(Original Publication Date: August 28th, 2017) By: John M Jerva In the world of action movies and television, the stunt community are the unsung heroes who put their bodies and […]
(Original Publication Date: August 28th, 2017) By: John M Jerva
In the world of action movies and television, the stunt community are the unsung heroes who put their bodies and their lives on the line so that we can be entertained. Without stunt performers, we would not have any of the great action films to enjoy and one such stuntman is making the move to the big time. Veteran stuntman fight cghoreographer and martial artist Brahim Achabbakhe has cut his teeth in the industry for over ten years now and he has taken on some of the best the industry has to offer. Brahim has gone toe to toe with such action stars as Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, Tiger Chen and most recently Scott Adkins in BOYKA: UNDISPUTED and now he is setting his sights on bigger and badder action roles. The sky’s the limit and Brahim is ready for the challenge and the next chapter in his career.
In this exclusive interview with Action-Flix.Com, Brahim talks to us about getting started in the martial arts, learning all those extreme moves and his newest film BOYKA: UNDISPUTED where he gives the most complete fighter in the world a run for his money!
1) Action-Flix: Hi Brahim! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Since this is your first interview with Action-Flix.com, tell us about the journey that led you to studying the martial arts. What disciplines have you practiced and how has it changed your life?
Brahim Achabbakhe: It’s a pleasure! I am actually a big fan of your site. I started training in martial arts at the age of 14 years old. I was growing up in Paris, France and I was tired of playing soccer. I once saw a Jackie Chan film on cable television and it completely changed my mindset. So I started to look at options right away to take on one martial art. I started training in Aikido first then took Karate wado ryu. I was always inspired by the flipping and kicking I saw in martial arts films so I discovered a discipline called Tricking which is basically a mix of different acrobatic techniques taken from every martial arts like taekwondo, capoeira, and wushu. I also later on studied a bit of boxing, muay thai and brazilian jujitsu. Martial arts literally changed my life for the better. I grew up in an area in the suburb of Paris where there was a lot of crime at the time so it kept me busy in my younger days, giving me a goal to reach. When kids in my neighborhood would gather and do bad things, I would be going to take martial arts classes so it did keep me away from a lot of bad things and I am grateful I chose this path.
2) You have stated that Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee were big inspirations to you. What other martial arts icons were important to you in pursuing your career in the martial arts?
Brahim: I really liked Jean Claude Van Damme as I was growing up mostly cause of the muscular appearance and the fact he was a white actor doing martial arts films. Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao were two actors and fight directors I always admired as I was growing up as well..
3) You are well known for your awesome aerial techniques or “tricking.” How did you begin to study such intricate and extreme moves? Out of all the moves, what has been the most challenging to do?
Brahim: I started to learn tricking after a friend took me to watch a tournament in Paris back in 2001. I saw it and immediately thought this is the future and would be very useful for movies. So I started learning this form of extreme martial arts sport which is kind of like the skateboard of martial arts in my opinion. Lot of traditional masters in France would make a lot of fun of me when I was training in it on the side of my karate class but I think martial arts is about keeping an open mind and taking the best from every style so you can become a complete martial artist. So I did not listen to any of those critics and kept practicing. I entered several tournaments at the time winning a lot of them in Paris. I had a bad ACL injury though in 2003 making me stop for a year when I already was getting to a very good level in only 2 years of practice. I came back after my knee was healed even though my doctor told me not to and kept learning and training. Out of any move in tricking, I think for me the most challenging I ever did was a Doubleleg twist which is basically a capoeira sideflip with a 360 degree spin or also a 720 butterfly twist. You know I am not the average 165cm guy, I am 182 cm for 86kg so any of those moves I do require a lot of power and control. The heavier you are, the harder it gets.
4) How did you get involved in the stunt business and what was your most challenging film that you worked on in terms of doing stunts?
