Interview with Iko Uwais

Iko Uwais Vs Yayan Ruhian (Mad Dog) Lift Fight from Merantau

The Raid’s two chief martial arts actors and choreographers responsible for a great deal of the action seen in the films – Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian are as hardcore as they come. Not only have they both starred together in Gareth Evans’ first feature “Merantau” but also bring a great deal of creativity, sizzle and finesse into each fight scene they work on.

Duly signing it with their stamp of approval, we soon witness their craft: gratuitously long, intricate, full-on, frenetically-paced, snap, pop and bang fight sequences that set the standard for increasingly popular silatian-based martial arts movies. Now follows mini profiles and interviews with Iko that he obligingly gave while the long-anticipated, fever-pitch simmering wait for The Raid 2 finally reaches boiling point and is unleashed on our cinema screens today – let’s get ready to rumble folks!

Principal actor, Iko Uwais, was born in Jakarta on February 12th, 1983. Iko was introduced to pencak silat through his uncle, who was the master of Tiga Berantai Silat School in Jakarta. Uwais took an immediate interest and started pencak silat at the age of five. He continued training until he went professional. In 2003 he came third in a competition among pencak silat schools in Jakarta. In 2005 he won the Best Single performer at the Pencak Silat Festival. He travelled to the UK, Russia and Azerbaijan as a member of the Indonesian silat team to introduce the martial art to other cultures. He followed that in 2007 and 2008 by travelling to Cambodia and France.

In 2007 Uwais met Gareth Evans through a documentary that Evans and his wife Rangga Maya Barack-Evans were working on at the time. Uwais was a student at one of the silat schools where Evans was filming. After getting to know Uwais better, they met up again in 2008 to talk about Uwais starring in Evans’ first feature debut: Merantau – an action drama featuring West Sumatra’s distinct pencak silat style “silat harimau” (Tiger style silat). This was Uwais’s debut in a feature length movie, not only as an actor but also as a member of the choreography team. After the movie’s successful local theatrical release in 2009, Uwais became Merantau Films’ in-house choreographer. He continued to develop the company’s productions, including The Raid 2.

Iko as Rama

Continuing the story where it left off in The Raid, Iko plays the part of Rama. After reaching out to a policeman called Bunawar (as suggested by his brother Andi), Rama is recruited to join Bunawar’s undercover team. In The Raid 2, Rama is now not only a husband with a wife to look after, but also the father of a young child, Angga. Accepting the responsibility and consequences as an undercover agent is a challenge and pressure to Rama.

The toll, both mental and physical, is enhanced by his orders to follow and befriend Uco, the son of mafia don Bangun. When Rama goes undercover, he assumes the identity of Yuda, a character whose personality lies in diametric opposition to that of Rama. Rama must act as one of Uco’s men and thus is no longer afforded the luxury of morality. This transition creates in Rama a real struggle to maintain his true self and sense of identity.

The roles that Uwais played in Evans’ previous films, Yuda (Merantau) and Rama (The Raid: Redemption) are both classic heroes. They fight for justice and defend the weak. However, in this film, Evans asked Uwais to portray Rama as a man struggling to maintain his morality. When Rama is forced to enter the underworld, his conscience undergoes continuous conflict. He loses himself, as his ideals erode. This gives Uwais a new challenge and presents an interesting evolution of the role.

Iko said of this challenge:

“The acting challenge for me this time was the switch between playing ideal Rama vs evil Yuda. I found the scene where Yuda is brought to the luxurious apartment by Eka and makes a phone call to Bunawar particularly difficult. Not only do I have to start the scene as Yuda, but then talk on the phone to Bunawar as Rama, who is angry at Bunawar, then switch to calling Isa, Rama’s wife. This scene was shot all in one take so the difference of voice tone and expression had to be drastically different.”

On to our interview with Iko Uwais! Hi Iko, how are you?

Hi Raj, I am fine thank you!

We’re keen to see the reactions to The Raid 2 released today can you tell us what has been the most interesting thing about making the movie?

For me, it’s the story, the complex drama scenes and the fighting.

What was the most difficult stunt you did for The Raid 2?

