It is time to officially meet the new Kickboxer. Alain Moussi is a Canadian-based martial artist who got his start as a stuntman, which propelled him to nab the lead role of Kurt Sloan in the remake Kickboxer: Vengeance. In his first lead role, Alain got to work with his longtime idol, Jean-Claude Van Damme. World Film Geek chatted with Alain via phone interview to talk about the reboot, coming in theaters and VOD on September 2.
Alain, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Kickboxer: Vengeance. I recently got to see the film and I really enjoyed it.
My pleasure. Good! Awesome! Great to hear!
For those who are unfamiliar, can you describe your martial arts background and how you got your start as a stuntman?
I started in Japanese Jiu-Jitsu as a kid in Ottawa in Canada. It was at the Therien School with Mr. [John] Therien and that’s where I grew up, in the Jiu-Jitsu school. I did that for about eight years and then I got into kickboxing with Jean-Yves Theriault, who was 23-time world champion at the time I got started with him. And I got into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well at the same time so I kept up with both kickboxing and BJJ, which I got to meet with Carlos Machado. Carlos is my Jiu-Jitsu mentor now. I’ve been training under him for nine years now, earning my black belt. As I started work as a stuntman and expand my skills, I did a lot of seminars for different arts to add them to my game. I was able to adapt them into different styles of fighting for films and the stunt work definitely help.
I got into stunt work about six years ago, in 2010, when I met Jean Frenette, a stunt coordinator in Canada who was doing the fights for Immortals. He took me under his wing and after I met him, I was doing a lot of fight concepts for Immortals . The stunt coordinator [Artie Malesci] thought they were pretty good and they would ask, “Is this guy working right now? Is he available?” and they said, “Yeah, he’s brand new and can do the job.” So I was hired to double Henry Cavill in Immortals and I was pretty much thrown into the deep end.
Usually when you start as a stuntman, you would be like “Guard #3” and get shot at and fall [laughs] and you are lucky to get a full day on the set. I had six months, three months stunt prep, three months shoot. There are a lot of talented stuntmen and stunt coordinators in Canada, so because of that I was able to showcase my skills for all these people. So after Immortals, I got hired for all these films and it was pretty cool. So I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people over the years and great job. So that was my transition from being a martial artist. I own a martial arts school [NX Martial Arts and Fitness] and then started doing stunt work. I love it so much and I’ve always wanted to be in films, that’s why I started martial arts. Slowly as I grew up, it was like “How are you going to do that?” Ottawa, compared to Montreal and Toronto, is a smaller city and there’s not that really much film production. So with the right timing and skill set, I got into the right film and met the right people.
How did you get the lead role in Kickboxer: Vengeance because in my opinion, you did an excellent job as Kurt Sloan.
Oh man! Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.That is so cool. Sometimes you get scared s***less when you are doing this [laughs]. Like you go with confidence but at the same time, you are waiting for these moments. I would talk to my wife all the time about this. I’m reading reviews and it is like “Who is going to trash me first?” as if I’m waiting for it. It hasn’t been the case, which is really cool, and thank you so much for saying that. It’s really nice.
I met producer and writer Dimitri Logothetis on a film where I was doing stunts and I was doing a showcase for him where I had two major fights and afterwards, he talked for about five minutes. The next day, he hasn’t cast a lead for this film and I got a call from casting and they asked me to come in because the director wanted me to audition for the lead role. I was like, “Wow! This is an amazing opportunity!” I thought it was a joke at the beginning but it wasn’t so I auditioned. He offered me the role and at the time, he told me he has the rights to Kickboxer. So this movie that we were shooting in Montreal never finished because the finance here got into some trouble.
Two years later, Dimitri called me up and told me, “I need you to come to L.A. to do a showcase for [producer] Ted Field. Ted is my partner for Kickboxer and I want to prove to him you are the guy for the role.” So I go to L.A. and do the showcase. At the end of the showcase, Ted gets up and said, “Yeah that is what we are doing! This is what we’re doing right here!” So I also had to do a screen test so I can show them how I look on screen and not just rely on the action. So I worked with a coach, we did the screen test and that was it.
