Written By: Jayme Face
Alain Moussi started studying martial arts as a child after being inspired by Jean Claude Van Damme and now he is working with him in Kickboxer: Vengeance! We caught up with him to find out more about his new film and how he went from stuntman to leading man!
upfrontNY: Tell us about Kickboxer:Vengeance and your character Kurt Stone.
Alain Moussi: Kickboxer:Vengeance is a reboot of the 1989 Kickboxer. The story itself is about a kick boxer who dies in the ring and his brother who wants to avenge him. My character is the brother who gets to avenge his brother who was murdered in the ring by this really bad ass fighter named Tong Po. That’s pretty much the gist of it. The whole idea is after his brother gets killed he needs to seek out the mentorship of this coach in Thailand to be able to train and prepare and become good enough to fight this monster fighter called Tong Po. Kurt is like a fish out of water in Thailand. This is a new environment, he doesn’t know what this is. And in his family his brother was a superstar and he was taking the role of the coach to his brother because he was not as good of a fighter as his brother, or at least he was always told that, but he loved his role as his brother’s coach and manager. Now he’s forced to finally take position in front and be the competitor, be the guy who is going to win and face the monster. It’s really interesting to see his journey going from the guy who’s behind the scenes to the guy who’s in front.
upfrontNY: You mentioned that part of the movie takes place in Thailand; did you do any on location shoots or was that done in a studio?
Alain Moussi: We did three weeks in New Orleans and three weeks in Thailand; and the whole thing is done on location. It is all location-based, there is no studio.
upfrontNY: From stunt man to leading man, how did you make the transition, how does it differ?
Alain Moussi: It is very different. I mean as a stunt man I spent a lot of time doubling in my stunt career. You’re role as a stunt man is you’re the bad guy; you get shot, get hit. You’re supporting the hero because most of the time you are fighting the hero or if you’re doubling the hero then again you’re in a support role because you’re there to train the actor playing the hero. You’re not the star of the film; you have to make sure the star looks great and he can do as much as possible on the set. Then you take over when it’s your turn and make it look like you were never there. So you’re kind of like a ninja. Stunt doubles are like the ninjas of the film industry. It’s like an assassin who comes in and you kill someone and nobody ever knew you’re there. Then being a lead actor, it’s totally different, you have to do everything. It’s not only the physical part, it’s also the emotional and the acting and everything. So you’re playing the whole game, which to me is amazing. I love the idea that when you’re there you’re doing the physicality and the acting. It’s not one or the other, it’s both merged together and I think that’s so cool.
upfrontNY: What was it like filling the shoes of Jean Claude Van Damme and how did you make it your own?
Alain Moussi: It’s definitely nerve-wracking. The idea of doing kick boxer was incredible when it was presented to me. It was a dream come true. It couldn’t be a better vehicle for me to start, especially coming from a martial arts and a stunt background. You know that the movie will be judged, you will be compared because it is a reboot. So it is scary to come into it, at the same time it is very exciting because you do get to put you’re own interpretation of this character that has existed before. For me coming into it I definitely wanted to give it my flavor. I didn’t want to try to redo what was done before. So I definitely didn’t look at the original Kickboxer preparing for this. I just wanted to come and look at the script as an original script or see it as something that was done for the first time because a lot of people haven’t seen the original Kickboxer, especially for a new generation. Everyone from my generation obviously was really influenced and inspired by Van Damme’s movies. Today there’s a whole bunch of people who have never even seen it. I mean we’re 25 years later, so definitely got to look at this as something new. My whole approach to it was really to give it a lot of myself, put a lot of myself in the character and treat it as something that was totally fresh. I think that was the producers’ approach and the writers’ approach when they wrote the story, taking the essence of the original story, but giving it modernized version, a modernized feel for todays audience. As soon as we got started all the nerves became excitement and it was like we’re doing this brand new movie, not at all thinking about the original.
upfrontNY: Have you ever met Jean Claude Van Damme and did he give you advice?
