Interview - Iko Uwais (The Raid)


  • The Raid
  • The Raid
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  • Iko Uwais

The new global action star talks about adjusting to celebrity, breaking bones and epic fights in our interview
We’ve already brought you our chat with The Raid writer/director Gareth Evans but we also got the chance to sit down with the star of the film, Iko Uwais. The 28 year old Indonesian was a truck driver for a telecoms company when the he met Evans, who was shooting a movie about local martial art Silat. They first collaborated on 2009s Merantau before earning international recognition and near universal acclaim for The Raid.

The improbably modest Uwais was in Dublin for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, where The Raid won not only the Audience Award but also Best Film from the Film Critics Circle. With ocaissional help from a translator (though Iko’s English seems pretty strong) he talked about how he got involved with Gareth Evans and the true toll of making an action film.

CLICK: How are you?
IU: Fine thank you.

CLICK: Are you tired, I hear you just flew in yesterday?
IU: Yes, still jet lagged!

CLICK: Congratulations on the film.
IU: Thank you so much.

CLICK: It’s so much fun and very violent!
IU: Yes [laughs]! Too much blood!

CLICK: How did you meet Gareth Evans?
IU: I met Gareth when he went to Indonesia to make a documentary about an Indonesian martial art called Silat. Gareth went to Sumatra and other provinces, there are 33 provinces in Indonesia, with different types of Silat and different school. He went to one of the Silat schools in Jakarta and we met there.

CLICK: Did you ever see the documentary?
We made documentary in like 2007, and it’s all done.

Iko Uwais in The Raid
Iko Uwais in The RaidEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: How long have you been studying Silat?
IU: From 1993 til now.

CLICK: Nearly 20 years!
IU: Yes!

CLICK: Merantau was the first film you ever made, did you find it very difficult?
IU: Yes. It was my first movie. For the first movie it was really difficult because I didn’t have any acting experience before. Actually Gareth said normally for the first scene, it will be the easiest part and then get harder. But Gareth also put me in acting school to prepare him for the movie. For Merantau the first scene was me against five others and it was all in one shot. And we were shooting from 10 o’clock in the morning until 2am the next morning! One shot and 56 takes!

CLICK: On your first day?!
IU: The first day, first time, first everything!

CLICK: Did you hate it?
IU: Yes!

CLICK: You have to fight on camera but you have to make sure not to hurt people – is that hard?
IU: We do full body contact in the movie and I also choreographed it and we trust each other. They have control but there was full body contact and they did get hurt.

CLICK: You do hit the other people.
IU: Oh yes! Do you want to be in the movie!?

CLICK: I think you’d kill me!
IU: [laughs]

CLICK: Did you ever think you’d be an actor?
IU: No, never.

CLICK: Do you enjoy it?
IU: Yes.

CLICK: Were you scared at the beginning?
IU: At first I was a bit afraid of acting but also afraid to be a celebrity! My life is going to be changed and I don’t really know what to expect. Basically I’m not a celebrity. I worked in a telecommunications company before, as a driver for three years.

CLICK: So it’s a big change!
IU: Really big! [laughs]

CLICK: Back in 2008 when you told your friends you were going to be an actor – what did they say?
IU: I don’t really call myself an actor yet because that’s the name for a person who plays in different kinds of movies, like dramas. I’m not on that level yet, I’m just a figher.

CLICK: I think you were really good in the dramatic scenes.
IU: Thank you! I’m still really nervous when I’m watching myself. I look at a scene and think ‘that’s not right!’

The Raid
The RaidEnlarge Enlarge

CLICK: You know Silat very well, but you also had to use guns in this movie. Had you ever fired a gun before?
IU: Before this movie I had never touched any weapons. So for this movie, I went to a boot camp with the Indonesian army and they trained me how to use weapons professionally.

CLICK: Was it very loud on set?
IU: We used empty bullets and then we had real ones as well. The first time in the boot camp, they would wake me up with the gun by putting it really close to my ear!

CLICK: Are you a fan of martial arts movies?
IU: Yes?

CLICK: Do you have any favourites?
IU: Gareth gave me some Jackie Chan movies. And I watched a lot of them and Mark Dacascos and Tony Jaa as well.

CLICK: So you’ve seen Ong Bak?
IU: Yea.

CLICK: I kind of thought Ong Bak and Merantau were a bit similar, do you think so?
IU: Yea, yea! The real difference is that they’re not using the elbow too much and then the way they move is different.

CLICK: The difference between Silat and Muay Thai?
IU: Way different styles.

CLICK: You also choreographed The Raid, how long did that take?
IU: Three months. Basically, I created the choreography for this movie and also worked on scenes for the next movie Berandal and I wanted to make sure that they were always different.

CLICK: Do you work with Gareth on the script?
IU: The choreography is based on the script. Gareth will tell me about the scene and then I have the freedom to creative the choreography for it.

CLICK: Did you get hurt badly on this film at all?
IU: [Points to his arm] We did 17 takes at this angle, 15 takes at this angle – at the target. With the machete, not the real machete it’s fake but still! And my knee is broken, not broken but painful – it’s dislocated. I was wearing boots and the floor was slippery and the boots moved but my knee didn’t. that was sore!

CLICK: You talked about going 30 takes on your arm – are you just really tired at the end every day?
IU: Yes! Normally when we are doing the fighting scenes we are really warm so we don’t want to stop because then we’ll get cold and it’s hard to get warm again. One time we were fighting for two days in a row.

CLICK: And you were tired?
IU: Yes!

CLICK: The Raid is a very violent film. Do you like violent films?
IU: No because I’m a coward! I watched some violent movies, like Cannibal Holocaust – it’s really good. I liked that movie.

CLICK: Do you think films with a lot of violence in them are fun to watch with a crowd?
IU: I’m really happy about the response of the crowd. I’m not watching the movie; I’m watching all of the scenes with the violence and just watching the crowd.

CLICK: Would you like to do a movie in English?
IU: I’ll try it but… maybe but it’s not confirmed yet.

CLICK: Maybe soon?
IU: Hopefully! I don’t know. Only Gareth can say anything about it.

CLICK: Would you like to make a movie in America then?
IU: Not yet!

CLICK: And you are going to work on the choreography for the American remake?
IU: Yes, I’ll be going to America for that.

CLICK: I heard a strange rumour that you were going to be in a movie version of Mortal Kombat, did you heard that?
IU: [laughs at length] Yea, I already wrote in the Twitter – it’s just a rumour!

CLICK: Finally, your next movie is set to be Berandal – can you talk about it yet?
IU: No, not really. It will be a sequel to The Raid and with some of the same characters but more undercover.

The Raid is in cinemas from the 18th of May.

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