Brahim: I got involved in stunts back in 2007 when I traveled to Thailand to start a movie career. I came to Thailand with a bit of cash and a suitcase full of dreams. I took literally any stunt job I was offered back in the days. My first film was the Thai film Hanuman Klook foon where for my first action scene I was wired and got sidekicked in the chest flying backward breaking a wooden shelf. I had to lay down dead the whole day and I was so tired by the end of the shoot. I understood that I wanted to do that for the rest of my life and evolve in this business. I think any films I did was challenging and you should take every film with the same mindset. Big film or small film, it is a job and people tend to under estimate little easy jobs and end up getting seriously hurt. Always treat every stunt the same, big or small. I almost died doing a very easy stunt and on the other hand doing back flips down the stairs or falling down from 10 meters I did not get a single scratch.
5) You have worked with such great action actors such as Jackie Chan, Van Damme, Michael Jai White, Jason Statham and Scott Adkins and more. How has it been to work with high caliber action greats? Who would you like to work with that you haven’t yet?
Brahim: Working with any of those stars you stated was always a dream come true. I remember watching those people as I was growing up in France and here I am today doing films with them. I sometimes have to pinch myself on set. It’s a great learning experience and each one of those actors have a lot to learn from. I would love to take part in a Donnie Yen film and work with Iko Uwais.
6) Talk to us about transitioning from a stuntman to an actor. What challenges have you faced now that you are doing bigger roles?
Brahim: Well the thing that happens when you are climbing the ladder of success is many people out there want to stereotype you as being just a stuntman and having a lucky shot at being an actor. I honestly think I got what it takes to be in action films doing bad guy parts but now the biggest challenge I face is to get more roles and make it clear that I am able to carry a part like I did on Boyka Undisputed. I love doing it and now I am refusing more and more stunt work just to have the transition happen. I know without a doubt I will be in more films in the future and it is what the action movie industry needs right now, fresh blood who can deliver awesome action scenes. Scott Adkins started slowly doing fighting parts and look where he is today. He is an example and also the late Darren Shahlavi. It makes me motivated to follow in their footsteps.
7) Your newest film Boyka: Undisputed 4 is your biggest role to date. How did that film come about for you?
Brahim: It came about amazing man! I mean it is any martial artist’s dream to be in a film like this. It is the continuation of what Bruce Lee started in the 70’s having real martial artists showing different styles on camera and doing it without the help of CGI or wires. For me Isaac Florentine is carrying the torch of this genre and I am grateful I collaborated with him. The whole vibe on the film set was positive and we were all about putting it to the next level. Tim Man did an amazing work in showcasing everyone.
8) You play the role of Igor Kazimir. Describe the character for us.
Brahim: Igor is a very arrogant mixed martial arts fighter. He is very eager to win and to prove he is the best fighter. He is undefeated and beats everyone who steps in his ring so when he sees the opportunity to fight Boyka, this is the ultimate test for him. That same arrogance though was what cost him in the end. You also notice that Igor was always by the side of Zourab which gives the background to the character as a Russian mafia figure. I would love to play again this character in another Undisputed project hoping Igor will learn from his defeat kind of the same way Boyka learnt the hard way against Chambers in Undisputed 2.
9) You got to work with Scott Adkins on the film. What did you learn from him while making the film and how was he to work with?
Brahim: Scott is the best action star working nowadays in my eyes. I see him as a role model and an example of determination about if you dare to go for it, you can make it. I saw him work and doing fight scene after fight scene in films not complaining when people make contact with his body, always wanting to nail the perfect take and for me this is what I rarely see with other martial arts stars who use stunt doubles to often and sit down in a chair waiting for their close up. Scott is a hard worker and always does everything by himself. It was an amazing experience to act opposite of him on Undisputed 4 and I hope I will be able to do it again if he is not too bored of having me in his films.
10) Your fight with Scott is clearly one of the highlights of the film. Talk to us about what went into making the incredible fight scene and what challenges did you face.
