For millions of people around the world, our first taste of Muay Thai on the big screen came in the form of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1989 cult classic “Kickboxer“. The film not only spawned a series of sequels, but also got the reboot treatment with 2016’s “Kickboxer: Vengeance“, with stuntman Alain Moussi assuming the role of the heroic ‘Nuk Soo Kow’ (White Warrior) Kurt Sloane, and Van Damme returning as the grizzled Muay Thai mentor, Durand.
The upcoming sequel, “Kickboxer: Retaliation” departs from the original series by continuing Kurt Sloane’s story, this time pitting him against hordes of tough-as-nails MMA fighters and a literally mountainous adversary in the form of the bloodthirsty Mongkut, played by Icelandic strongman and “Game of Thrones” star Hafthor Bjornsson.
Today, Alain sits down with KFK to share a behind the scenes look at the making of “Kickboxer: Retaliation”, which include the plentiful knocks he took along the way, and a few tidbits about the upcoming third instalment, “Kickboxer: Armageddon”!
Hi Alain, thanks for taking some time out to speak with KFK today about “Kickboxer: Retaliation”. Hope you’re doing well?
Hi Brad, I’m doing great, thanks. Happy to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the movie!
Perfect! Well, let’s get right into it then, how did “Retaliation” first come about?
It started when the producer of “Kickboxer: Vengeance”, Dimitri Logothetis, called me up to say we were going to be doing “Retaliation”. I asked him, “How? The first movie isn’t even out yet.” He explained that some investors had seen the rough cut of “Vengeance” and really liked it, and they wanted to do the sequel right away. A week later, Dimitri had a treatment written up, and then within a few months, we were getting ready to shoot “Retaliation”!
That’s definitely very atypical! So, how did the experience of making “Retaliation” compare to the experience of making “Vengeance”?
Oh, it was totally different. For me personally, it was the most gruelling shoot I’ve ever done, but after having done “Vengeance”, I was a lot more confident going into “Retaliation”. I was really well prepared for “Vengeance”, but for “Retaliation”, I did all of the fight coordination, and using Dimitri’s treatment, I and the stunt team were able to put together all of the action here in Canada before we went to Thailand.
Dimitri was also directing this time, so it was a totally different experience to be working with him in that capacity. Dimitri is extremely passionate about “Kickboxer” and he prepped it to make it look and feel like a bigger movie than “Vengeance”. I was also involved in the post-production and worked with Dimitri and our editor to cut most of the fights in the film. I think it came out better than the first one, and if you liked “Vengeance”, you’re really going to love “Retaliation”!
Sounds fantastic! Well, speaking of fights in “Retaliation”, you have one in the film with none other than boxing titan, Mike Tyson. What can you share about making the film with him and filming your fight sequence?
It was awesome! Mike’s a super nice guy, he’s really cool to work with. I met him on the day we started our fight scene, and we really wanted to make sure to showcase Mike the way people remember him as the World Heavyweight Boxing champ. So, I got a pretty good beating that day! We shot with high-speed cameras, so when we take hits, you’ll see we’re really taking hits. Obviously, we exercise a lot of control as well, or I’d probably be dead! (Both laugh) It was enough for the stunt guys to step in and ask, “Hey, Alain, are you good?”, and I said “Yeah, I’m fine, I’ll survive.” So, it was a treat to get to be on set with Mike.
Certainly. On that note, another of your opponents in the film is the Icelandic super strongman Hafthor Bjornsson, who plays Mongkut, the villain of the film. What interesting stories can you share about making the film with him and filming your fight scene together?
It was like being five-years-old and fighting a rhinoceros! (Both laugh) We spent seven days shooting our fight, and he rehearsed everything on the day. So, it’d be rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, then shoot. He’s not a martial artist himself, but before the film I’d seen a video of him and Conor McGregor going at it, and I could see that he’s athletic and not just a big dude with a lot of muscle.
