The young star of this mixed martial arts film talks about the film, the training and the haters
Sean Faris is certainly a rising young star in Hollywood, and he'll fight to prove it... on the screen anyway. The actor stars in the upcoming mixed martial arts movie, Never Back Down, starring alongside Cam Gigandet, Amber Heard and two-time Academy Award nominee, Djimon Hounsou. I was recently in on a conference call with Faris, and he had plenty to say about this new movie... as well as the early naysayers.
Can you talk a bit about the difficult preperation you had to go through for the movie?
Sean Faris: Sure. For the film, we had three months of training in L.A., and we trained for six hours a day, six days a week. It was pretty intense. My body went to shock after about the first week. We had to see a chiropractor, a massage therapist, to keep our bodies in tuned so that we could continue training. They would deliver like 5,000 calories in meals to my door every day, and I had to eat it all so I could put on weight. We would start the day off with the Muay Thai and Tai Kwan Doe. Then we'd work on fight choreography for a bit and we'd have a little break. Nap time, or massage therapist time or chiropractor time, and then we would go off to Gold's Gym in Venice Beach to train with a trainer named Kito, who was our weight trainer that we had to lift with. Yeah. It was hard. It was probably the most physical thing I've ever done in my life.
I'm a huge fan of Djimon Hounsou. I was wondering what it was like to work with him?
Sean Faris: Working with Djimon was such an amzing experience. He's an incredible actor, he has such an amazing presence, and he's just a great person, all the way around. He really made me want to be the best I could be as an actor. We spent a lot of time rehearsing together and prepping things to make it just right. He would give me suggestions, if he ever had any, or if I had questions he'd always be more than happy to answer them for me. I can't say enough great things about the guy.
How intense were the fights during the shooting, and were there any accidents or close calls?
Sean Faris: The intensity was off the wall. I gained 15 pounds to do the movie, and I lost 17 pounds while filming it. As far as accidents go, yeah. I actually broke my thumb on the second to last day of filming, and halfway through filming, I broke my L3... I'm going to say this very slow... I broke my L3 spinous transverse process, which is a small bone that comes off the back of your spinal cord in your lower back. That happened when Djimon bodyslammed me for like 10 takes and my back finally gave in, but I did do 75% of my stunts, even after that.
As far as your character, is there any particular strength that he has in this
Sean Faris: Yeah, he's got a mean right cross (Laughs). That and the majority of his strength comes from his heart. He's got a lot of heart, and a lot of fight within himself. I consider that the greatest strength that he has, because that's what gets him through training and, ultimately, he has such a big heart that his mind changes along with it. He becomes more self-controlled and disciplined and he learns to fight for the right reasons.
Are you a fan of mixed martial arts yourself, and how did you get yourself into the character? Are there any similarities between yourself and Jake Tyler?
Sean Faris: I am a huge fan of mixed martial arts, yes, and I was before the film. I'd actually been watching UFC a long time ago when they didn't even have rounds. It was basically one round, no time limit, they just fought until somebody tapped out, submitted or was knocked out. I've never wanted to be a cage fighter myself, but I definitely do enjoy the entertainment of it.
Do you have any projects that you're going to be working on next?
Sean Faris: I'm currently in pre-production on a film that my manager and I, my producing partner, are doing ourselves. We're going to produce a film called The Glass Eye. We're hopefully going to have that going by the end of March, early April, but you never know in Hollywood. It all depends on which actors you can get and whose schedules we can work around and who's we can't. Other than that, there are a couple of other projects I'm looking at that I would love to do. We're just kind of playing it by ear and seeing what's happening right now.
I was wondering if you could tell us anything about Forever Strong, and if that's been slated for a release date yet?
Sean Faris: Yes. I believe they're waiting for Never Back Down to drop in theaters on March 14 before they sell it to the distributors. They've had a bunch of offers, but they haven't taken any yet. Forever Strong is a great movie. It's one of those coming-of-age films that's a feel-good movie at the end of it. That's about a character I play, his name is Rick Penning, who has an alcohol problem and he gets sent off to a boys home in Utah. This is all based on a true story too. He plays rugby and he ends up playing for his rival team that they always play in the national championships for high school rugby every year. There he goes through a lot of life changes and his coach is kind of like a father to the boys on his team. He comes around, and becomes a much better person because of it all. It's a really great story, and I can't wait for that to drop. Hopefully it'll be out by summer, sometime.
The Glass Eye is sort of your first foray into the production side of film. Do you have any desire to write or direct as well?
Sean Faris: I've always wanted to write, but the trouble is when I sit down to write, my mind goes in so many different directions, I can't really have a script with one story. I'd have to be five stories coming into one, kind of like Crash, or something like that. I would love to one day write, and possibly some day direct. When I read scripts, I can really imagine the visuals there. Directors have to be completely OCD. Those guys work the hardest of anyone on the set. That's something that I'd maybe like to do in the future, way down the line when I'm a little more mature and a little more calm. For the most part, right now, I'm still learning to be the best actor I can be, and I have a long way to go to get to the level I would like to be at. My focus is still 100% acting acting acting. Once I hit a point where I feel very comfortable as an actor - because you can never stop learning, I don't care how comfortable you get, you can never stop learning - but once I hit a point where I can get that comfort level of taking on the task of directing and having the confidence in myself to have people's respect when I give them direction, that's definitely something I want to do someday.
I was wondering if you've screened this for any real UFC fighters, and if you've gotten any reaction from them?
Sean Faris: Yes, actually, Bas Rutten and Frank Shamrock have both seen many of the fight scenes and I've gotten to sit and talk with both of them. It's funny because I think we're getting a little bit of a negativity thing going on from MMA fighters that aren't pro that haven't actually seen the movie, they've just seen the previews and they're like, 'Oh no, they're misrepresenting what MMA is all about' and this and that. It's got to be understood that the movie is not, first and foremost, about MMA, it's a love story. MMA is involved in the movie, but it's not tournament style MMA with all the rules. It's just the fight styles. Pretty much all we take from MMA is the fighting itself and the training. Secondly, for all those people that have had any issue with that, from what they've seen in the trailer alone, they're making poor judgment, because they're speaking before they know anything at all. Bas Rutten and Frank Shamrock, who are both legends in MMA, have both screened the fights, and they've both said, from their mouths themselves, that they think we did great, and that they think we do a great job of following what the core of MMA is.
Never Back Down hits (and kicks) the theaters on March 14.