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Never Back Down in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Never Back Down

Djimon Hounsou • Sean Faris • Amber Heard • Cam Gigandet • Evan Peters
DIRECTOR: Jeff Wadlow

Cam Gigandet and Sean Faris THE CONCEPT:
Jake (Faris) feels an outsider when he starts high school in Orlando, Florida, after his mother moves from Iowa, where Jake was a football star. He classmate Max (Peters) finds film of Jake on the Internet in a fist fight following a football game, and invites him to meet with his mixed martial arts coach, Jean Roqua (Hounsou). Even though Jake is unwilling to participate he is forcefully drawn into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA).

U.S. RELEASE: March 14 2008, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13


MMA is the fastest growing sport in the country right now and is quickly eclipsing boxing in popularity. With MMA has been depicted on screen a few times before, its never been done in a way that puts you inside the fight. I thought if I could do that for MMA if I could really show all the details, strategy and athleticism that these guys employ I might be able to make the audience feel like they were actually in a MMA fight.

Sean FarisWhen I found out Id gotten the role I was in the shower and I screamed, and then it dawned on me, Oh, Ive got a lot of work to do This is going to be really hard. We trained six hours a day, six days a week, for three months. It was tough. But after two weeks your body comes out of being in shock and is kind of used to it, and its not so bad. It was the most intense physical challenge Ive ever faced in my life, Im not going to lie about it.

Djimon HounsouI grew up in France taking Kung Fu lessons for six or seven years, taking boxing as well. I developed a passion for it, and it really enhanced my physical ability, it really taught me a great amount of discipline. Attending martial arts schools you learn quickly that you have no desire to get into a fight in the street, because if youre really trying to learn all aspects of the sport, then youre the last to want to fight because you know the damage you can cause.

Djimon HounsouI play Baja Miller in the movie and its a very important role because she serves as a mirror to society. So many young girls were taught at such a young age how to make things easier on themselves and it generally comes down to shut up and smile. Its detrimental. She chooses to be the popular girl and be shallow and date the guy who is not giving her anything. Then she meets Jake who is everything she didnt think she would ever stand for and like, and he changes her world.

HOUNSOU on how he broke Sean Faris back by mistake:
It was a pure accident. The fights were as real as any real fight in a ring, or these mixed martial arts fights, except that we were making a movie so we were easing off on each other in terms of the hits and the punches. But the rest of it, every single move was quite as real as they should be. We all sustained a certain amount of injuries, but Seans injury was a big injury in the sense that obviously hes the lead actor, he needed to finish the film and he still had a long way to go, so obviously we needed to keep him alive.

FARIS on how Djimon broke his back:
It was a body slam that led to a hanging arm throw by Djimon, whos huge, hes 60 pounds heavier than I am. He was trying to make it easier on me, so his arms would take some weight, but my back leapt over this arm and it cracked it. I didnt even know it was broken for two weeks, I just thought Id tweaked it.

I was the girl amongst seven boys who spent literally half of their days exercising and the other half pretending to fight. What else could be wrong with that picture? It was exhausting but fabulous.

I was so intimidated about playing this character and being a teacher. Obviously I love fighting and had a certain amount of understanding of kicking and punching. The one thing I did learn is that mixed martial arts is like a chess match on the ground. So much of it is up here [points to his head] more than it is your ability to kick somebody; the mental discipline, the conditioning, are so amazing in this sport.

Sean Faris and Djimon Hounsou

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Feature © 2008 Visual Imagination.
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Film Review, #694, April 2008 cover

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