is Carlos Machado, but I also did a lot of different martial arts growing up.
Our instructor John Tarea was head of a multi discipline Federation, so I kind of was exposed to Aikido, Karate, Taekwondo, Chinese martial arts, Kung Fu, and capoeira. I just did a lot of workshops in different martial arts and tried to steal from different martial arts and make it my own, add to my Jui jitsu because I just have a love for movement and fighting. So I was quite fortunate because of that. I also did four years on and off of Kali with guru Joon de Leon in Toronto, which exposed me to stick fighting, knife fighting, and Filipino martial arts, which is great.
MAAC: Jiu Jitsu marks your third collaboration with director Dimitri Logothetis after the Kickboxer films. You guys must have great chemistry on set! What attracted you to Jiu Jitsu and your Jake character?
Alain Moussi: Well, Dimitri came up with the concept of Jiu Jitsu, action, martial arts, sci fi, and when I read the script, I thought it was really cool. I loved what he did because it was so different. It’s kind of a blend taking some Mortal Kombat elements mixing with Predator elements, some Bourne elements. It’s just such a mix of things and blend. He put it into a blender and saw what happened. So he’s always coming up with these different things. He takes risks. You know, he’s ballsy with his scripts and his stories. That attracted me to the project and obviously, because it’s our third go, I do trust Dimitri. You know, we’ve done some fun films together. Very proud of our work on Kickboxer: Vengeance and Retaliation. So I wanted to jump into this and see what we would do with a sci fi and I’m so happy that we did.
My character Jake, obviously very different. The character is very different than what I’ve done before. You have to kind of dive into amnesia and the effects of that on a character like Jake, which is different than just most characters, right? Because he’s been bred to fight since he was a kid. So you don’t remember who you are. Your body, it still has all the instincts that you’ve been developing since you were a kid. And I thought that was really cool.
MAAC: Let’s talk about the film’s amazing cast which is filled with real martial arts heavy hitters such Juju Chan, Rigan Machado, Marrese Crump and the amazing Tony Jaa! What was it like to work with these martial artists, especially Jaa, who you almost collaborated with on Kickboxer: Vengeance?
Alain Moussi: Yeah, it was a dream come true. Tony’s a great guy. He comes on, he’s got this positive energy all the time. And then as soon as you roll the camera, he does incredible stuff, every single take. To have the opportunity to work with somebody and collaborate with someone like Tony was great. For one, I enjoyed being on screen with him and finding my rhythm with him, which came very naturally. But also, I enjoy watching him perform, and I learned something from his performance. Definitely, just to watch him work his craft, and I think he’s just brilliant. The way he puts it together, the heavy hits. Also his mannerisms, his facial expressions, everything he does, just makes his performance quite stellar.
And you have JuJu Chan, which is so skilled, so cool. We didn’t know she swings those nunchaku like a pro. She’s just a killer, beautiful and a killer. And Marrese Crump, who I knew from The Protector 2 and also had trained many actors. I knew that he trained many actors martial arts. We have been talking a while ago before Jiu Jitsu even came up and when the opportunity came and Dimitri was looking for characters, I showed him Marrese and he liked them instantly and brought him on and it was just so much fun to have him on set. And my good friend Rigan Machado who had so much fun in Cypress. For me, to work with this kind of talent, I see it as a blessing. And I’m so grateful for it. Yeah, Tony and I almost worked on Kickboxer: Vengeance together. I was so stoked about that one. I think it would have been great to have him on. But you know what, listen, there’s more to come, more movies to be made. We work together on Jiu Jitsu, and who knows what comes next.
MAAC: And we can’t forget about the one and only Nicholas Cage, an Oscar winner who transitioned into the ultimate action hero in the late 90s. What was your experience like sharing the screen with Cage? He seems like he’s having so much fun in the film!
Alain Moussi: Yes, he is! He had a blast on the film. And the way I met Nic was we were in stunt rehearsal. Just actually prepping the scene, the fight scene I have with him in the cave. And he came in, Dimitri introduced him to us, he was just great, wearing jeans, cowboy boots, and rock’n’roll t-shirt, just all you would expect. We showed him the scene, he loved it, and wanted to start working on it right away. So we did for about three hours non stop. Then he asked us if he could come in during the weekend because we’re about to hit the weekend and work out with him and get prepped because he had very limited rehearsal time. And then we were shooting right away. We said absolutely. But then he came and worked out with us for three, four hours a day, for the next two days. And then we started shooting and all I saw was this incredible actor who loves being on set, still so passionate about his craft, comes in prepared and excited. So collaborative.
He never even treated me like a rookie, which I consider myself still in the acting world. Obviously in the action world, no. But as an actor, I consider myself a rookie. But Nic was just collaborative. He just came in and just wanted to do it and had fun on set with me, which is cool. So I really appreciate that about him. When it came to doing action together, he just gave me the lead naturally and he said, “Hey, listen, I want to follow you. So you tell me what to do, how to do it, and let’s do it.” And you know what, that was awesome. I just have to say it was nothing but a pleasure. And obviously, we had Frank Grillo and Marie Avgeropoulos as well. Phenomenal actors and just great people to be around and they all added so much to our film. I’m quite stoked that we had everybody, this stellar cast that Dimitri put together, I think it makes the film very special.
MAAC: What’s your all time favorite Cage action flick?
