I spoke with Alain Moussi about his role as Kurt Sloane in Kickboxer: Retaliation, working with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mike Tyson, the significance of stunt performers, that time he fought Channing Tatum, his first stunt double experience with Henry Cavill, epic splits, his next projects, and so much more. Kickboxer: Retaliation, opens on January 26, 2018 and also stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, Christopher Lambert, Mike Tyson, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Sam Medina, Sara Malakul Lane, Miles Strommen, Jessica Jann, and Maxime Savaria.
Lena Lamoray: Stunt performers are some of the true heroes of cinema.
Alain Moussi: Absolutely! I agree with you. [Laughing]
What are a few things about stunt performers that you wish people knew?
Alain Moussi: That they exist. [Laughing] A lot of people assume that whatever heroes they are watching on TV, or in a film, that’s it’s the actor doing it that’s playing the character. What happens is obviously the stunt performers are often the unsung heroes. They are the ninjas in the background and do a lot of things that nobody knows about, so it would just be cool to sometimes have some certain recognition on the skill set that it takes to perform a lot of those epic action scenes that you see in film. I think that obviously because the illusion is that star, or the hero, is doing them even though they are probably not we try to not celebrate it too much as an action film, but we don’t really pay attention to the people that are putting it together or making it happen. I think it’s changing—slowly. There’s more and more recognition given to coordinators and stunt performers. You see it a lot more online. More and more action stars are actually outspoken about their stunt doubles, which is interesting.
I always like when they do that.
Alain Moussi: Recently, I think it was Jason Momoa, he’s been very outspoken on Instagram about his stunt double that doubled him Aquaman and Justice League. He takes pictures of him all the time and gives him a lot of credit. More and more people are letting people know that all the action is from their stunt double. That’s great.
Who have been some of your favorite people that you’ve doubled for? Do you have any funny stories about working with them that you can share?
Alain Moussi: I’ve had great experiences just all-around and for different reasons I had fun. Henry Cavill was the first person that I had ever doubled. It was my first stunt job. That was amazing especially because I ended up doubling the hero of the story, the lead actor, in my first stunt job. It was a challenge and at the same time it was a great learning experience. We became friends and it built some trust. I ended up rehearsing with Henry and doing a lot of coaching as well because Henry performed a lot of his stunts—he’s athletic. Whenever he could perform I would coach him. Around the end of the shoot, there was this really long sequence that he hadn’t had a chance to rehearse that much because he was on set all of the time. We took a break before lunch and I ended up showing him how to do it and he got it done on the fourth take. I remember counting every take because when you screw something up on a long take it’s tough because you have to start over again even when you are tired. I remember thinking that he had a few more in him before he would need to take a break. Take number four is the one that I believe they used for the movie. That was fun.
White House Down was cool. I doubled Jason Clarke on White House Down, but it’s not so much Jason—he’s are really nice guy by the way, I got along with him great. It’s the fact that I got to do this awesome fight with Channing Tatum. They brought me in to do concept fights for Channing. Normally, the way it works when you put together all of the fight sequences for a film at the beginning, we’ll put concepts together for the director and the lead actor for them to approve. When we know what they like and we kind of see where their head’s at, we can make adjustments accordingly. My friend Layton Morrison, the team coordinator, called me in and told me that he needed me to make the fights look good for Channing and the director. He wanted me to perform them so it could help sell them. As I was on set they were shooting this fight sequence on top of the White House. I was just waiting around to go and shoot and whoever was doubling Jason at the time was not a fighter. It wasn’t really looking the way that they wanted it to look, so the stunt coordinator, John Stoneham Jr., told me to go to make up and wardrobe to get changed as the character and come back. I’m not even supposed to be there. They switched me in to do a fight that I had never preformed. I had performed the hero side but I had never performed the villain side. When I went back I met Channing we rehearsed for like five minutes and we went at it hard. When you can give contact with the body with control I think it looks better on-screen because you can actually see the hit. I told him that he could hit me when we had body shots that it wouldn’t be a problem—not to go all out but still go for it. He told me that I had better hit him too. [Laughing] We went at it and the fight sequence was bonkers. We were tossing each other around. When we finished everyone was like “holy shit” and we even got applause. [Laughing] It was awesome. I ended up doubling the character for the rest of the movie because of that. That was a really cool experience.
I did Suicide Squad, which was great. I got to train Jai Courtney, Margot Robbie, and Will Smith. That was just an awesome experience. I also got to double Jean-Claude Van Damme, who was my childhood hero. I ended up doubling him for a GoDaddy commercial. That was how I met Jean-Claude for the first time.