Alain Moussi: Well, he is in the film. Yeah, he is actually playing the mentor. It’s funny how that came to be. I met Jean Claude on a set because I doubled him before. That was a year before Kickboxer. I doubled him on these commercials for Go Daddy and I came in as his rehearsal double because they needed someone to stand in in the splits while the camera is getting ready and all that sort of stuff. That was the first time I met him and we connected; he asked me to do some kicks and at the time he actually asked me for my information to be able to double him in other movies and stuff like that. So this is before I actually got cast for Kickboxer. Then I got Kickboxer. We talked with the producers and with the meetings they started mentioning the fact that they would love to have Van Damme do a cameo in the film. And I thought ‘well wouldn’t it be really cool if he actually played a main character in the film’. That would definitely show his approval to the film and to all of his fans. I think that would be really really cool. So everything kind of happened in a way where he ended up being the mentor in the film. So not only did he do a cameo, but he had a major supporting role in the film. I think that was awesome because he was really nice, he was really awesome. Even he viewed this as a brand new film. He was looking at his new character, and what he was doing in this film. That was really cool because it built this chemistry between us, between mentor and student.
The best piece of advice he would have given me on the film, while we were there, is focus on the acting. It had nothing to do with what we were doing right now, this had to do with career. You already have the martial arts you’ve been doing that you’re entire life, but what a lot of people forget is that for longevity in this career you’ve got to focus on you’re acting. I thought that was a really interesting piece of advice he gave me. I really took it to heart. I think it was the best thing he could have said.
upfrontNY: How did you get into Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts?
Alain Moussi: Because I saw Bloodsport. I saw Bloodsport as a kid at my friend’s house and right after I saw that I was so taken to it. I really took to Van Damme. I was so impressed with the kicks and with the splits and you don’t see somebody do that. I mean it’s so unique, it’s kicking people in the face and it was so cool. I instantly wanted to do martial arts. I had tried them before, but it had never stuck until I saw Van Damme and then I was all about that. So my mom was already training in Jiu Jitsu at the school that was near our house. As soon as I asked her she said sure and she brought me in and registered me. I started training and that was the end of it for me. I was completely obsessed stretching, doing splits and throwing kicks and doing martial arts, that was my entire life from that point on. So that’s what inspired me.
upfrontNY: You mentioned that you’re mom was into martial arts and I read you have a wife and daughter. Does it run in the family? Do you all do it?
Alain Moussi: It’s funny, everybody at some point in time has done martial arts in my family. So it started with my mom, then me and later on when I was 23 years old I opened my school in 2005 my sister started training, my brother started training. I graduated my brother to black belt. My sister did some kick boxing with me, my dad did some kick boxing with me and my wife did some kickboxing, some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and my daughter now she’s training like a kinder program and doing some Jiu Jitsu. The whole family at some point in time trained in martial arts and we keep on doing it. It’s kind of a way of life now for us.
upfrontNY: You were only 23 when you opened up you’re school! How was that being a business man so young?
Alain Moussi: It was definitely a challenge. My dad was an academic, he was a math teacher, he was in computer science so he always wanted me to get in something academic. I started in aerospace engineering when I got into University, but although I was good at it, I just couldn’t see myself doing this for the rest of my life. So I went to software, but again I would look at my watch the whole day just to see when I was going to go back and train. I started teaching and its all I wanted to do. Down the line I decided I knew I wasn’t going to be happy in that industry. So I went into Kinetics and about a year later because of that program, I was like I’ve got to open a martial arts school, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I was teaching, I was managing a school while I was doing University I said Hey why not? and my parents totally supported me. They said alright if you want to do this for real let’s go for it. I talked to one of my friends who became my business partner and in 2005, I was 23 years old, we just went for it and it’s been in operation ever since. It’s been twelve years. When it started it was scary. Everytime I have been put under pressure to perform to get something done it pushes me to be at my best. There’s no rest for me. I get really crazy when it comes to stuff. It’s just work on the business, make sure everything was good, be there everyday, all day I became obsessed because it had to be a success. There were so many people that were waiting to see me fail, not because they didn’t believe in me or anything like that, it’s just because that’s the martial arts world you open up a school and the every other competitor is like “Oh yeah he’s too young he’s going to fail, he doesn’t know what he’s doing”. It was a huge challenge, but I said I’m going to shut everybody up fast. So I made it very successful, within the first six months it was a huge success. Then I kept doing a lot of marketing seminars, business seminars, I was traveling in the U.S. a lot to do that and to educate myself as best I could as a business man and not treat myself as a good martial artist. I was a good martial artist, but that has nothing to do with operating business. I wanted to educate myself on how to operate a business successfully and that’s what I did and that’s a huge part of my success.
