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Alain Moussi On What It's Really Like To Make An Action Movie With Nicolas Cage - Exclusive

Nicolas Cage doesn't have a look that screams "action movie star," but the man's résumé speaks for itself. Since taking on domestic terrorists as Stanley Goodpseed in Michael Bay's 1996 explosion-fest The Rock, Cage has compiled a bunch of credits in the action genre — ranging from his zany antics as Castor Troy in Face/Off to the American history-couched adventure of the National Treasure film series. Along the way, he's garnered a reputation as something of a character, perhaps aided by a few of his more wild-eyed performances.

How do Cage's eccentricities mesh with the demands of an action movie set, on which precision and specificity can mean the difference between a botched shot and a moment that'll blow audience's minds? According to one man who's recently shared the screen with Cage in such a project, it's not a concern. 

That individual is Alain Moussi, the martial-artist-turned-stunt performer-turned-actor who fronts the new sci-fi action flick Jiu Jitsu. Moussi's character Jake shares plenty of screen time — and a pretty epic fight scene — with Cage's Wylie, so Moussi had plenty of opportunity to bounce off the Hollywood icon. Here's what he had to say about the experience in our exclusive interview.

Nicolas Cage is the pro martial artist of actors

According to Moussi, Cage's much-memed eccentricity didn't carry over to his demeanor on the Jiu Jitsu set. Instead, what he witnessed from the Academy Award winner was precision. 

"Nic is like ... I think the right analogy for me is a pro fighter, or a pro martial artist," Moussi told Looper. "When you're a martial artist, you don't even think about movement because the movements come on their own. You know it so well that you can now act and be free within the choreography. That's how I saw him doing his craft, doing acting, and that's how I want to be when I act. What I found is that, as we shot scenes, new stuff would pop, nuances would pop all the time that I could play off of, and he would just bring something new."

Cage also brought quite the collaborative spirit to his work in Jiu Jitsu, directed and co-written by Dimitri Logothetis.

"That was amazing to see, too, the way he was able to take a piece of direction from Dimitri. All of a sudden, he took that and did something brand-new and cool with it — especially his mannerism and the way he expressed himself as Wylie. He became, I don't know, wild," Moussi recalled. "I learned a lot just watching him do that, and the way him and Dimitri interacted. Dimitri's an amazing director. What's beautiful about the way I saw him be with Nic is he would give great direction, and then he would give Nic full freedom. It's like he said just the right thing to spark Nic, and then Nic would just do something amazing."

Nicolas Cage brought an inspiring presence to Jiu Jitsu

For Moussi, who started out as a stunt performer and is relatively new to acting, sharing scenes with Cage was an opportunity to learn from a legend. 

"I was there, trying to absorb all of his experience, anything I could see him do," he shared. "I was thinking, 'I'm going to be on set with this veteran actor, who I think is amazing, an Academy Award winner. Anything that I can observe of him doing, I'd love to steal that to make myself still evolve and become better.' What I found with Nic that was so inspiring is the fact that, after such an incredible career that is still going very strong, he is so passionate about his craft. He's so generous as an actor. I thought that was really cool. He didn't come in there just saying, 'Hey, I'm Nic Cage. I'm going to go. I'm doing my thing. I'm going to be off. If I'm not on screen, I'm not there.'"

Acting skills aside, it was this dedication on Cage's part that most made an impression on Moussi. 

"He was there every step of the way. From the moment he stepped into rehearsal, he wanted to be there. He wanted to run scenes. He wants to run everything the way it was going to be on set just because he wanted to practice. He wanted to make sure his mind was in the right place. I thought that was so cool, because he didn't have to do that," Moussi said. "I consider myself a total rookie when it comes to acting, but he was always the first one to say, 'Hey, let's do this together. We're collaborating. We're going to be a team.' He came in with that energy, which was really cool. Every moment on set with Nic was awesome, was fun, and he just wanted to do the movie justice and do a great job. That was very inspiring to me."

Alain Moussi gets into action with Nicolas Cage in Jiu Jitsu

While Moussi couldn't match Cage's experience acting in front of movie cameras, the relationship was reversed when it came to Jiu Jitsu's action scenes. Moussi, a highly trained martial artist and experienced stunt performer, found himself helping get Cage up to speed on his big fight and action beats. Even so, Moussi was impressed by Cage's diligence. 

"We showed him the first sequence, and he really wanted to rehearse it. Then he asked, 'Guys, is it okay if we come in during the weekend together and rehearse some more? I know it's your weekend, but would you be okay with that?'" Moussi told Looper. "Every day, we rehearsed for three or four hours with him. It was lots of fun. He was diligent. He wanted to be as good as possible to shoot the scenes."

This attention to detail and lack of ego continued when the cameras were rolling. "He said, 'Alain, if you see the playback and it's not as good as you want it to be, I will do it as many times as I need to do to make it great,'" recalled Moussi. "Sometimes it was one take, two takes, three takes, four. [I'd say], 'Nic, man, [it's] 80 percent, 90 percent, but I think we can get more.' And [he'd say], 'Okay, I'm doing it again' — right away, and he would want to do it again. He was very committed. He had a stunt double on set as well, but when it was his turn to do his action, which he did tons of, he wanted to be good at it. He really wanted to go and understand what was going on in order for him to deliver his own performance."

You can witness the fruits of Moussi and Cage's labor when Jiu Jitsu arrives in theaters on November 20.