Meet Alain Moussi, Star of the Rebooted Kickboxer Movies and the Man Who Might Become the Next Jean-Claude Van Damme!
Alain Moussi is on the cover of the June/July 2018 issue of Black Belt. A year and a half before it came out, we ran this story in which the star talks about making Kickboxer: Vengeance, the first of three rebooted films. To get his thoughts on making the second one, titled Kickboxer: Retaliation, and a glimpse of his next film series, called Jiu-Jitsu, find the issue on the newsstand or in a bookstore.
Long before he became a choreographer, a stuntman and an actor, Alain Moussi was an accomplished martial artist. Then he landed the action-movie role of a lifetime: He was selected to portray Kurt Sloan in the reboot of Kickboxer.
Released in 1989, the original Kickboxer was part of the late-1980s wave of martial arts movies that endeared themselves to practitioners around the world as much for their kitsch as their fight scenes. In the eyes of Hollywood execs, that made the franchise prime material for a relaunch. Enter Alain Moussi, the actor selected to lead the cast. Supporting him is an impressive list of martial arts talent, including ex-MMA star Gina Carano, former UFC champ Georges St-Pierre, former WWE wrestler Dave Bautista and Jean-Claude Van Damme, this time portraying the trainer.
After returning from Thailand, Moussi spoke with Black Belt about his background and what fans can expect from Kickboxer: Vengeance, whether they catch it in the theater or watch via a digital download.
What inspired you to start martial arts?
When I was 10 years old, I started training in traditional Japanese-style jujitsu. I started because I saw Van Damme movies. Bloodsport and Kickboxer were the two movies that got me obsessed with kicking. Later on, when the UFC came out, I really loved the combative aspect, so I started Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It was in its infancy in Ottawa then — the first people teaching BJJ [there] were green belts.
How did you get into fight choreography?
Over the years, I did tons of stage shows … across Canada, Europe and the United States. Essentially, they were like fight scenes onstage. I love action movies and creating choreography that would be what you would see in a movie, so everything we did, we did with that in mind. Then, when I started doing stunt work, I just had to learn how to how to apply it to an actual film and how to work with cameras.
Was the transition from demonstrations to film choreography difficult?
It wasn’t too hard. The learning curve was more [about] how to work with camera angles and how to make the choreography dynamic — to make something that doesn’t look choreographed, something that looks organic and flows. I had great coaches.
How did you get involved with the new Kickboxer movie?
I happened to meet the producer Dimitri [Logothetis] almost four years ago while working on another film in Montreal. I was doing the stunts with some choreography, and we did a showcase for him. He really liked the way I moved, and the auditions went very well, so we started working together. I knew that he was about to produce Kickboxer, and when the time was right, he called me out to meet Ted Field. I did the same kind of thing for him — a nice physical showcase of a fight — and he said, “All right, let’s do this.” That’s how I came to be in Kickboxer. It’s like a dream come true for me.
Technically, is Kickboxer: Vengeance a remake or reboot?
It’s a reboot. We’re not trying to recreate the same film set in this year. The magical thing about this movie — and I’m a huge fan of Kickboxer — is that all the elements of Kickboxer, things like the story and the characters, all these things came together. That is what made it such a cool movie. If you try to redo the same exact thing, it won’t work. We wanted to do something fresh and something new with new elements but keeping the spirit of the original film, and that is something that I think we succeeded in doing.
The movie is very authentic. We were able to work with people that are doing the action. You’ve got myself and Dave Bautista and Georges St-Pierre and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Everybody is actually doing the action, which is amazing. The story has a lot of heart, just like the original film, and that’s one of the reasons people are very attached to the characters and the story.
Was it intimidating to be on set with Van Damme, considering you’re stepping into one of his iconic roles?
Yeah. The first day we shot together, I was nervous. In this version of the film, he’s a mentor and I’m playing the role he played originally, so obviously it’s intimidating. But he’s such a cool guy, and he made it so comfortable. He came in wanting this to be a success, and he wanted to work with me. As soon as it was announced that he was going to play Master Durand, he gave me a call. I was about to shoot some scenes, and he wanted to know what I was shooting. He was like, “OK, what are you going to do for that?” And he would run through ideas with me on what I was thinking of doing with the character — he was really cool to bounce ideas off. He was right there with me to offer any kind of support he could. That took off a lot of the nerves for me.
What was it like doing choreography with MMA competitors and people who are accustomed to fighting for real?
Sometimes fighters have trouble making that transition to film fighting because they are used to hitting things for real. So understanding the concept of distance and camera angles is something that is not obvious. But I have to say that from the first day we were fighting, Georges got it right away. He already knew what was going on, and he was so much fun to work with. As much as some things are faked with camera angles, when I’m doing choreography, I like to keep it as real as possible. So if we can use a lot of the hits, I want the hits. A lot of times, I’m getting hit for real. You get more out of that than using the lens; you get more of the energy that comes out in the fight. We’ve also got [Cain] Velasquez and [Fabricio] Werdum, and when those guys get in there, you get contact.
You also worked with Darren Shalavi on what would be his last film.
The film is dedicated to him. Darren was a good friend of mine. We met years ago doing stunt work, and when he heard I had a big role on this film, he called me, and we were able to have him as the brother. We had a lot of fun on set. On the morning that I got the message that he had passed, I was devastated. It was so very tragic. He had a great career and great things coming. He was so happy to be involved with Kickboxer — it was his favorite childhood movie, the movie that inspired him to start martial arts and pursue becoming an action star.
Does the new movie keep any of the classic scenes from the original Kickboxer? Do you kick the tree?
There’s tons of nods to the original. We really wanted to keep the magic from the original film and bring that to the new version. I can’t tell you which ones they are yet — it’s going to be a surprise. I will say that you [will] see things that remind you of the original film.
One of the elements of the original film has to be Thailand. [In Kickboxer: Vengeance], there’s this whole compound where I actually train with Jean-Claude. You see the temple, you see this beautiful landscape, and that’s something that came out of the original film. We wanted to keep the authenticity. We were able to go to Thailand and really capture the energy of Thailand.
Text by Rebecca Carter • Studio photos by Robert Reiff