Two-time Academy® Award nominated star Djimon Hounsou ‘Never Backs Down’ to the challenge

Director Jeff Wadlow and Djimon Hounsou (with Kimora Lee) at the Premiere of NEVER BACK DOWN held at the ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Blvd.
(Photo credit: Yon)

by Oliver Carnay

The world of Mixed Martial Arts sports is the backdrop of director Jeff Wadlow’s new action-drama, Summit Entertainment’s ‘Never Back Down,’ story written by Chris Hauty and features some of the upcoming hottest actors in Hollywood: Sean Faris, Amber Heard, Cam Gigandet, with two-time Academy® Award-nominated Djimon Hounsou, whom Wadlow admitted the movie couldn’t have been made without him.

“His persona and character is the ultimate and only choice I have when I thought of the master teacher’s character. If we don’t get Djimoun we shouldn’t probably be making this movie, I said. For variety of reasons, he is an incredibly a physical guy and he can actually do the martial arts. I wanted someone who could speak from a place of knowledge who you believe have some wisdom to impart, one who had lived life. I also needed a character needed to be not American,” he said.

“There were so many challenges in this movie but I was lucky that we had a very good team. We have many obstacles but we were able to make things work. Ultimately, every challenge we faced we made it happen. The most difficult but most rewarding experience of my professional career,” Wadlow related.

At the junket held at Beverly Regent Wilshire Hotel, each actor shared thoughts and wisdom. And if there is one cast member worth “taking down,” all three main stars (Cam Gigandet, Amber Heard, and Sean Faris) were unanimous to say it’s Djimon who they will take the challenge.

Djimon Honsou (‘In America’ and ‘Blood Diamond’) plays Sean Faris’ coach, Jean Roqua in this action-packed stylish “Karate Kid” meets “Fight Club” movie. In choosing to do this movie, Djimon acknowledges that the main thing why did the movie was that his character has a message to send out to the audience, particularly to young people. “Some kids are just completely lost, generally lack of parental supervision. Martial Arts schools are keeping them off the street and educating them to develop their bodies and minds. The character Roqua also stresses that it’s important that martial arts is to be used only as a sport or for self-defense, which I thought was important.”

Honsou, who cast a wary eye on Wadlow at first, has nothing but praise for the young director. “I’ve had the luxury of working with great directors on all sorts of films. And I’m skeptical of a new director, but Jeff definitely has it. He knows what he wants. He’s got a specific vision that he invites you to share, and that’s the most important thing.”

Djimon, who grew up in Africa and France loves the MMA sports himself. He was actually in Vegas watching an Eiffel League fight a day before this interview, in the spirit of promoting this film. “I like Martial Arts films. I did Kung Fu for six years in France. I wanted to be a fighter. I want to showcase my ability. I wanted to be a professional boxer but I did it mostly to exercise to stay conditioned. If I pursued boxing I think I would have been really a great fighter, lightweight and heavyweight or middleweight fighter,” Djimon said.

Asked if he ever get irritated easily on the set, and how does he deal with anger, Djimon answered, “I usually smile before I get irritated. But listen, what do you do with anger? I get frustrated. I stop myself, and ask -- do I really want to act on it or is it just my ego? I read a moment to digest the emotions. Screaming at people being on set you’re dealing with so many people. You really have to be confined to yourself. I never fought in America other than when somebody called me the “n” word. I punched him. I had all the licensed to go after him. It’s not good to get into a fight -- whether you lose or win a fight.”

How do you decide what movie you are going to do? “It depends what is out there or what is being offered. If it’s an offer, and I have a hard time justifying the reason why I should do it. But I don’t make decisions based on money. I just finished a film called Push in Hong Kong. It has to do with devout countries enhancing the abilities of the citizens in saving the country, mind control. But there is one movie that I’m very passionate about and I’m working on it trying to get it off ground. I’m buying the rights of the project, getting it written, and hopefully I could set it up with a studio. I certainly wouldn’t play a role that would diminish the outlook on African-Americans.”

What did you expect in Hollywood and what did you get? “I got what’s expected. I didn’t think I would be in a position where I’m doing films that has so much spiritualism. I never thought I would go this far. I obviously wanted to do good roles.”