Today I was lucky to talk with one of the most underrated stuntmen Mike Moeller. This tough hardworking German guy knows everything about stunts, falls, kicks and choreography. His intense workout sessions gave him an opportunity to start his movie career alongside Donnie Yen and to be nominated for the Taurus World Stunt Award. Doing stunts is a tough business and Mike is one of the best.
Budomate: How did you start your way in martial arts, who or what inspired you the most, maybe some situation in the streets or with your friends?
Mike: I was born and raised in the former German Democratic Republic and already in my school days I was very athletic. But I was also the smallest in my class had to prove myself again and again against the larger and older guys, did not tolerate harassment and conflicts.
In 1990, shortly after the Wall came down, everything changed. The key factors were the movies that we rented in video stores and see on television.
It was not possible for us, so-called capitalism TV, videos and movies to watch behind the Iron Curtain. This was something new and fascinating. I’ve always been a big movie fan and I wanted to be like the stars in these films. Above all, action and martial arts movies at that time had the greatest influence on me.
I began to train intensely and purposefully. I started to train martial arts by myself and made workouts for strength and condition.
A couple years later when I left my village because I had to learn a trade, I started in a real dojo to train. However, all the acrobatic elements and stunt falls I had to learn without advice. And up to the present day things have not changed: I still spend a lot of time practising and trying to improve all my skills and my love for movies never faded away.
Budomate: Please tell about your martial arts styles, most of martial artists/stuntmen have a TKD background, are you from the same pack or not?
Mike: Yes, I’ve started with Taekwondo during my job training in Nuremberg. But I also learned a lot from the HK films (especially falls), from Bruce Lee books and the Wrestling on TV.
Budomate: When did you start thinking that movies/stunts will become your full-time job?
Mike: At every opportunity some friends of mine and I shot our own little martial arts films. It was a time long before we have worked with a PC. At that time we shot with a VHS cam and edited with VCRs and with a Stereo System and a Super Nintendo we made the sound design.
However, I have always been trying to improve my stunts, falls and choreography skills and find out different ways of integrating them into the fighting scenes.
In 2000 something unimaginable happened and a dream came true. I got the chance to work on the German TV series “PUMA”. An experienced German stuntman was impressed by my skills and asked me if I am interested in professional stunt work? I said yes of course and he introduced me to the Berlin stunt company. That is how all this started.
We shoot this fight in 7 hours! Time and light was our biggest problem. Of course I would like to reshoot some scenes but it’s not possible. However, I’m satisfied what we create in this short time. Thanks to Falk Pöhlmann and Andre Thaldorf!
Budomate: In 2000 you was lucky enough to work with legendary Donnie Yen on the Puma tv series, how did it happened?
Mike: I read in a television magazine that “Puma” will be shot in Berlin and Donnie Yen will be responsible for the fight scenes in this series.
I always was a huge fan of his work and I wanted to visit the set and take a picture with him. So I wrote a letter and with a videotape of our short films together I sent it to the production company. I wanted to let them know, that I’m really a fan. 3 days later a call came from the capital, they have seen my tape and the stunt crew invited me to train with them.
Training with my role models… nothing was bigger for me.
I was surprised when I arrived because it was not a training, it was a casting. I was very excited, I also made mistakes but I did my best. It was only important to meet the guys. I’ve taken photos with Michael Woods, John Salvitti, Kenji Tanigaki and of course the famous Donnie Yen. I was so happy and then I moved back home got what I want.
Two days later I got a call from the production manager of the series, he said, the Asians stunt crew enjoyed my tape and liked my skills. So actually all parts are already been cast but the Asian stunt crew wants me to join the production. It was my entry into the movie business and I owe them everything, especially Kenji Tanigaki.
I had never expected to be hired, I got 3 days of shooting and a fight against the main actor.
Budomate: Were there any interesting situations on the sets of Puma, was it easy to work with Donnie?
Mike: Unfortunately I got on board of this project a little bit too late, so I was just involved in the last part. I had a choreo training few days before the shooting with Donnie Yen, Kenji Tanigaki, Yuji Shimomura, Hiroyuki Yoshida, Ron Smoorenburg, Michael Woods and Mickey Hardt. It was awesome. After the normal training, Kenji showed me some falls and Yuji some flips I had never seen before while Donnie was training on the sandbag.
On the shooting days I was very nervous. I had a fight scene with a stuntman against the main actor Mickey Hardt…2 vs 1, into the hand I was holding a baseball bat and Donnie showed me what he wanted. It took a while until the crew was ready and during that time I got some tips and changes.
Then finally…Action…Cut…I was nervous… had I the right timing, was my acting good enough…then I will never forget how enthusiastic Donnie was. He came up to me and was happy about my acting and performance. I was also relieved and very proud. Donnie even grabbed the baseball bat and played me like he wanted to have the following settings. It was awesome to see this, he has so much passion for the work and infected everybody with his enthusiasm. He really loves what he does.
I had a fantastic time and I’m very grateful that I could be there. To work with Donnie and his famous stunt team was a great honor and experience.
Budomate: In 2002 you worked on Half Past Dead alongside another legend Steven Seagal, what did you learn on the sets?
