An interview with actor Georges St-Pierre (Kickboxer: Vengeance)

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Three-time UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre (GSP for short), amidst continuing to build his legacy as a world-class athlete, has begun to take on roles as an actor in recent years. While he has also appeared in films such as Death Warrior and Never Surrender, GSP is probably best known for portraying Marvel Comics villain Batroc the Leaper in the opening sequence of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Hydra mercenary Batroc goes mano-y-mano with Captain America in one of the film’s more memorable fight sequences.

Georges St-Pierre’s latest role comes in John Stockwell’s Kickboxer: Vengeance, an updated remake of the 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme-starring original. This new incarnation follows the basic plot of the original, with a trainer-turned-fight named Kurt Sloane (Alain Moussi) avenging the death of his brother at the hands of the dreaded Tong Po (Dave Bautista). GSP plays the supporting role of Kavi, a drunken low-life of a fighter who means well, but often makes poor decisions.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Georges St-Pierre about his work on the film recently, as well as his other roles and his relatively new career as an actor in general…

GSPKBDaniel Baldwin: Beyond just choreography and skill, how has your experience as a fighting champion carried over to your career as an actor?

Georges St-Pierre: I’ve done fighting in professional full-contact sports, but fighting for the camera is something very different. It’s a field that I don’t have a lot of experience in. I’m a white belt. I consider myself a white belt in this arena, and I try to sponge as much as I can when I’m on the set and learn as much as I can. I’m not that kind of guy coming on set and saying, “Do you know who I am?! Do you know how I work?!” because it’s not my field of expertise. It’s something that is totally different, so I’m a white belt and I’m here to learn. I try to be the best that I can, having acting class and it’s very hard to make the transition.

DB: Is there any particular part that you find most challenging when it comes to working in the film industry?

GSP: Yeah. In the film industry when you have an action scene, for example, all your punches and kicks have to be telegraphed for the camera because it makes it look good. In real fighting, you don’t want it telegraphed because you don’t want your opponent to see it coming. You want to surprise him. That’s one of the things that’s very hard, because you need to make everything big, so that’s really hard.

DB: I imagine you probably have to slow it down a little bit too.

GSP: Yeah, everything is different. But I’ve been working with some great guys that help me out with it, and I think it looks very well. My fight scenes in Captain America and Kickboxer, I think they look pretty good.

DB: You look great in both of them.

GSP: Thank you!

DB: Oh, you’re welcome! In terms of Kickboxer, your character is a bit of a lovable low-life. What drew you to that part in particular?

GSP: My character is a toxic man. He’s an alcoholic. He used to be a fighter, but he never made it. He got involved in some drugs and alcohol, so he was a waste of talent. Now he lives in a camp among guys that don’t respect him. They mistreat him and make fun of him. Now his life changed when he met the main character. His life changed and he had a choice to make — stay with his old companions that don’t respect him or decide to join forces with this new guy, the main actor of the movie, to help him in his virtuous campaign.

DB: Were you a fan of the original Kickboxer and action films in general?

GSP: Yeah, I was a huge fan of the original Kickboxer. It is one of the movies that inspired me to do what I do for a living as an athlete. Truly, the highlight of the shooting for Kickboxer is my fight scene with Jean-Claude Van Damme. That was something that I will remember for the rest of my life. Jean-Claude Van Damme is like my idol. When I grew up in Quebec, his films played a lot, so he’s a very popular actor where I’m from. He was the biggest name there when he did Kickboxer and Bloodsport. To be able to do a fight scene with him, it was just a dream come true.

DB: I can only imagine! What was it like working with him?

GSP: It was amazing! He’s like a monument! He’s Jean-Claude Van Damme! I’ve known him from before. He’s stayed in Montreal before and we’ve trained together. We go out together. We have a lot of fun together. He’s someone that I really like to be with and he’s fun to be around.

GSPCapDB: Of course you also did Captain America: The Winter Soldier. What was it like to be a part of the whole Marvel arena?

GSP: It was fantastic. Captain America was shot in California on a boat, when I did it. It was a great fight scene. I was working mostly with the stuntmen and the main actor, because it was a lot of acrobatic stuff. And, of course, on a movie like that they can’t afford to hurt the main actor, so I worked with a lot of the stuntmen for the fight scene.

DB: Was that a really complicated sequence to shoot?

GSP: Yeah, but it was very short. The fight scene was great, and I enjoyed doing it. It was with some lead stuntmen and it was amazing.

DB: Do you have any future projects or fights coming up that you would like to talk about?

GSP: My agent will talk with the new owner of UFC pretty soon, so I’ll see what will be happening with my fighting career after that. In terms of acting career, I put some stuff on hold now because I was planning on maybe going back to fighting, but we’ll see whether that’s going to happen or not.

DB: I look forward to both either way!

GSP: Thank you!

DB: Who was more fun to fight against for you on screen? Was it Van Damme or Captain America?

GSP: (Laughs.) They were both fun, but for me … the fact that Jean-Claude Van Damme is like my idol, it was more memorable to fight Jean-Claude because of the history behind it. Captain America was fun in the way that it’s a bigger budget movie. It was a different experience, but Kickboxer was very special for me because of Jean-Claude Van Damme.

DB: A childhood dream come true.

GSP: Exactly!

DB: Thank you very much for speaking to me about your new film!

GSP: Thank you for talking with me. Hope you have a nice day!

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Kickboxer: Vengeance is currently playing on select screens across the nation. If you are not lucky enough to live in an area that is screening it, the film is also available via the usual VOD platforms. Check it out!

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