Jumping from car to car, in the car chasing scene. It took 6 or 7 takes to do it and I didn’t have any stunt doubles, I did all my own stunts.

Looking back at the first Raid: Redemption, the fights were dynamic and stunts well crafted – however the sequel goes much further

Which was your favourite fight scene from The Raid 2?

It would have to be the end fight scene, fighting the assassin in the kitchen.

What was one of the funny experiences for you on making The Raid 2?

The naked scene when I had to strip in front of the mob boss, it’s unusual for me to be nude in front of other guys!

You’re the biggest star in Indonesia right now how do you feel?

Thanks very much Raj. Well, to be honest, it’s normal, nothing really changed aside from the fact that I now have a small family; a wife and daughter called  Atreya, she’s 6 months old now. My life is still the same. I find it’s weird that people want to take pictures with me, it’s unusual, but at least I know who I am now! (Laughs)

Who are some your favourite onscreen martial artists?

Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Mark Dacascos (I like his movie “Only The Strong” with the capoeira) Tony Jaa, he’s really good in gymnastics, flips and of course, muay thai.

Do you train in gymnastics and acrobatics too?

I practice backflips and saltos, but I don’t do much of that dancing thing! (Laughs) I like silat, capoeira and gymnastics. Tai chi is, in many ways, similar to silat in that there is a lot of flexibility involved in the movements.

What are some of your favourite kung-fu movies?

  1. Armour of God
  2. Police Story
  3. Only The Strong
  4. Tom Yum Goong
  5. The Karate Kid (original)
  6. Mr Nice Guy
  7. The Karate Kid (Jackie Chan’s)
  8. Danny The Dog (aka Unleashed)

Who would you most like to work with in the future?

Jackie Chan. I like that every fight looks real, the movements are authentic and doing his own stunts.

What kind of workout do you do everyday?

When I wake up in the morning I do push ups, and so on as well as choreography style moves. Depending on my schedule, I could train silat 3-5 hours per day. I practice with Yayan, he pushes me really hard Raj! Until this day I still call him Mad Dog or Crazy Dog!

I hope he likes that! (laughs) By the way, what kind of diet do you have?

Nothing special, I eat anything! Chicken fried rice, fruits and vegetables. I drink hot tea, every morning, every day.

What hobbies do you have?

I like to practice fight choreography moves with Yayan, I like that.

What books do you like to read?

I hate books! Just kidding, I just prefer watching movies!

What’s your favourite music?

I like Arabic music by Egyptian singer Amr Diab. Do a Google search and you’ll soon find yourself dancing! (Laughs).

I’ll check it out! (laughs) okay, so Iko, tell us what one thing in life you really like?


And what do you dislike?


What are you looking forward to achieve in next 5 years?

I’m not thinking about it, it’s too far ahead for me.

What special message would you like to share with Kung Fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world?

I would say, click onto Kung Fu Kingdom’s website because I think it’s a good information resource for fans of these movies -to understand more about kung fu and martial arts. And please watch out for me in The Raid 2 – I hope you all enjoy it!

Thanks Iko for taking the time to speak with us, we hope The Raid 2 is going to be a runaway success, great effort and well done.

Thanks so much Raj and please don’t forget to come back and cover our next movie too!

The Raid 2 hits cinemas in the UK and US today and rolls out internationally over the coming weeks! Why not catch up with our other Raid 2 interviews and posts? Click here to see them all!

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Raj Khedun

Raj, a wing chun student, enjoys spending time studying various aspects of the martial arts, from theory to practically applied skills. He enjoys interviewing prominent and dedicated martial artists from all over the world, who have something inspiring and stimulating to share. He also manages projects in terms of filming, reviews of movies/books and other quality features.

1 Comment
  1. I appreciate the opening of this blog, getting under the skin of an actor and martial artist is important. To understand their successes you must understand their up bringing and how (and why) they started. The Raid isone of my favourite martial arts films, not only for the out of this world choreography but for the refreshing new story. Much better than Bruce Lee’s Game of Death! The quote just before the interview has already got me navigating to amazon with one hand and pulling my amex out of my wallet with the other. Oh and if Iko and Jackie do a film, I’ll be first in line!

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