For the last year I have been writing reviews for Eastern Film Fans. Little did I know that it would lead me to me getting an opportunity to interview Brahim Chab, who it turns out had read the review that I did for Vanguard. It was truly amazing for Phil to offer me this. I was very nervous and excited at the same time. “You mean Brahim Chab who has starred in lots of fight films, fought Jason Statham at the start of the Mechanic: Resurrection, he owned the ring in Boyka 4. Plus has gone on to choreograph and design action scenes now for Dev Petal`s Monkey Man just to name one project he is involved in behind the camera?” Brahim is someone that I admire greatly – to me he is like a cross between Jean Claude Van Damme and Scott Adkins. I do hope that I get the chance to chat to Brahim in the future and see where he is at with his career. I have taken more time with this, than any other piece of writing that I have done, mainly due to it meant so much to me. Also it's Brahim Chab interview and I wanted it to be perfect, or as close to perfection as I could get it. Yes I was nervous, but as Brahim said to me: “There's a first time for everything.”
Jamie - Can you tell us a bit about your journey and how you've got to where you are? What first sparked your interest in martial arts on in film?
Brahim - I started martial arts when I was 14 years old and I basically started because I saw this movie from Stanley Tong called “First Strike”, a Jackie Chan movie. That made me start martial arts. At the time there were not many options around where I lived, so the only option I had was Aikido and Karate, so I started with Aikido and then I followed with Karate, and then I added to it “tricking”, which is a mix of acrobatic movements coming from capoeira, taekwondo, and even gymnastics.
Jamie - Can you tell us which actors were inspirations to you before going into the industry?
Brahim - I was really really inspired by Jackie Chan when I first started out, I like Jean-Claude Van Damme… I didn't really appreciate Bruce lee's work, not until I started to more pay attention to it, because I was more into you know this Jackie Chan style of movies, like very fast acrobatic but then later on when I started to watch the old Bruce lee movies it really inspired me because the whole concept of how he shot his action, and also the charisma he brought to the screen you know the screen presence that he had that inspired me a lot more later on in my career but at first yeah it was Jackie Chan for me, yes Jackie Chan.
Jamie – You were a fight choreographer on that Driver, and a non-martial arts role on Vanguard. Are there other things that you want to do? How do you balance them all?
Brahim - I’m going to just really go into getting more acting work and also fight coordinator work. I have to say you know the days when I was doing pure stunts and doubling people, those days are far behind me you know? Because I believe that in life you need to focus on something that is a little bit higher, and try to you know get higher into your goals in life, and my goal has always been to be in front of the camera. But I also really like to make action for movies!
Jamie – I thought the action in Driver was fantastic, when I read it was shot in 13 days it was even it was even more fantastic because it was such a short, tight schedule, how did you balance that because you were in front of the camera as well?
Brahim - The thing is we didn't have any time at all. I got maybe Mark (Dacascos) for two hours for a little rehearsal and I didn't really make a preview, I was just asking him what ideas he had in his mind and then we came up with something that suit the story. Believe it or not but that little scene with Mark fighting people coming into the compound, and fighting with me, yeah, we shot that in only five hours. For all of that we basically shot it on the steadicam.
Jamie - I've noticed as well that your martial arts have evolved. Are there different martial arts that interest you now, and are there some martial arts that you think actually translate better to screen?
Brahim – Absolutely. For the last maybe five years I’ve been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu. That's something that I do nowadays on a daily basis, maybe six days a week. Besides this, I try to keep the striking what I’ve learned from back in the days, but I’m really interested in Brazilian jiu-jitsu; that's something that I feel translates very well to the screen and I feel also that something that is maybe more realistic for the demand nowadays for action.
Jamie - Fan boy moment now - on screen yourself and Scott Aitkin’s are two of the best arobatic martial Artists for me. In Boyka 4 the movements between yourselves and Scott are one of my favourite fights in film, it's absolutely fantastic.
Brahim - Thank you, thank you so much.
Jamie - I really enjoyed Vanguard because it wasn't what I was expecting from you. I thought it was going to be a more of a fighting role. I was kind of hoping for a 20 minute finale fight with yourself and Jackie like in the old days, but it just wasn't meant to be.
Brahim - You know well the original script had that happen but then because of schedule and time restriction, it didn't happen, so maybe for the next one.
Jamie - What’s your regimen for training between projects compared to when you're actually shooting and how has that changed with Covid?