Mike: I had a great time on this movie. I was 49six double and played an inmate. I had great respect for Seagal and it was interesting to see how he moves and works on the set.
There was also Nia Peebles, Ja Rule, Kurupt and Don Michael Paul just to name a few. A great pleasure was to met Art Camacho and Lauro Chartrand on the set.
But above all it was a honor to met and work with Xin Xin Xiong and his team. He was the villain in The Blade with Vincent Zhao, and in all the Once Upon a Time in China movies there as Jet Li double, or was in his role as Clubfoot…haha. I think I was the only one who recognized him and knew who he was.
I did a lot of wirework, a few jumps and kicks for this movie and was nominated for the “Taurus” World Stunt Awards in the “Best Fight” category!
Budomate: The same year you worked on Resident Evil with Milla Jovovich as one of the stunt crew. I have heard she was serious about her trainings for this movie, is that right?
Mike: I had no scenes with Milla. Just had a few days as a zombie walked through the corridor and had a very short fight in the elevator with Michelle Rodriguez…everything was cutted out in the final version.
During the shoot, we had often long breaks and the stunt guys took the time to train. I made a wallrun with a kick in the air, the 2nd unit director had noticed that in his lunch break and he loved it, he record it on tape and wanted to show it to Paul Anderson. Then I heard nothing more until a colleague called me and said that they had used this move with Milla.
It’s the best scene in the movie, she runs in direction corner, on the wall (with wire support) turns in the air and kicks the dog. So, it was a good experience.
Budomate: In 2005 you worked on a great german example of martial arts movies Kampfansage alongside Mathis Landwehr, how did you meet him and what do you think about this movie?
Mike: First time I met Mathis Landwehr, Volkram Zschiesche, Christian Monz and Johannes Jaeger in 2003 at the casting for Kampfansage aka Challenge. But they had known me before, because I sent them a tape of my short films. I was there during the pre-production and the whole shooting… 3 months… a great time. In the movie I had a small part and you can see me as a masked soldier (18 falls in the whole movie are from me).
Kampfansage was the first kind of movies this genre here in Germany. After that was just “Lasko” the TV series with Mathis in the lead again. The German producers don’t want to take any risks, so it’s very difficult to make a local martial arts movie in this country.
Budomate: During next 6 years you worked on famous movies like Speed Racer, International, Inglorious Basterds, Pandorum, Unknown. Can you pick some movie which was a really interesting to work on and one which was really hard and dangerous in stunts?
Mike: Eragon was interesting because I’ve met stunt people from all over the world and was great to work with them. Angli was good, because the first time I had a bigger part. Speed Racer was great, because Mathis and I had the chance to work with Chad Stahelski and David Leitch from 87eleven. We shot the pre-fights of the Ninja with Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine.
Lasko TV series was great too, because I had a lot of fights and falls. On the Hansel and Gretel I had the chance to work again with David Leitch and I met and worked with Sam Hargrave and a few members of the 87eleven stunt team.
However, the hardest but also the best time I ever had, was in Hongkong on Coweb movie in 2008. Xin Xin Xiong was the director and I worked with a fantastic team, met Kane Kosugi on the set (a son of the most famous ninja Sho Kosugi) and again Kenji Tanigaki in the city (really nice guy, he showed me Hongkong). It was always my dream to be a part of a real Hongkong martial arts movie. Unfortunately, I had no chance to fight in my own style (I had to learn Breakdance in a short time and they combined it with Capoeira moves and hard hitting falls) and they cut a few good things out in the final version.
I want to say a big thank you to Xin Xin Xiong who gave me this opportunity.
Budomate: Looking back where did you get the most valuable experience, and what is your favorite movie you worked on?
Mike: Valuable experience: Puma, Speed Racer and Coweb. Favorite movie is our own independent movie called Urban Fighter, full with martial arts!!!
Budomate: Today, who is Mike Moeller, what aims he has, maybe actors you dream about to work with?
Mike: I am so grateful to have friends who supported me all these years and met people around the world who support others and give them a chance to be in the movie / stunt biz. This is a really great opportunity.
My two other passions are training and movies. I train 6/7 days a week and am pleased when I watch a good movie and meet people who love movies and training as well as I do.
First and foremost I am a movie fan and I have favorites in all kind of genres. In terms of martial arts I love the movies from Isaac Florentine, Sly Stallone, Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, they are my favorites.
There are so many talented movie makers who I would love to work with too. It would be a dream to meet and work with all of them.
Budomate: My traditional question: which 3 martial arts movies you can call a classic?
Mike: Hard question. There are so many!!! Especially from Asia. I like some old school Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Lau Kar Leung movies. But also the action movies of 80’s and 90’s like Pedicab Driver, In the line of duty 4, Tiger Cage 2, Police Story, A Book of Heroes, Iron Monkey, Drunken Master, all the Once Upon a Time in China movies and so on!
But I would say… from American movies I like Best of the Best, Bloodsport, Undisputed 2, from Asian – Fist of Fury, Prodigal Son, SPL.
Budomate: Thanks a lot Mike for your time, hope to see you more and more in popular movies.
You can contact Mike via http://www.mike-moeller.com/
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