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Redbelt in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Redbelt

Chiwetel Ejiofor • Emily Mortimer • Alice Brag • Tim Allen • Max Martini
DIRECTOR: David Mamet (and writer)

Chiwetel Ejiofor THE CONCEPT:
Jiu-jitsu teacher Mike Terry (Ejiofor) has pursued an honorable life operating a self-defense studio in LA with a samurai’s code. But his life is turned upside down when an accident at his academy puts into motion a series of events where to pay off his debts and regain his honor, Terry must step into the prize fighting ring for the first time.

U.S. RELEASE: 2 May 2008, Limited • Rated: R


Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Mamet“Jiu-jitsu is a martial art just as boxing is a martial art and savate is a martial art. The main principal of Jiu-jitsu is that understanding will defeat strength. And although it’s philosophical, it’s really extraordinarily practical. Don’t use more force than you need to; knowledge will conquer force. If you take two forces that oppose each other, one of them is wasting force, so eventually one of them is going to run out of steam. If you’ve got a stronger guy and a weaker guy and the weaker guy can exhaust the stronger guy, then the weaker guy can now bring his skills to bear.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor“As soon as I knew David Mamet was about to send me this script I was pretty excited. I don’t know what kind of script he might have come up with that I would have turned down, but I figured whatever was coming through the door, it was pretty clear I’d be involved in it. I’m just a huge fan of his work. And then I read the script and I just thought it was brilliant. I love the narrative, the characters, just what it would involve was very exciting, and what it would necessitate me uncovering was exciting. So I was thrilled to get involved.”

EMILY MORTIMER on what surprised her the most about David Mamet:
Emily Mortimer, perhaps being encourage by Chiwetel Ejiofor“The Jiu-jitsu thing was a surprise to me, his fascination with it, I had no idea. Somehow I thought he had written the script about it in a very compelling and amazing way, but I didn’t realize it was because he’d been practicing it for many years. So on the set he was doing these moves, and getting all mucho, and I realized that was his thing.”

“I decided fairly early in my experience with Jiu-jitsu that the world was fascinating because it was cut across many different strata of society. The guys you train with, some of them would be cops, some of them would be bouncers, some of them would be Navy SEALs or SWAT guys. Some of them would be stuntmen and some of us would just be regular guys who wanted to learn how to defend ourselves. I was inspired because I wanted to write a story about these guys, I wanted to write a story about these fighters, but it took me a while to figure out exactly what that story was.”

“I didn’t know anything about the martial arts world. The most important part I think was the whole process of studying and training in Jiu-jitsu, trying to get some proficiency with the martial art. I started a daily regime in London at the Roger Gracie Academy. I trained there with them for about a month, and then came over to L.A. and worked with Renato Magno for about another month before we started shooting. During shooting, any time we had we would train and we would train over the weekends. I did that from the moment I put down the phone with David, when he asked me to do the job, until we finished doing the last fight sequence of the film.”

“Part of the reason that I wanted to do this film was that I felt the part was a really interesting one for a woman, because it was somebody who was both capable of being extremely cool, collected and strong and, at the same time, she’s having a nervous breakdown and going out of her mind. I felt that was really interesting in that you don’t often get to show those two sides in one part, especially as a woman, so to me David really had written a role that was attractive to play.”

“David is much gentler than I thought he would be, as a person. He was just much softer, until I challenged him to a bit of Jiu-jitsu, and then a harder element came out. It was interesting, he taught me something. We were in the gym on the mat and I remember thinking he was getting too close to me, and somehow by mistake he stood on my foot. I tried to move my foot and I couldn’t, and he smiled and said, ‘See, you’ve lost already.’ I didn’t win, but I didn’t want to beat up the director!”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #696, June 2008 cover

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