Alain Moussi: I like so many of them! What comes to mind are The Rock and Face/Off and I think I’m choosing Face/Off because it was just such a cool movie. To see Nic go from the villain to the hero in the same movie was just so much fun to watch. I love the action. I just love the character. Funny enough on set one day, we were performing and doing some stuff and I just looked at him and say “Hey, Nic, I just saw Castor Troy!” So cool.
MAAC: Which action scene was the most difficult to shoot in the film and how long did it take? We’re guessing it must be the awesome one-shot take with Tony Jaa?
Alain Moussi: Yeah, I think that was definitely the most challenging scene to shoot because there’s so many elements to it. We were jumping from roof to roof. Tony was going from one to the other. But we also had this incredible camerawork that we had to put together. So the camera was operated by our stunt coordinator, Jim for most of the oner, which was really cool. And this is pre rescue as Tony is making his way to the rescue. We worked on that quite a bit. I think it was over two days that we worked on that big action scene. By the way, on a big blockbuster, that would have been three weeks but whatever. We got it done in a timely fashion. But then there’s also the first person perspective. We had the camera rigged on one of our stunt team members, Max, who is also Nic Cage’s double. So Max had the camera rig and he would go and play the first person part and then I would jump out of camera and do my thing, and then jump back in and then boom, he kept on going with it. So that took a lot of planning and a lot of focus to get it done properly. But you know what, when you hire the right people, that’s what you get. We had a very extremely talented stunt team from Thailand, our stunt coordinator Jim from Thailand. Between myself and Max added to the mix and then the talents of Tony Jaa. We got it done. And I think it came out beautifully on screen.
MAAC: Brax vs The Predator, fight to the death. Who you got?
Alain Moussi: I got Brax all the way! He got way more tools in his bag of tricks than the Predator has for sure. Any day, anytime. Brax all the way!
MAAC: Speaking of Brax, we have to give a shout out to stuntman Ryan Tarran who did an amazing job! Stunt performers don’t usually get the respect they deserve. I’m sure you know since you started off your career as a stuntman. What would your advice be to stunt performers who want to make a successful transition into an on-screen actor like yourself?
Alain Moussi: Well, number one, shout out to Ryan. But Ryan, it’s it’s funny we say “stuntman”, and he is an incredible, incredible stunt man. We met on the set of Frontier. That’s how we started talking. When Dimitri mentioned he wanted to put a guy in a suit to do all the fighting for real, I said, Ryan right away. He’s just a phenomenal martial artist. And not only that, he’s also is an awesome screen actor. He doesn’t approach his craft just as a stuntman, where he just does the physical stuff, he actually sees himself as a character every single time, which is how I approached the stunt industry as well thanks to my mentor in stunts, Jean Frenette. He got us in acting classes right away. When I started doing stunt work, he said that to be a successful stuntman, you have to learn how to act as well. Because when you’re on screen, you’re acting in a physical role. So that started right away. And that’s why I thought Ryan was such a great choice because not only is he an awesome martial artist, he’s also a great and awesome actor. I think he brought Brax to life because of it.
Now for advice for people that want to transition from stunts to acting. It’s not always an easy transition to make. Because not only do you have to be good physically or great physically, you have to also learn acting, which is a craft on its own. So my suggestion is get yourself in acting classes and start learning the craft of acting. If I follow Jean Claude Van Damme’s advice to me on Kickboxer: Vengeance, he says, “You’re going to be great at the action, but make sure you remember the acting is what’s going to take your career further in this world now.” So I took that to heart and started working with a phenomenal coach. His name is Jeff Seymour. Jeff has been with me for a while and we’ve been working together on whatever project comes next. And that’s my suggestion, learn the craft of acting and start auditioning, get yourself noticed. When the opportunity comes, be ready for it. Many people start prepping when the opportunity comes, that’s when they start. Get yourself ready now. This way, if the opportunity comes to you, you will be ready and notice right away.
MAAC: Is a third installment of your Kickboxer franchise, Kickboxer: Armageddon, still in the works?
Alain Moussi: Yes, it is. Absolutely. We are hoping to shoot it next year 2021. Actually, we’re not hoping, we’re planning to shoot it next year. Kickboxer: Armageddon is the best of all three scripts to me. I think it’s so awesome. Very different than the first two films. We’re taking Kurt Sloane to a place he’s never been before, a very dark place, before he can hopefully find the light again. We’re also planning incredible action sequences in this one, an end fight that will trump all end fights that we’ve had to now and a slate of various very, very challenging opponents for Kurt Sloan to face. So I’m super excited about this one, I think it’s going to leave audiences crawling out of our seats.
MAAC: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you would like to share with us?
Alain Moussi: Yeah, I have this incredible project I’m doing next with Dimitri again. I have this great project with him called Man of War. In this film, what’s cool is that I’m not playing the hero, I’m playing something different. And I’m not going to tell you any more than that. But I get to explore something very different in acting, which I can’t wait to do. Also he’s entrusting me with the second unit directing, which is great. Working with Dimitri, like I said before, he he’s so collaborative, but it’s also to me as a mentor in filmmaking. I think that he’s an incredible filmmaker and I learned from him every single time we work together. This film, he’s pushing me in another direction. He’s wanting me to start diving into directing. So he’s offered the second unit director position to me which is a really really cool.
MAAC: Thank you again Alain for your time! We here at MAAC would like to wish you continued success and please stay safe in this crazy time!
Alain Moussi: Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. I appreciate it and I hope you keep on watching and you enjoy whatever comes next!
Jiu Jitsu is available now in select theaters, On Demand and Digital.