Interview The Raid star Iko Uwais opens up about Headshot

The Raid star Iko Uwais opens up about Headshot

DIY recently caught up with Iko to talk about his role in Headshot, the possibility of The Raid 3, and fighting aliens.

Headshot is out in cinemas and VOD now and stars The Raid’s Iko Uwais as a man who is discovered left for dead with a gunshot wound to the head. After months in a coma, he is nursed back to health by young student-doctor who renames him Ishmael.

When she is kidnapped by a gang of dangerous criminals, Ishmael is determined to save the woman who rescued him, and has no choice but to confront his past. Every violent confrontation that Ishmael encounters brings him closer to a dark realisation, as a lethal personality begins to awaken within him.

Acclaimed Indonesian genre directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, a.k.a. “The Mo Brothers” (Macabre, The ABCs of Death), have crafted a truly thrilling and innovative action film, with a superb set-up: the hero knows who the enemy is, but doesn’t know exactly why, and on top of that he himself is a powder keg about to explode.

The directors have enlisted the brilliant Iko Uwais, star of Gareth Evan’s incredible The Raid films (and last seen in The Force Awakens), to star as the man with a bullet lodged near his brain and a special set of lethal skills he doesn’t know how he acquired, and DIY recently caught up with Iko to talk about his role in Headshot, the possibility of The Raid 3, and fighting aliens.

You play Ishmael – who has lost his memory - in Headshot, did you do a lot of research into amnesia before shooting?
I did some research but not too much really. The director, Timo Tjahjanto, and I had a pretty thorough discussion about Ishmael’s character. And during shooting, Timo directed me with very specific needs for every scene and I did exactly what he wanted this character to be. It all came naturally to be honest. 

Were there any challenges for you in playing this part? And were they what attracted you to it?
Yes, of course. It’s a bit of a different vibe with what’s going on in The Raid movies, where since the beginning of the movie, my character already has this skillful take on martial arts. Whereas in Headshot, because of the amnesia, I had to tone down the skill a bit in the beginning, and gradually the skill intensifies throughout the movie. That was quite challenging, and very interesting and new for me

The film is directed by The Mo Brothers. How do they approach directing action differently from the director you have worked with previously?
It’s quite different. I mean, Timo and Gareth have a different background in movies, different culture also. Both of them are great directors and I love them both. Sometimes I think working with Gareth was more pressure for me in a way because basically The Raid and Merantau are almost like the “school” where I studied to be an action choreographer - so the trial and error were there, and the nervousness was there.

Timo has a more relaxed vibe, and is very reassuring to his cast and team. I had a great time shooting this movie. When directing an action scene, both of these directors also had different approaches. I think Gareth is a perfectionist when it comes to a fight scene. With Timo five to ten takes for a scene is the max. The timeline is very important. With Gareth it could well be thirty to fifty takes for one fight scene. And this is a long one shot fight scenes we’re talking about. Once in Merantau we did a scene for fifty-six takes: starting at 10 a.m., and finishing at 2 a.m. for that one scene. So, it’s quite different. 

And how do you go about remembering these long and complicated fight scenes?
Well, to me a fight scene or a “choreo” is like dialogue in a drama movie. Or probably lyrics for a singer. So whenever you try to memorize a dialogue, it always comes out stiff and rigid. That is the same case with a fight scene. What choreography needs is total comprehension to make it believable for the audience and to make it fast, strong, and brutal. It needs conviction to really make it come alive. And memorising is just a small part of it. 

It must be very dangerous. Have you ever been hurt, or hurt someone else by accident?
Fortunately, nothing serious. Hurt someone else, no. I think a fighter or stunt person has to really know how to make a great fight scene, and make it believable, without having to really hurt someone. 

What do you think it is that makes Silat so special, and look so exciting on film?
First, I think Silat has very vast variety of styles. Like there are practically hundreds of Silat schools in Jakarta alone. Not to mention the whole of Indonesia, each with a very specific style of their own. So I think Silat has a lot to offer as a martial art. It can be really fast - with a balance between leg work and arm work - and it has beauty. Best of all: Silat is very rhythmic. Just like music. It’s not just punch, ward off, kick in the same order all the time. The rhythm makes the moves unpredictable. I think this is Silat’s strong suit.

Julie Estelle and Very Tri Ulisman are both in Headshot too. What was it like working with “Baseball Bat Man” and “Hammer Girl” from The Raid 2 again?
Well they are my long time friends so we had a great time shooting this movie. I have known Very since I was a teenager. We went to the same Silat school together back in the day. So doing a fight scene with him is just natural. Very started as a fighter in The Raid, and then he really shown his talent in The Raid 2 as the “Baseball Bat Man”, and Headshot is his first film with a speaking role. I really think Very’s character in Headshot really resembles his true character in real life.

As for Julie, she is a tough and extremely talented actress, and I really enjoyed working with her. I really believe she is the best woman actor in Indonesian action cinema right now, I really do. 

Rama says “I’m done” at the end of The Raid 2, but could you ever be tempted back for a third film?
Well, that depends on Gareth. If he needs me for that movie, I’m always ready. 

Seeing you, Yayan and Cecep appear in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was very cool. How did that come about? And what was it like to be in a Star Wars movie? Were you a fan as a child?
J.J. Abrams met us when we were promoting The Raid 2 in London. We had a meeting and he asked the team from The Raid to be involved in Star Wars, and it was an honour to be part of the franchise. 

It looks like you’re going to be working with space aliens again in Beyond Skyline. What can you tell us about that film?
Well it’s probably the first sci-fi movie where there is a fight scene between a human and an alien using our choreography. I heard that the movie is in post-production. We’re all waiting for it to be released. 

If you could choreograph a fight scene for anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
Probably Bruce Lee vs. Jackie Chan. Both are my heroes. I love Bruce Lee’s speed and power, and I love Jackie Chan’s agility, so choreographing a fight scene between them would be the challenge of a lifetime. 

Headshot is out in cinemas and VOD on Friday 3rd March.

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