upfrontNY: What advice do you give your students or anyone looking to get into stunt work?
Alain Moussi: For me, the motto is be ready, prepare, train, work hard. Don’t work when you have something in front of you, when you have a carrot in front of you, that’s the easy way. Sometimes to be able to bring someone to self motivate without always having a prize is hard. You have to enjoy the process, enjoy the journey, enjoy the work and if you do that other things will fall into place, but you have to prepare. My advice if you want to be stuntman, if you want to be successful at anything is you understand what that thing is and start training now before the opportunity comes. This way the day the opportunity comes you are ready for it and you can take action and that’s what most people fail to do. All of a sudden there’s an opportunity and it’s like “oh I should get started!” and I’m like that’s too late, it’s gone, done. I think it’s all about preparation and hard work.
I had a high school student I did an interview with for his school project. He said he wanted to be an actor and he asked what my advice to him would be. I said “Well, are you acting?” and he said “What do you mean?” and I said “You want to be an actor, are you acting? Are you in theatre? What are you doing?” He’s like not yet and I said “Why not? If I was you I would start in any type of theater program. If you start now. You’ll be prepared. By he time you get that opportunity you’ll already be ready. I think that’s the most important piece of advice.
There was this martial arts instructor, his name is Steve “Nasty” Anderson. He was from the U.S. and he lives in Ottawa now. We were at a tournament and he was having a conversation with somebody about luck. Somebody said some very successful person is lucky and Steve Anderson said “No, he’s not lucky, not dumb lucky, he’s not here because of dumb luck. My definition of luck is this he says when preparation meets opportunity that is luck” I was like wow! I was 15 years old when I heard this and that stuck with me. So I think if somebody is willing to prepare to work hard, face obstacles and use every defeat as a learning opportunity, I think they will be very successful.
upfrontNY: What was your favorite stunt scene ever to work on?
Alain Moussi: I have to say the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve had doing stunts was on the film White House Down. Have you seen that movie?
Alain Moussi: Good. You know that scene, that fight on the rooftop of the White House. There’s a fight between Channing Tatum and a bad guy. I was doubling the bad guy in that fight and the fight leads to a fall on the glass through the green house. I was the stunt guy that did that fall with another fighter, my friend was doubling Channing for that scene. That’s a 25 foot fall, through glass, onto a wooden table, smashing through the table. That was nerve-wracking! The way that works is it’s a wire rig so we’re suspended over the glass. They drop us, break through the glass. You need to free fall to hit it with impact. Then in the middle, for about a foot, they decelerate a bit. There’s a slight slowdown to take some of the sting for the next fall and then we free fall again for the rest through the table and hit the ground. So that was the most nerve-wracking stunt that I’ve ever done. It was like I was up there ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’, but there’s ultra focus. It’s visualizing the fall. I knew we had rehearsed it, I knew the timing, I knew everything so it was like this nerve that became ultra focused. I was so excited. It was like nerves become excitement to me. Once we dropped, it was like ohh!, pshh!, hit!, got up, they called action, there were four cameras on this. We were totally fine and it was the take we used for the movie. We did it once and that’s it. It was a rush a crazy, crazy rush
upfrontNY: Anything you want to mention to our readers?
Alain Moussi: Everybody go see Kickboxer:Vengeance! It’s only the beginning! We have Kickboxer:Retaliation coming next year and then Kickboxer 3 is in pre- production now so that’s another one coming. So definitely check that out and if they want to see me on social media or get more its my name: Alain Moussi on Twitter and Instagram.