Interview with Jiu Jitsu director Dimitri Logothetis
Dimitri Logothetis has been in the industry as producer, writer and director since the late 80s. He teamed up with martial arts star Alain Moussi to produce the Kickboxer remake Kickboxer: Retaliation in 2016 and then stepped in to direct the second entry Kickboxer: Vengeance. Now Logothetis and Moussi are teaming up once again for the sci-fi martial arts film Jiu Jitsu and I have the chance to sit down to discuss how this film and great cast came together.
Bobby: Where did the concept of Jiu Jitsu come from?
Dimitri: I originally thought it would be fun to combine genres with science fiction and martial arts because it gives you the ability to come up with an antagonist that’s unbeatable, unkillable etc. So I thought that would be a really neat way to go so what I did with my writing partner why don’t we do a comic book? He thought I was crazy and I am, but if we do the comic then I have a chance to look at it and then can see visually if this would make a really great film. Once we finished the comic we went right to script.
Bobby: With having this cast of Alain Moussi, Tony Jaa and a lot of other martial artists involved what was the idea of using the title of Jiu Jitsu with so many styles here?
Dimitri: You have to remember that today Jiu Jitsu has been branded by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but if you do a lot of research on it Jiu Jitsu is very difficult to pin point its origins. It goes back several thousands of years and looks like it may have come from Japan, looks like it may have come from Korea and even possibly from India. So it’s one of the few martial arts that is just hard to pin point. It was brought to peasants and villagers to fight off invaders so they had weaponry. I do an awful lot of research when I approached this because I am a martial artist as well and I want to try and get it right. It really fit my premise in that this martial arts was brought to us by an alien from another planet. Remember I am doing fantasy not reality so you have to let yourself go a little bit and just have fun because at the end of the day it’s supposed to be cinematic.
Bobby: That’s kind of how I took it where it was kind of a generic term for the whole thing similar to people asking for a Coke, that does exist, but in reality wanting a Pepsi, but they use Coke as a generic term for it.
Dimitri: You know I rebooted the Kickboxer franchise and although the franchise is Muay Thai centric if you really look at it from a martial artists aspect when Van Damme did it in 1989 he was not Muay Thai centric at all. You just have to really have fun and I was fortunate enough to end up with some incredible martial artists like Tony Jaa and Alain Moussi who is a 6th degree Jiu Jitsu Master. I tried to show the strengths to everybody that is in the film.
The Gracie’s have really branded BJJ and they are incredible martial artists and this is in no way to denounce that at all, but I am making a film that is science
fiction martial arts and promoting that. One of the guys in the film is a BJJ master themselves as well so bringing all those elements together and trying to bring something different.
Bobby: When you deal with this many types of martial artists did you already have in mind who you wanted to play these characters?
Dimitri: I’ve been pursuing Tony Jaa for a long time because he is a legend and incredible martial artist. I actually crafted the film around Alain Moussi because he is a Jiu Jitsu Master. I was fortunate enough to land Marrese Crump who trained under the same Master that trained Tony Jaa. The fellow that plays Brax is a stuntman named Ryan Tarran who has doubled for Aquaman and Thor and a very big fella who is a wonderful martial artist. You have so many sequences that were designed specifically to entertain and hopefully I pulled that off.
Bobby: I think you did. I thought it was a lot of fun and there is a cool escape sequence at the beginning of the film that showcases Tony Jaa and Alain that uses a very interesting camera choice in the way it was shot. Can you tell me how that came together?
Dimitri: Being fortunate enough to have so many talented martial artists I tried to figure out how to bring the camera out to give the audience the ability to follow without cuts. I designed this one sequence that was very complicated that you referred to with a point of view. I remember as a kid watching Every Which Way But Loose with Clint Eastwood. When he would start punching someone he was punching at the camera and thought that would be really cool to do with martial arts, so I created a point of view camera. Then I had the characters step in and out of the point of view and did with a very long sequence. That enabled us to play out the video games everyone plays, but while you are watching the sequence you are reminded it is not a video game these are live action martial artists. I designed the action sequences a few months before shooting the film.
Bobby: Nicolas Cage has done so many genres of films, but unless I am mistaken this is the first martial arts flick like this he has done. How did his involvement come about?
Dimitri: I wanted him originally for it but he wasn’t available at the time we were going to shoot the film. He then became available and embraces the genre. He is the heart of the film in he sells the premise giving you the exposition of the background of the story. He does it with such passion and always gives it 100%. I was listening to him as we were rolling just thinking wow this is good stuff. In addition to that he is trained in Jiu Jitsu so he was able to pull off about 80% of his own stunts. The only stuff I doubled him for was the dangerous stuff, but you can see he did almost everything himself.
Bobby: I can’t let you get away without finding out if there are going to be any new entries into the new Kickboxer franchise?
Dimitri: Thanks for asking, we have Kickboxer: Armageddon coming. I was waiting for the two previous Kickboxers to get into the market place around the world and now I think we have gotten like 3 billion views around the world. I keep getting emails and texts asking that same question so we are gearing up for Kickboxer: Armageddon to hopefully shoot in 2021. I have got some incredible martial artists lined up for that.
Bobby: Great news. I am a big fan of Van Damme and was skeptical with the remake but loved it. Thank you so much as well for bringing him back into the franchise in the Master role. I can’t wait to check it out. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Dimitri: My pleasure and thank you so much for your support.
Check out Jiu Jitsu when it hits theaters, on Demand and Digital on November 20, 2020 from The Avenue.
Check out my review for Jiu Jitsu here.