INTERVIEW: Actor: Iko Uwais

Not many actors are lucky enough to land a lead role in their first ever feature film – but Iko’s success didn’t stop there, with the film, Merantau Warrior, going on to receive rave reviews from martial arts aficionados, with particular praise heaped on the leading man’s all-action display.
   With Iko and Merantau’s director Gareth Evans looking to build on their surprise, early success, we interrupted filming of their follow-up to talk to the man many have dubbed “the new Tony Jaa…”

How did you get into silat martial arts? Who/what are your influences?
Some of my relatives have been practicing silat throughout my childhood, one of which is my master at Silat Tiga Berantai. Being surrounded by people who knew silat, I became interested, so I joined his class, and have been a student of his ever since.

In what ways is silat different to perhaps more well-known disciplines of martial arts such as karate, aikido, or muay thai, for example?
Silat is unique because it has so many different styles, hundreds of different schools. Each school is different from each other. For example, I am from Silat Betawi Tiga Berantai, this silat uses both upper and lower punches and kicks equally as a way of being flexible during attack and defence moves. But there are a few other Silat Betawi that are different from our style, they may have more focus on upper body moves than lower body, or even if their moves are similar, the way they hold their position is different. Also, some silat schools are very closely linked to religious teachings, like, for example, my school of silat follows Islamic teaching, which adds moral spiritual lessons, not simply physical. There is an emphasis on silat not being something you use to fight someone with, but to find a solution in peace - silat is to defend not attack.

Is it true that you once played semi-professional football?
Yes, I've always had a love of football. I continue to play, but not in any professional way - just with friends.

Then you're used to pushing yourself physically?
Yes, that's true, but football alone couldn't have prepared me for the experience of making the film. What helped me the most was my experience in demonstrating silat.
   I've been lucky to have been selected to represent Indonesia alongside a team of silat experts in exhibitions and tournaments around the world. The exhibition side helped prepare me for the idea of choreography, which is very different from competitive fighting. We have to convince the audience of each move, but without dealing a dangerous hit to my fighting partner. With every movement being live, and without any break, it helped prepare me for the shooting of Merantau as Gareth wanted to film in long takes with a wide angle for the camera.

The physicality involved in Merantau Warrior must have been demanding, often involving sustained, uncut bouts of combat - did you ever find this to be much of a struggle?
Yes, it was definitely a challenge. So many of the long shots took a long time to get right, with a lot of takes. But I have learned so much from this, and find it a very precious experience that I hope I can build from and improve with each film.

While the movie has been recognised for its action and stunts, at the heart of the film exists a strong moral code, regarding growth and coming of age. Do you feel that is an accurate reflection of silat's ethos?

Yes definitely, like I have mentioned before, when you learn silat, you are taught not just about the physical moves, but also the responsibility about how you use this skill for a good cause. We are also taught discipline and how we should be as human beings to the people around us. The tradition of Merantau is a specific tradition for Silat Harimau from West Sumatra, and it is designed to test those teachings.

What appealed to you about making this film?
I was very excited when I heard about this project because it was the first silat movie after such a long absence from Indonesian cinema.
   I am very honoured that I got to be involved in this movie and help popularize silat to an Indonesian audience, and, hopefully, the world.

Did you learn a lot working with director Gareth Evans on Merantau Warrior?
Yes, I learned a lot working closely with Gareth. He taught me many things about movie making.
I was especially interested when we were working on Merantau as we designed the choreography together as a team. It helped me see how to transform interesting movements, and to be selective of techniques to fit the style of a scene. As an athlete, I used to think that all moves can be interesting, no matter what, but now I know that for the purposes of cinematography and editing to be more specific when it comes to choreography design, not just in the movements, but also the pace and drama of the fight.

What work do you have lined up with him for the future?
We are currently working on our second feature, which is titled ‘Berandal’.

Finally, what are your ambitions in the world of film? Do you see yourself trying to break into more mainstream movie making?
I am going to keep working hard to pursue my career in action movies, and one day would love to be able to work alongside internationally renowned action stars - the people who inspired me. DWS

No comments:

Post a Comment