Dimitri is the one who believes in me. He sees the potential in me and sees that I’m a hard work and that’s one thing. I work hard. I don’t mind the hard work. I take it in and that’s how I got good in martial arts. I believe you can have as much talent as you want, but if you don’t work hard, there’s limits. The only way to go beyond your natural talent is is it rep and work hard. To be willing to go the extra mile and Dimitri saw that, so I got the role. So at Cannes, they announced Dave Bautista, Georges St-Pierre, and myself. So it was like they could’ve changed their minds, but this made it official.
What was it like working with Dave Bautista [who plays Tong Po], Georges St-Pierre [who plays Kavi] and your idol, Jean-Claude Van Damme [who plays Durand]?
It was awesome, all great guys! I had met Georges a few times, but we didn’t really know each other. I had always followed his career when he was in the UFC. We are the same age so I always admired him and I admired his intelligence in his fighting. That is a great example of what you need to be to be successful, a champion. So when I got to work with Georges on a personal level it was great. He did a great job at adapting to film fighting from real fighting and that can be an issue. To understand distance and timing and all of that stuff and it was a real treat.
And we even had our own lingo because we both speak French, so we would be on the set talking in French and everyone would give us these weird looks. So we would shoot an official conversation where we had to speak English and then we would go back and forth, so we had our own thing going, which was really cool. Lots of cool times with Georges, Georges is a really funny guy and I’m happy Dimitri got to capture that, to get the humor out of him. He’s naturally a funny dude. Working with Georges was great.
I met Dave in a hotel on the night he got in. He’s very soft-spoken, a well-spoken man and I went to introduce myself right away and he’s super nice. Then he had a limited time on set because he was leaving to shoot James Bond [Spectre]. So we didn’t have much time so he just wanted to do it. So we actually started with the end fight. We got right into it. We rehearsed it for only an hour then shoot the fight. It went really well. We had the right groove, good timing, and we really committed to it, he hit me, I hit him. All the hits you see are real hits.
We had really good chemistry and he’s performed in professional wrestling. So he understands distance, understands timing, and understands contact. Understanding contact is something not everyone understands. They don’t know the different between “20%”, “30%”, and “70%”. They may not register that, but he does. I do, I’ve done this for a while and he did too, so we were able to go at it to a level where you would say, the hits look great. The hits may look like they were at 100% but may actually be at 30% but they look real and that’s important to me in a fight. Working with Dave was such a treat because we both were able to do that plus, he’s such a nice guy. He’s such a cool, charismatic dude and that’s due to wrestling. I was like, “Oh my God, I’m working with Dave Bautista! This is incredible! I watched this guy destroy dudes in the ring!”[laughs].
Of course, JC was the icing on the cake for me because he was my childhood hero. He’s the reason why I got in martial arts. As if doing Kickboxer was already an honor, with JC is in the film as the mentor, it was incredible. We had a great time on the set. He’s so collaborative, so nice. We talked about what we were going to do and go at it. And to have fight scenes with him is a dream come true. We had this fight in the rain and it was so special to me because it was our first fight and it is the moment where the student wants the teacher to become his teacher. It’s a lot of dialogue. It’s unspoken, but there’s a lot of physical dialogue that happens. It’s like he puts him down and puts him down and I get up until finally it’s like I convince him to take me on. It’s that moment that is special and it’s almost like you have the film fight and a sense of reality.
I actually liked that scene.
Really? You liked that fight? That’s good!
Darren Shahlavi [who sadly passed away in January 2015. The film is dedicated to his memory] was a great talent and plays Eric Sloan. What was it like working with him?
Darren and I were friends and we were in L.A. sitting at a restaurant. I was reading for Kickboxer and he said he really wanted to be in the film. He tells me what role he would play and puts a picture next to my face and says, “I can be your brother”. And I was like, “Oh my God! That’s a great idea.” So the next day, I’m having lunch with Dimitri and I showed him the picture and I said, “Hey, here’s my brother.” Dimitri remembers Darren from an acting reel and he said, “Done. Let’s do it.” Just like that.