Brahim: Thank you, I am glad you liked it. Tim Man is behind the awesome choreography in this fight. Tim blocks all the fights by filming pre visuals and then we would learn it in a gym before the shooting happens. Then when it’s time to shoot, we would go at it 100% and make a lot of contact to the body. Some of what you see on screen is as close to reality as the hits to the body have power and this is why it looks so brutal. I actually love a bit of contact as I am a martial artist I can take that as long as it looks good on camera and that everyone is happy. The challenges we faced though was time. The schedule of the film was very tight and we literally shot what you saw in a day and a half. Most of the big films you see out there, you get 1 week for a 1 min action scene so you can imagine what Isaac with a choreographer like Tim Man can deliver with a bigger schedule.
11) You play a lot of bad guys and henchmen in your films. Are you content with that or would you like to one day be the good guy who saves the day and beats takes down the villain?
Brahim: You know what, I played a very nice 10 min promo for a Chinese project where I played the lead hero but sadly it never came out but the action looked amazing on it. Some of it is in my demo reel. I play a lot of bad guys I think cause of my rough look. It comes very natural to me to play a bad guy. There is more work for bad guys as well which is better but if the opportunity came to carry a picture and be the hero, I will take it immediately.
12) Out of all the directors you have worked for, who is the one you enjoyed the most and who would you still like to work with in the future?
Brahim: Without a doubt, Isaac Florentine. He gave me my shot by giving me the part of Igor Kazimir and the nice thing about it is I remember when I first worked with Isaac back on Ninja 2 Shadow of a Tear. He told me if there was an opportunity for his next film, he will remember me. He kept his word and that meant a lot to me cause many times I suffered from people promising a lot but nothing happened. I am not gonna lie but before getting that part on Boyka Undisputed 4, I had plans to end my movie career and change jobs. The fact it came right before I made that decision boosted my confidence back to where it’s suppose to be so today I am grinding even harder than what I use to.
13) You are also a great fight coordinator. Tell us what goes into making a great on screen fight. What fight are you the most proud of?
Brahim: Thank you. I think to make a great fight scene you need first to choreograph that fight scene in your head by visualizing it already edited in your brain. A lot of people do not use this technique cause it requires your brain to visualize it in advance and this is the difference between a good and bad choreographer. The bad choreographer will set choreography without thinking in advance about the edit. The Chinese choreographers like Woo Ping, JC STUNT TEAM worked this way by planning editing already in their had as they film and this is why the films from the 80’s and 90’s are so well shot. Less coverage comes a long way too. There is no need to take a master shot then a close up and an insert. Stay away from shaky cam and stay wide for the audience to have the action and reaction in the same shot. The fight I choreographed on Tekken: Kazuya’s Revenge is one I am really proud of because I had only 12 days to shoot all of them and Kane Kosugi did an awesome job on the film. The fans did not like the picture cause it was not related to Tekken but the reason was the film started as a non Tekken film so choreography was set for a non Tekken film. If the film was called anything else but Tekken, it would have been a successful low budget action martial art film.
14) You have been involved with the action film industry for a long time. How has it evolved from when you first started in the industry?
Brahim: I would not say I have been in the industry that long. 10 years is not that long to be honest. From when I first started, I notice that there is less and less budgets for the martial arts genre. It is slowly but surely dying cause of the piracy. America is now doing great with the John Wick type films and I see that the American stunt performers are slowly getting on a higher level than the Asian ones. I think all those years of learning from the Hong Kong films is finally paying off.
15) Tell us about your future projects. What’s on the horizon for you?
Brahim: I am looking forward to getting more action actor roles and to portray some vicious bad guys. I hope what I did on Boyka will be appreciated by different producers and directors. I am getting where I want to slowly but surely. I am all about quality over quantity these days. In terms of fight choreography, I just wrapped a Netflix TV show called The Legend of Monkey which will air beginning in 2018. I also choreographed the fight scenes for season 1.
Thank you Brahim for the great interview and continued success in the industry!
Check out Brahim in action in his official demo reel:
To stay up to date on all of Brahim’s upcoming projects, follow him on his social sites!
FACEBOOK: Brahim Chab