Franchise Fred Interview: Alain Moussi on Kickboxer: Vengeance
A lot of people don’t even know Kickboxer was a franchise. The sequels didn’t have Jean-Claude Van Damme and went straight to video. Now the new Kickboxer: Vengeance has Van Damme back, this time as the trainer, and introduces a brand new kickboxer. Alain Moussi plays Kurt Sloane, the fighter who trains to fight Tong Po (Dave Bautista), the fighter who killed his brother.
I was really impressed with Moussi’s moves in Kickboxer: Vengeance so I’m already excited to see the sequel he filmed, Kickboxer: Retaliation as well as any other action movies he makes. He’s worked as a stunt performer in major action movies already. I got to speak with Moussi by phone, and his energy was contagious. We discussed some of my favorite moves from Kickboxer: Vengeance, so spoiler alert for kicks and splits. Kickboxer: Vengeance opens Friday, September 2 in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD.
Franchise Fred: Did you have to do a split for your audition?
Alain Moussi: [Laughs] I’ve been doing the splits for a while but yes, it’s part of the process. It had to be done.
Franchise Fred: In what capacity have you been doing splits as part of your workout?
Alain Moussi: I’ve been doing splits since I was a kid. I started training in martial arts because I was inspired by Bloodsport and Kickboxer. So I became a little obsessed with kicking and doing the splits. So after three years into martial arts, I was there. I would sit at home watching cartoons for half an hour at a time, and I would just stretch and stretch every day until I got there. It was kind of my little obsession as a kid which paid off. I remember one of the stunt coordinators told me one day, and he was asking me because I said I wanted to do the splits on chairs. He says, “Alain, that’s never going to bring you anything in life.” And I’m like, “Oh, just watch.” And here we are.
Franchise Fred: In one of the fights you grab the guy’s leg. I always wondered why don’t more fighters try to take out their opponent’s leg?
Alain Moussi: I grab his leg, and I punch him in the head, right? I think that’s the move I did. They do it in UFC. If you watch the UFC, a lot more guys grab the round kick and throw the punch. That’s why you’ve got to be quick with those round kicks. You’ve got to be careful because guys are quick at catching them now. That’s definitely something they do in real life.
Franchise Fred: the one really impressive move was a front flip while you kick the guy behind you. Is that a move you’ve done before?
Alain Moussi: When I was doing stunt work, I worked with these incredible actors. A lot of them were acrobats and trickers. These are martial artists that do a lot of spins and different tricks. So that’s a move that one of my friends was doing. His name is Dennis Lafond, and Dennis would do his move. He showed me this move, and I was like, “Oh my God, that’s so awesome. I have to learn how to do that. I can do a front flip and maybe I can do that.” So I started practicing with Denis, and finally, I learned how to do it. When we started prepping for Kickboxer, I was prepping in L.A., and another stuntman named Anis Cheurfa. He’s an amazing tricker, and he helped me fine tune it for the movie because I really wanted to do this move in the film. The scene where I do it, I remember the scene, that whole scene we were going as a oner so that was after three or four minutes of fighting and that was the last move. I went for it and actually landed it. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, I landed this. I can’t believe I landed it.” Because I was tired. That’s the actual take in the film.
Franchise Fred: When you see a pane of glass crossing the street, you know what you have to do, right?
Alain Moussi: I absolutely know what I have to do now. [Laughs] It’s funny because of the producer/writer Dimitri Logothetis. Dimitri is the one who cast me in this film. He’s my partner in crime. Me and Dimitri talk about all these fights and action pieces and his vision for them. That particular scene, he had that in mind. “I want you to do a slide or something like that.” He talked to a Thai coordinator, Jim. He showed me this pre-viz, and I see the slide, and I’m like, “Oh my God, I’ve never done that before.” I thought it was the coolest thing, so we were like all right, we shot it. It was another one of those cool moves that Dimitri had in his head, and I’m like, “All right, I wonder how that’s going to look.” All of a sudden it comes to life.” It looks good. It looks really cool.
Franchise Fred: I just think it’s funny they carry the pane of glass and you know it’s going to get broken.
Alain Moussi: Of course. As soon as you see it, you know somebody’s going through it. It’s just who and when?
Franchise Fred: When Van Damme takes you out to the bar, it’s obviously very different than what happened in the original Kickboxer. I thought it was cool they had a real formal fight there, but did you still want to do Van Damme’s dance from the original Kickboxer?
Alain Moussi: We had talked about the dance because it’s the number one question with everyone. They ask, “Are you doing the dance?” I don’t want to give it up because it’s that one thing everybody looks forward to. At the same time, because I’m such a fan of the original, there was no way in my mind, and this is talking to Dimitri as well, in the tone of the film, the way the story’s laid out in this film. The second thing is how do you honor that dance? How do you do it justice? The only way is to pay homage to it. That was my take on it. I said, “Listen, I think if we pay homage to it,” because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and I can actually do it the same way he did. Or so I try to do it the same way he did it in the original, why don’t we pay homage to it and have this post-credit scene and have a split screen. It would be really cool. So then everybody agreed it was a really cool idea. I believe it was the second to last shot on the last day. We’re in the jail, and that’s when we shot that scene. They put the music on, said, “Okay, Alain, go and dance.” So I got into the cell, came out and there we go. It was one take, they played the song, everybody had a great time watching it, laughed a lot and that was it. It’s a cool homage to Van Damme’s performance in the original.