Darren and I had done stunt work. We did The Marine 3: Homefront, where I was doing stunts [doubling lead actor Mike Mizanin] and Darren was one of the villains. So that’s how we met so we had to work together in that capacity doing stunts and fights. Now, it was like I was going to be on screen with him and I was thrilled. I admired Darren and I had followed his career and to be working with him, especially because this was a film that was important to him because the original had inspired him. When I heard the news he had passed away, I was so sad.
There was a scene that is very important and it was the scene where Eric tells Kurt he was leaving for Thailand. After we had shot that scene, Darren came up to me and said, “Alain, this is my favorite scene that I ever shot.” And I thought that was so special and I feel honored to be on screen with him in one of his final scenes.
One of my favorite fight choreographers and another good guy all around, Larnell Stovall, did the action for this film. Did you have any input in the action or was it Stovall and his team all the way around?
I had input in a way where I didn’t want to be in his way. I wanted him to do what he thought would be right for the film. We sat down together and talked about the characters, especially my character, and we talked about what style of fighting would work. We would go over the textures and then he would run with the scene.
He would show me things and I would say yes, no, modify this. I would give him a list of moves that I like to do and he would work with that so it was a great collaboration between me and him. But I always trusted him because I knew he was an extremely talented choreographer. I love his work. He would show me pre-viz that I thought were great and at times, he would tell me “Push! Push! Make up your own!” But he did an incredible, incredible job with the action.
Do you have a favorite fight scene in the film that you shot or do you like them all [laughs]?
They all their own charm [laughs], but three really stand out for me, so I’ll give you three. I really love the end fight, especially the last round. The fight with JC in the rain, and the elephant fight.
I liked the “elephant fight” too. It was reminiscent of some of the Thai action films from the past decade.
That particular scene was choreographed by our Thai coordinator, Jim [Supoj Khaowwong]. Jim and his team put that fight together and I loved it. And these are three different fights, different textures, different techniques. But I really liked them.
So as fans may know or those who may not know, you recently wrapped Kickboxer: Retaliation. Without giving away too much, what can we expect in the sequel?
Number one, you can expect to follow Kurt Sloan in a new chapter of his life, which is very interesting. That is what I like about sequels, because you follow the character into new places.
Two, expect some amazing action and I’m not just saying that because I did them. But because they are shot very well. And I will give one away, but not tell you who it is. There are two good oners (one-take shots) in Retaliation, and there is a four-minute oner that we shot on the first day.When we were done, we were like “Oh my God!” and we got it in the can. There will be some great action here.
What’s also cool about Retaliation is that it will go way deeper into the relationship with Durand and the relationship with Liu [played by Sara Malakul Lane]. Especially with Kurt and Liu as that relationship really develops because that is important to see Kurt’s relationship with the girl.
We have so many new faces here. We’ve been posting all over the place, including UFC stars. So Mike Tyson. And by the way, that is the other treat. Mike Tyson as you’ve never seen him before. He has never been captured in films the way we captured him. Boxing fans will go crazy when they see what we did with Mike and the hard work he did.Tyson was awesome. Not only the action, but also the character.
For the fans who have been anticipating Vengeance, what would you like to tell them?
I hope the fans will be ready for an entertaining movie. And I hope they will be entertained. It’s a fun movie, an entertaining movie and to be ready for some cool action. If they like that, that will be perfect, I will be really happy.
Well, Alain, it’s been a pleasure. You are available on social media, so we will have those links posted so the fans can catch up with your latest news. Once again, thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk about Kickboxer: Vengeance.
Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
Kickboxer: Vengeance comes to theaters (check your local theater for showtimes) and Video on Demand on September 2 from RLJ Entertainment.
A special Thank You goes out to Katrina Wan PR for making this interview possible and to Alain Moussi himself for the wonderful chat!