Brahim - I was blessed you know? I didn't really have a problem with working because basically right now I’m just done with six months of work as a fight coordinator and as an actor on a new movie called Monkey Man, that's in post-production right now. When the whole Covid thing started in 2020, I was kind of happy that I could have maybe five months of doing nothing because before that I was really working hard traveling the world and going to many countries, so I was glad that I could have a little break. When I’m not shooting a movie I train six days a week Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the morning or in the evening, and I do weight training, or kickboxing, training in acrobatics. When I work on a movie I work with the stunt guys, but when I train outside of the movies I train with real martial artists, so I have both worlds covered. I have the reality covered with the guys at my Brazilian jiu jitsu school, and then I have the movie stuff covered when I go work on the movies with the stunt guys.
Jamie - Your filmography is very expansive, you've done so many different things and worked all over the world. Where are you based?
Brahim -I live in Thailand now, not really because of work, but because I just like the place you know? I have a lot of friends here; I have my whole life down here because I started working here back in 2000 I think? I started to work in 2007 so I like the place but I don't really work here anymore. I just basically live here. My work is generally all over the place, last time I was in Indonesia, before that I was in Malaysia then maybe before that I was in Dubai. So I live in Thailand because that's the place that's the place that i really enjoy being.
Jamie - I read an interview with Mike Leeder, he said you know that you're somebody that he can always rely on, and you always turn up with your A game. From speaking to you today, you are so focused on what you're doing and you always want to bring your best to each project. It's an absolute pleasure to talk to you. I’m going into fan boy mode again.
Brahim - Thank you, and talking about Mike Leeder, you know Mike is really somebody that over the years that’s been very helpful to me, he's always really supported me in my career. He brought me over on several projects, he brought me on Pound Of Flesh , Man Of Tai Chi, Abduction, Big brother with Donnie Yen, and we have another project that he's trying to bring me on. Mike is really one of my good friends. You know I’ll always have his back and I know he has mine.
Jamie - You have already work with so many big names, is there anyone left that you would like to work with?
Brahim – Right now I would think probably two names: I would say Tony Jaa, and Iko Uwaais. Those are the two people that I really would like to work with, because martial art fight scene nowadays are getting complicated. The martial arts themes are getting more rare, it's not really something that is getting made a lot nowadays. Yeah so to get like the chance to work with someone like Tony Jaa or Iko Uwais. I think that would be a dream come true, but who knows it might come in the future, you know? I’m still only 36 so I feel it's going to come in the future.
Jamie - Is there anything that you would like to say to up-and-coming stars that are coming along that being influenced by you?
Brahim - I would say to new people, not try to rush things, because I started to do this when I was 22 years old in 2007, and it took me literally 14 years to get a movie like Vanguard. It was a long road but finally people start to see, start to notice my work. Then I’m getting interviews now. I’m getting a lot of podcasts because people start to recognize what I’m doing. I would say to people to work hard, and take your time. Don't really think about the destination, just think about the journey; it's not a sprint, it's more like a marathon. Also be careful of social media. Social media can really sell you as what you're not, and it can also harm you more than it can help you.
Jamie – You’re working on The Monkey Man with Dev Patel, at the moment. Can you tell us what else is you are involved in?
Brahim -There are a couple of things you know, but I’m not really allowed to talk about them. Monkey Man is done and there's a project that Mike Leeder is working on as a producer. That's going to maybe get shot this year. There are also a lot of other things but the truth is you know I’m the kind of person that I don't really like to talk about stuff until it is done. So that's all I can say because I don't really like to talk about what's not happening yet.
Jamie – Is there anyone that you`d like to work with again?
Brahim – Yes - Scott Atkins is one of those guys. Scott is really a true good human being; he's a very talented actor a good martial artist. Every time I’ve worked with him on Ninja 2, Boyka, Hard Target 2 and Abduction, he's always been very nice; he's always been a pleasure… He always says nice things about me in his interviews; it shows that he's really a down to earth. He`s kind of like a hero of mine, when I was a bit younger I used to watch Undisputed 2 when I was only 22 years old. When I see his work, and this guy is praising me for my work as well, it tells me that yes I’m doing something right in my career. The thing also with the size he is carrying - also no wires - it's pretty impressive. That's why when I saw that movie I was really blown away. Because I was like this guy is probably 200 pounds and moving like you know 150 pound guy. So it really inspired me to get bigger to go to the gym and build muscle.
Jamie - Finally the Eastern Film Fans question is if you were on a desert island and could take only 3 films with you, but only three any genre, what would you take,?
Brahim - okay so the Shawshank Redemption… The Goonies and then I will take Donnie Brasco.
I want to thank Brahim for taking time to let us interview him and Jamie for doing such a fantastic job 😉