Having only been in the film business for just over a decade, Brahim Achabbakhe has accomplished more than most. He has spent much of his time behind the camera working as a fight choreographer or performing stunts on such recent projects like HARD TARGET 2, MECHANIC: RESURRECTION, and THE FOREIGNER. He’s also been able to showcase his skills as an actor and martial artist in films like KILL EM ALL (2013), SULTAN, and MAN OF TAI CHI. Recently, Brahim has been stirring up excitement for his performance in the highly anticipated new entry in the UNDISPUTED franchise, BOYKA: UNDISPUTED 4. He stars alongside action hero Scott Adkins in what could very well be his breakout role. I had a few minutes to ask him some questions about his career and where it’s headed.
Corey Danna: Can you tell me a bit about your background and training?
Brahim Achabbakhe: I started with Aikido when I was 14 then added Karate, gymnastics, and tricking to that. I also practiced other styles like BJJ, Boxing, and Muay Thai.
CD: What inspired you to get into film?
BA: The 80’s Hong Kong films and especially the Jackie Chan ones. I always enjoyed the physicality and the fact all those actors did their own stunts.
CD: You’ve worked on a ton of films as a fight choreographer, can you tell me a bit about your methods and how you go about mapping out an action scene?
BA: I mostly write it down on paper like a script and edit it in my brain as I choreograph. Then I go back to trying to find what styles the characters should use. It is pretty simple to shoot a fight scene and I think people sometime make it to complicated. If you go back to the old way Bruce Lee shot his fights, they were shot in a really simple way following him in a wide angle. I like this way of shooting like Isaac Florentine or Gareth Evans use.
CD: In the short time you’ve been working in the business, you’ve worked in the Thai film industry, Bollywood, the Asian market, and beyond. How has being a part of all these different worlds helped to shape how you do things?
BA: It helped me be flexible and to adapt to each country I was shooting in. Some countries have very hard working schedules like China, Hong Kong, or India. So if you can work there, you can work anywhere else in the world.
CD: I’m actually really interested in the work you’ve done in India. I’m a fan of Bollywood action films and you’ve been a part of some of my recent favorites like SULTAN, BANG BANG, and WARRIOR SAVITRI in one capacity or another. Can you talk about working within that industry and what makes it unique?
BA: I think the Bollywood film industry is very interesting cause they are still evolving and getting better in terms of delivering action. I know that many people think their action scenes are way over the top, me included, but it’s what makes money there so you have to follow that for their market. I always had great experiences working in India, it’s a beautiful country with a lot of great talent. The movie industry there is huge!
CD: The Jackie Chan Stunt Team is legendary. How did you get involved and what have you learned from them?
BA: I got involved with the JC Stunt Team back in 2014 when I took part in the film DRAGON BLADE. Later on they called me back for a few other films like THE FOREIGNER, VIY 2, and BLEEDING STEEL. I learned about how they make action and how they facilitate everything for Jackie. They are some of the best people I’ve had the chance to work with.
CD: KILL EM ALL was such an exciting film but isn’t talked about nearly enough. Can you talk a bit about working on this film and being onscreen with the likes of people like Johnny Messner, Joe Lewis, Tim Man, and the rest of the cast and crew?
BA: Working on KILL EM ALL was a good experience. The film had a low budget but the whole cast had a very good chemistry. I think if the film had more of a budget, it could have been one to remember but sadly we had no time or money. Working with Johnny Messner was a fun experience, he was a bit worried of me kicking him for real so I had to make him feel comfortable and always joke around so he was not scared of me when we fought. Joe Lewis had some great stories about Bruce Lee and listening to him was pure joy. He sadly passed away from brain cancer a couple years back. Tim Man was always amazing to work with, he played the lead in the film and it’s a pity he does not get more chances to be the lead in more films. The guy is one of the best martial artists of our generation.
CD: You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in action cinema, who were you most in awe of?
BA: I would say Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan.
CD: When did you first meet Scott Adkins and how did you get involved with BOYKA?
BA: I met Scott Adkins for the first time back in 2013 for the film NINJA: SHADOW OF A TEAR. For BOYKA, I got involved thanks to fight coordinator Tim Man who recommended me to Isaac Florentine and Scott. Since they knew of me, I got the part of Igor Kazimir.
CD: One of the film’s highlights was the fight between you and Scott. Can you go through the process of working with him and Tim Man in order to create such an exciting scene?
BA: When you put two good martial arts actors in front of a camera and you have an amazing director and a great fight coordinator then you get that scene. I think the scene was choreographed perfectly and Tim really took the best out of me and Scott and put it in the choreography. We rehearsed maybe two times and never had to do more than four takes when we shot. I had a very good flow with Scott during our fight.
CD: What are your thoughts on the final cut of the scene as well as the completed film?
BA: Everything we shot is in the film and this is a first for me. I’ve suffered many times having fight scenes I’ve done getting destroyed in the editing room. This is by far the best fight scene I’ve ever done in my career. Not a single shot is missing from the edit and the final result is amazing. The movie itself I am very proud of.
CD: Tell us a bit about some of your upcoming projects.
BA: Just finished a Netflix TV show called THE LEGEND OF MONKEY as a fight coordinator and I also just wrapped a film with Donnie Yen working with fight director Kenji Tanigaki.
CD: Having worked with some of the best in the business, when do you think you will have your moment to be in the spotlight, to headline your own film?
BA: I have a few people interested in giving me a shot at starring in my own film but it’s always about securing funds. I am definitely sure it will happen though without a doubt! Get ready to see me deliver some hardcore action.