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March 2008
An Interview with Djimon Hounsou


An Interview with Djimon Hounsou
By Wilson Morales

March 13, 2008

For most of the films that we have seen him in, Djimon Hounsou is always the straight-up wise man who’s the moral center to the less fortunate. From ‘Gladiator’ to ‘Beauty Shop’ to his Oscar nominated roles in ‘In America’ and ‘Blood Diamond’, he’s the one guy you can’t imagine will lose his cool. In his latest film, ‘Never Back Down’, he dons on the mentor persona again as he tries to teach a young lad the art of discipline when it some to letting off some steam.

Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, "Never Back Down" is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart. Jake Tyler, played by Sean Faris, is the new kid in town with a troubled past. He has recently moved to Orlando, Florida with his family who has relocated to support his younger brother's shot at a professional tennis career. Jake was a star athlete on the football team at home, but in this new city he is an outsider with a reputation for being a quick tempered brawler.

Making an attempt to fit in, at the invitation of a flirtatious classmate, Baja (Amber Heard) Jake goes to a party where he is unwittingly pulled into a fight with a bully named Ryan McDonald (Cam Gigandet). While he is defeated and humiliated in the fight, a classmate introduces himself to Jake and tells him about the sport known as Mixed Marshall Arts (MMA). He sees a star in Jake and asks that he meet with his mentor, Jean Roqua, played by Djimon Hounsou ("Blood Diamond," "In America").

In speaking with blackfilm.com, Hounsou talks about his role in the film and learning a new form of training.

What attracted you to the film?

Djimon Hounsou: I got the script and my manager told me that this is something I might enjoy and when I read the script where it says it’s about a guy who wants to be a fighter, I thought after watching ‘Fight Club’ I would to love to see if I could do this. Plus, the director Jeff Wadlow came to see me New York and wanted me to be in the film because somehow he knew I love the sport.

How was it working with Sean Faris?

DH: It was wonderful. There were a lot of young great actors on the set. They are the next generation. They are a very talented bunch.

You always seem to be in physical shape, so did you have to any special workouts for this film?

DH: Of course. I had to work out with some fighters and learn Jujitsu and learn different aspects of the game and skills. I learned Kung Fu and some martial arts and boxing back home in France but didn’t pick it up once I came to the States. This film brought a new perspective on the training and the discipline.

Have you watched more of this contact sport now that it has become a popular thing?

DH: I had been watching it before it became popular. I have some friends that used to do martial arts and showed me the sport when it was growing steadily in Japan.

What’s different in this film from the others that you have down?

DH: The difference is the martial arts technique that I learned while doing this and appreciating the sport more. The important of discipline from fighting is something I became more aware while filming this.

I see that you have ‘Push’ coming up next.

DH: I completed that film some time back in Hong Kong. I don’t know when it will be released. That was directed by Lee Daniels, who did ‘The Woodsman’ with Kevin Bacon.

Why should anyone see ‘Never back Down’?

DH: It’s an entertaining film as well as a film that deals with emotions and how to deal with them.




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