I still can’t get over that “epic split” commercial that Jean-Claude did with the trucks.
Alain Moussi: Isn’t that the best thing that you’ve ever seen in your life? [Laughing] That was really, really impressive.
I didn’t know what to say after watching that. One false move and that would have been it for him.
Alain Moussi: I wish I was there when he did that. I would love to actually replicate it.
Yes, you guys could have an “epic split” contest. A split-off instead of a dance-off.
Alain Moussi: Oh man, I’m down. If Jean-Claude wanted to do it I’m down for anytime. It would be an honor. [Laughing]
The winner would receive a lifetime supply of pants that can withstand the splits. [Laughing]
Alain Moussi: Yes, very stretchy pants. I like it. That’s a great idea. [Laughing]
Seriously though, you really have to be on top of your game when you’re filming stunts, and fight scenes in general, because one wrong move and it could all end in tragedy.
Alain Moussi: Oh, yes. A lot of people will talk about the risk it takes to do it. It’s all calculated risk. For example, when I go in and I rehearse a certain fall, my specialty is the fall, I’ve been falling since I was a kid in Jiu Jitsu. You can toss me around and I’ll be fine, most of time, whereas anybody else would probably hurt themselves. These are all calculated risks. You definitely have to be on top of your game all the time. You have to train all the time and you have to make sure that your body is always set and ready for anything you might face. It’s all about the proper preparation and understanding how to protect your body when you are off.
You’re reprising your role as Kurt Sloane in the new Kickboxer film. Kickboxer: Retaliation picks up a year after Vengeance and Sloane finds himself in prison. Can you elaborate on that?
Alain Moussi: What happens after a year is that Kurt Sloane is on top of the fight game. He’s getting ready and he just became the number one contender. All of a sudden, he gets taken and brought back to Thailand by a villain, a guy who lost major money on the fight from the previous film. This guy is played by Christopher Lambert, his name is Moore, and all Moore wants is Kurt Sloane to fight again so he can make his money back. Kurt doesn’t want to fight. He doesn’t want to kill and fight till the death anymore. That was in the past. Moore finds a way to motivate him through beatings other proper motivation to get him to go back into the ring with this monster called Mongkut. Mongkut is a monster at 420 pounds and 6’10”. He’s played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, who plays The Mountain in Game of Thrones. He also happens to be the second strongest man in the world and the strongest man in Europe. He’s a monster; he’s a beast. [Laughing] Kurt Sloane has to face this guy and find a way to live through it.
I bet those were some intense fight scenes.
Alain Moussi: Oh my god, this shoot was the most grueling shoot that I have ever done in my life. It was the most intense and we had a crazy condensed schedule. We were running six days a week for five weeks, and it was just nuts. The end fight was seven days in a row fighting. We were fighting all day, every day. Obviously, I get beat up a lot in a fight like this. For me, I’m getting tossed, thrown on stairs, thrown on the ground—all kinds of stuff. It was a good beating for seven days. [Laughing]
You also have to fight Mike Tyson.
Alain Moussi: That’s right! I fight with Mike Tyson throughout. He was great to work with. For me, to meet him was really cool because I watched him when I was a kid. He’s a boxing hero. Just to be able to meet him, and do fights with him, was amazing. Again, I got hit a lot. [Laughing] In the body, all of the shots that you see you can’t actually fake on the screen. All that stuff happens and it was a pretty cool experience. I remember my friend was the stunt coordinator and he would come up to me and ask if I was okay and if it hurt. I was like yes. He wanted to know if he should say anything and I said no because it would effect performance. Everything looked so great. We just kept on going. I fight a lot of UFC fighters as well. There’s Maurício Shogun, Wanderlei Silva, and Rico Verhoeven, who’s the glory kickboxing champion of the world. Everybody that we had from the fight world were all great. They were all great people and they just wanted to learn. Fabricio Werdum, the UFC Heavyweight Champ, this was the second time that he was in the film franchise. He equates everything to belt systems in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because a black belt if very Jiu Jitsu. He would tell me that he’s a black belt in Jiu Jitsu and a white belt in movies. After we did this whole fight scene in the end he asked me if he could get his yellow belt now. [Laughing] We had a good time. Everybody that was in the film was great.
Since Bloodsport was the film that inspired you, what has your experience been like working with Jean-Claude Van Damme?
Alain Moussi: Oh man, Jean-Claude Van Damme is definitely an icon. It’s been great. From the first film to this one, this one was even better than the first time because we know each other now and are already comfortable with each other. Not that we weren’t comfortable before, but we know each other now. The dual dance that we do works even better—it’s more fun. He has so much fun with his character. Jean-Claude is a cool dude. You really see and feel his experience when you’re on set with him. This time around we had a lot more dialog and more of a relationship over the two films. That was really fun. The energy was really good on set.