Franchise Fred: In the training montage, are you pulling on a real tire?
Alain Moussi: Yeah, it is a real tire actually. All the training stuff you see is actually real stuff. The bike is a real bike, and he dunks me in the water. When I’m getting hit on the shin, all that stuff is actually pretty real. We did it. It was really interesting. A good workout, I’ll tell you.
Franchise Fred: You can really break a coconut with your elbow?
Alain Moussi: That was not real. I wish I could. Maybe one day. They were real coconuts, but they were made for the movie. They were actually made out of a real coconut.
Franchise Fred: Is there any way to kick the tree without hurting your legs?
Alain Moussi: No. A lot of people damage the nerves on their shin. Like Thai fighters, that’s what they do. I have friends, and they roll on their shins. They’ll start with hitting with bamboo sticks, and they’ll start hitting lightly first. Then they get into harder, harder hits. The idea is to build up this tolerance on your shin. This way when you do leg kicks, you don’t hurt yourself when you’re kicking somebody else, and you can block a kick without hurting yourself as well. So hitting the bamboo tree is a way to do that tolerance training on the legs. So no matter what, when you’re hitting a bamboo tree, it hurts. I’ve never done the full out damage the nerves training. I’ve never done that before. So it was kind of practice for the film, so I definitely felt it.
Franchise Fred: Now that we’ve seen what the new Kickboxer is all about, what can we expect from Kickboxer: Retaliation?
Alain Moussi: So the sequel is interesting because obviously when you do the first one, the story is the story. It’s the story of the original. There are obviously some changes here and there. It’s a modernization, but it’s still the story. Now the sequel is free reign. So the sequel, nobody knows what to expect because we just can dive deeper into this world of Kickboxer. Dimitri Logothetis is the producer, the writer, him and his partner Jim McGrath. They just dove into this world which is so awesome. So there’re so many new surprises. We go deeper into the characters. We follow the characters in their journey. Everything revolves around Kurt Sloane, but you have all these new faces. Christopher Lambert’s character is incredible. I can’t wait for you to see that. Then we peppered it with a whole bunch of world athletes like Mike Tyson is iconic. His character in the film, you’re going to see Mike Tyson as you’ve never seen him before in the film. It’s so awesome. Obviously, Van Damme’s back which is great. We’ll continue the story between Kurt and Durand which is really cool. Liu, his girlfriend, you maintain that relationship and keep on going. There are so many cool surprises. The amazing action pieces in Retaliation and the end fight with The Mountain, Hafbor Bjornsson, wow. It’s killer. It’s really, really killer. So I think fans will really enjoy the continuation of the story of Retaliation.
Franchise Fred: Who’s The Mountain?
Alain Moussi: His name is Hafbor Julius Bjornsson. He’s one of the world’s strongest men. He just competed for the World’s Strongest Man this summer, but he plays The Mountain in Game of Thrones. He’s a huge character. He’s got a huge following with Game of Thrones because he’s a total brute. He’s 6’10” 420 lbs. He’s the opponent I have in Retaliation. So Bautista’s huge but The Mountain is a mountain. He’s literally that. He’s more than huge. He’s larger than life, so it’s really interesting working with him. I got to work with other UFC fighters. I got to work with Fabricio Wedrum and Wanderlei Silva, Shogun, Babalu, and these are all major UFC stars that were in the film. And then also Brian Shaw who’s another Strong Man. Brian Shaw was the World’s Strongest Man 2015. So lots of cool places you’re going to see in Retaliation.
Franchise Fred: Does Tyson have a fight with you? He got to fight Donnie Yen in Ip Man 3.
Alain Moussi: He does. He does. He’s got a fight with me for sure. Guaranteed. We had a great time doing it. It was really something because when we designed the action for Tyson, we wanted his fans, the people who followed his career to really enjoy this action piece. So I did a lot of research on Mike when they announced that he was going to do the film, to make sure that we really bring it for the fans. To me, that’s important. When you have somebody like Mike Tyson or Georges St-Pierre, these guys are all known for things. So you have to put that in. You have to really showcase what these athletes are known for. Mike Tyson is known for a very specific style of fighting. So we really needed to showcase that in his fight, and we did which is going to be awesome. Fans are going to love it, I’m sure.
Franchise Fred: Now that you’re acting, do you still do stunt work?
Alain Moussi: No, my last stunt job was to double for Hugh Jackman in X-Men: Apocalypse. I had to stop doing stunt work because now I was really focused on my acting. When I’m not shooting, I’m actually working with an acting coach. I’m just all about the work right now. I really want to improve my acting. To me, it’s like martial arts. You want to get good at kicks, and you have to throw 1000, 10,000, a million kicks. If you want to become a better actor, you have to do reps. It’s all about reps. It’s all about working. On my downtime, that’s when the work really happens. I need to improve so I really want to do that, but when producers from Fox approached me about doubling for Hugh Jackman, Hugh Jackman’s one of my favorite actors. Number two, it’s Wolverine. I had to do it. I said that was my last one, and right now I’m not taking any more stunt jobs at all. I’m just focused on my next film and improving as an actor. That’s what I want to do.