When we were shooting our fight, there’s a part where he grabs me by the throat and tosses me across the room. I’d prevized it with the stunt guys, but I hadn’t practiced it with Thor, so I figured, I’m going to fly about three or four feet, but you just don’t know how strong he is until you actually feel it. He’s six feet, ten inches, and with his arms up, he reaches to seven and a half feet. So, he goes ahead and picks me up and throws me ten to twelve feet, and I had time to look at the ground and think “Oh my God, this is crazy!” We watched the playback, and Dimitri thought it looked great, but I said, “Oh no, we have to do it again”, because you could see I had put my hand out and that I was anticipating the fall. Everybody tried to talk me out of doing it again, but I was able to talk them into doing it two more times, and they ended up using the third one.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any major injuries in that fight or the rest of the shoot, but I took plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. I was at a preview showing of the film recently, and people in the audience were cringing during our fight scene, so I thought, “Okay, we did our job!”
That shows some serious commitment right there! On that note, as was the case with “Vengeance”, “Retaliation” features appearances from several real-life MMA fighters, including Wanderlei Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson, Renzo Gracie, and Renato “Babalu” Sobral. What interesting stories can you share about making the film alongside so many great MMA fighters?
Well, our producer, Robert Hickman has a lot of ties to the MMA world, and brought in all the MMA fighters to the film, and we worked out how they’d all fit into the film and Kurt Sloane’s story, and I think we were very successful with it. With Babalu, we have a cage fight in the film, and it was really intense because we had only two days left on the shoot, we had three sets going at the same time.
I was bouncing from one set to the other, and it was a 15-hour day because we had to get everything finished, so we were doing two action scenes on a train, and the fight with Babalu. When they were setting up the cameras for our fight, I asked Babalu “Hey, do you think you can hit me in the head and not knock me out?”, and I forgot that I had a mic right next to me, and a second later, I hear, “Alain, Dimitri says stop talking to Babalu about hitting you in the head!” (Both laugh). But I talked Babalu into it, so we start filming, and he pops me in the head and it just came out looking really awesome.
Most definitely! Looking ahead now, “Retaliation” also marks your second film with Jean-Claude Van Damme. What can you share about reuniting with him for the film?
Oh, it was even more fun the second time around! We knew each other well by this point, and as with “Vengeance”, I learned a lot from him, and I think our chemistry was even better this time.
Sounds like he’s fully passed the torch onto you. Another of your co-stars is Christopher Lambert of “Highlander” and “Mortal Kombat” fame. How was your experience working with him?
Chris is a gentleman and a pro. The first day we were on set together, he had this huge monologue, and being on set and seeing him deliver his craft was a lot of fun. He also came in everyday when we were doing the fight with Thor, and he’d come up to me and say “Hey Alain, are you okay today? Are you sure you’re not in any pain? I saw you yesterday, and you were really getting beaten up”, and he just couldn’t believe I was okay. We had a lot of time to chat on the set too, and it was so cool to hear him talk about his career and impart all his wisdom.
Superb and an honour I’m sure! Moving ahead now, there’s also a third film in progress, “Kickboxer: Armageddon”. What can you tell us about this forthcoming third installment in the series?
Well, “Retaliation” has a lot of the same elements as “Vengeance”, but we see Kurt Sloane evolve in the film, and “Armageddon” is a bit darker and is going to push him a lot further, but we’re also careful not to overdo it. A lot of sequels, when they have things that people respond to, they end up going overboard with it in the next one. So, it’ll basically see Kurt continue evolving and dealing with a lot of insanity in the challenges he faces in “Armageddon”.
Sounds intense! Well, as we prepare to sign off here, what other projects do you have coming up after “Retaliation”?
Well, Dimitri and I have another project we’re working on right now called “Jiu-jitsu”, and it’s a sci-fi action film that’s really different to what we’ve done so far.
Great, we definitely look forward to seeing it, keep us in the loop. Thank you so much for the pleasure of this interview, Alain. We look forward to seeing Kurt Sloane in action once more in “Retaliation”!
My pleasure, Brad, thanks for having me here on Kung Fu Kingdom!
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