They are already working on another Kickboxer film.
Alain Moussi: That’s right. We are getting ready for Kickboxer: Armageddon, which is the third of the series. That should start shooting right after we are done with our premiere for Kickboxer: Retaliation. We are looking forward to it. I think a lot of the same cast will be back plus we’ll be adding some more. It’s not confirmed yet, but they have an awesome list. [Laughing] Kickboxer: Retaliation is really cool because it’s an original story. Obviously, Vengeance is a remake of the original. Doing Retaliation was awesome because it’s an original story that has never been told, so nobody knows what to expect. To me, I feel like the story is better—there is more to it. The action—I’ve taken over a lot of the action. On this film, I was the action coordinator, the fight coordinator and with a team of awesome designers, my team gave a lot of input. The cinematography is so much grander. Dimitri Logothetis was the producer, writer, and director of the film. He was so passionate about this film. He’s an amazing filmmaker, so the way he shot it and the way he was able to shoot the action sequences was amazing. He’s completely committed to making sure that it’s authentic. We have this one shot that’s a four minute oner, meaning that the camera just follows me fighting seventeen guys and it never cuts—it just goes. Right now, it’s the most awesome scene in the movie, I think. [Laughing] I also took part in the editing process. The one thing with editing action is that you have to know what you are doing, you have to know what you are looking for, especially with martial arts. There is a rhythm and a way to do it. I was completely involved in cutting all of the action scenes and collaborating with Dimitri on everything that I had to do with that action scenes. It’s a different process but now we are getting ready for Armageddon and we know our process. We are wrapping this up even more. I can’t wait to get started.
What do you want to see from Sloane the next time around?
Alain Moussi: In movie number one he was a fish out of water. He’s brand new and he’s just getting into his own thing—he’s just getting to know who he is. In Kickboxer: Retaliation he knows who he is, but he gets tested and puts on a new persona. For Kickboxer: Armageddon, you know there is a lot of darkness that happens and a lot of hard stuff that he’s going to have to face. It’s a story of somebody that’s going to have to face the hardest thing and come back from it. He’s a character that’s supposed to be a little darker—a little hardcore in this next film. For me, it’s really cool. It’s almost like he has the potential of being almost a likely anti-hero in this next film, which is cool to me. He gets to go one way and then come right back. There’s just more to it and for me, I’m getting more experience in acting. It’s all so great to be able to evolve with this character.
What has the experience been like for you going from primarily being a stunt performer to a leading man?
Alain Moussi: It’s so much more. When you do stunt work you are aware of the physicality of the character. A great friend of mine that was doubling Mickey Rourke when we did Immortals gave me a great tip. I’ve kept it with me ever since. He said don’t forget when you’re doubling that you’re not doubling the character, you’re doubling Henry being the character. That’s very insightful. Normally, I would say this is my interpretation of Theseus, so I’m going to do this. That doesn’t make me a good double because I’m not behaving like Henry, so you might see a disconnect. The idea is for me to study Henry and see how he portrays the character, even in his physicality, and take from that. I can maybe add to it, or tweak it a bit, but it should still be true to Henry’s physicality and his interpretation of the character. You are totally acting. You have to act like the person, which is cool, but you are only concerned with physicality. Now, when you are doing everything, you are not only concerned with physicality but you have to maintain everything that’s going on with the story, the emotions, the situations, as you are doing the action. There is way more depth to it, but I love it. I think it’s so much more fun to do.
What other projects are you working on? I know that you are doing stunts in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.
Alain Moussi: Yes. One of my good friends was coordinating on X-Men and asked if I could come in. There’s this project in Ottawa that I’m helping with the stunt work, especially on the design side. It’s called Doorman. It’s an action film with Katie Holmes. I’m helping out with that a bit, but mainly right now I’m in pre-prep for Kickboxer. I’m going to start designing all of the action with my team for the next film. That’s kind of what’s on the plate right now. Dimitri has another franchise that is about to start. We are about to start this thing called Jiu Jitsu. It’s a brand new film franchise that’s being written right now. That’s the next one that we are getting to start in late 2018 – early 2019.
It sounds like you are keeping yourself very busy.
Alain Moussi: I go bonkers when I’m not busy. When my friends call me and ask if I want to do something I always say yes. There are super busy times and then some downtime. I can’t handle the downtime. I have to stay busy. I am still involved in my martial arts school in Ottawa. I still teach.
Kickboxer: Retaliation comes out on January 26, 2018
Photos: Bobby Quillard