Nicolas Cage Channeled Dennis Hopper’s Famous Character From This Movie in ‘Jiu Jitsu,’ Director Says

Nicolas Cage always makes interesting choices with his roles. In Kick-Ass, he imitated the voice of Batman actor Adam West and in Mandy, he mimicked the faces Bruce Lee would make in a fight. In his own martial arts movie, Jiu Jitsu, Cage referenced Dennis Hopper.

Jiu Jitsu director Dimitri Logothetis and Nicolas Cage
L-R: Nicolas Cage, Dimitri Logothetis | The Avenue

Jiu Jitsu director Dimitri Logothetis and star Alain Moussi spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet by phone. Here’s what they had to say about Cage’s contributions to the film. 

Nicolas Cage was a practicing martial artist before ‘Jiu Jitsu’

Many actors train for their action movies. Keanu Reeves learned Kung Fu for The Matrix and Matt Damon learned Kali for The Bourne Identity. Cage brought his own personal practice to Jiu Jitsu.

“I was very lucky, first of all, to get Nic Cage, because he’s a consummate actor who embraces genre,” Logothetis said. “And number two, he is trained in Jiu Jitsu. He’s trained for several years. So it was pretty easy for him being athletic and being in good shape to step into the role. He pulled off about 80% of his own stunts.”

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For the other 20%, sometimes Logothetis had to call in professional stuntmen for really dangerous moves. 

“I try not to get my actors killed,” Logothetis said. “So when it’s really dangerous, I’ll go ahead and put a double in there.”

Nicolas Cage let his ‘Jiu Jitsu’ costar lead the way 

Alain Moussi stars in Jiu Jitsu as Jake, a man with amnesia but skills in multiple martial arts. When Jake first meets Wylie (Cage) in Wylie’s hideout, they have a fight.

“Nic actually was cool because when it came to the action, he totally gave me the lead,” Moussi said. “We worked together, we practiced together for three days, three hours a day before we got to that scene. Then when we got to it, if there was anything I saw that he needed to do different, he would ask me for that coaching.”

Nicolas Cage and Alain Moussi
L-R: Nicolas Cage and Alain Moussi | The Avenue

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Moussi doubled Hugh Jackman in X-Men: Apocalypse and Jai Courtney in Suicide Squad. He was a stuntman on many movies and TV series before starring in Kickboxer: Vengeance.

When you’re a stunt person performing with actors, typically you have to follow the actor’s pace. You don’t set your pace. You adapt to every cast member’s pace. That’s why a really, really good stunt person, screen fighter can adapt it to many different people. I’ve been doing that for years. So when I work with Nic, I understand what Nic’s speed is, what his pace is and how many moves he does at at a time. I adapt to that to bring out the best in him and I lead the pace when it comes to doing my stuff. Nic was nothing but collaborative. He enjoyed every minute of it. He had fun and to me, I think he looks great on screen doing all the fighting.

Alain Moussi, interview with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, 11/16/2020

The Dennis Hopper movie that gets a tribune in ‘Jiu Jitsu’

Cage deferred to Moussi and Logothetis for the fighting, but when it came to acting, that was his wheelhouse. Cage chose a specific Dennis Hopper performance to evoke as Wylie.  

“He’s a consummate actor,” Logothetis said. “He brings 100% to every film. He really respects the storytelling and again, he embraces genre so he said to me, when we first sat down and started talking about the character, he said, ‘You know something? I really feel that I should channel Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now.’ So I thought that’s wild, let’s do it. That’s what he does and he’s also very entertaining in the film.” 

Jiu Jitsu: Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage | The Avenue

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You don’t say no to a suggestion like that. Moussi also enjoyed his dialogue scenes with Cage.

“I hope the action was cool,” Moussi said. “At the same time, I think what’s cool about especially the cave scene with Nic, it’s to feel that chemistry between both characters. If that came out, we won.”