Like Ernest Hemingway, tough guy writer-director David Mamet has long been fascinated by the fight game, and his latest film, Redbelt, is set in the world of mixed martial arts. NOW spoke with Renato Magno, Mamet’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor and the project’s fight choreographer, who also appears in the film.
Who’s been your toughest BJJ opponent?
I am always fighting against my own weakness. I couldn’t give that credit to my opponents.
How did you meet David Mamet?
Ed O’Neill (Al Bundy from Married With Children and a BJJ black belt) introduced us and brought him for an introductory class at the studio. Mamet invited me to work as an actor and to help train some of the actors on the movie Spartan.
Is choreographing a fight for film or TV different from real fighting?
It’s different, but not much. My plan as a fight choreographer was to bring reality into the staged fight while assuring good timing and safety for the actors.
Which fight in Redbelt was the most fun to choreograph?
I have to say it was my fight with Rico Chiapparelli. We almost forgot we were on set.
Which fight was the most difficult?
The scene that required the most planning was Chiwetel Ejiofor’s fight behind the bleachers before John Machado fights him.
How much input did David Mamet have on the fights?
David put a lot trust in us and allowed us to create what we felt was right. He wanted the real Brazilian fight.
Is it hard to teach actors how to fight?
It was not hard at all. My job in real life is to bring jiu-jitsu to the students’ level and be sure they’re having fun with it.
If you had to fight with one arm tied up, as in the film, what would your game plan be?
One-arm game… hmm. I’d use my legs, hips and lower back, look for a good clinch, use my weight as an advantage and set up my opponent for the triangle leg choke.
Ever considered fighting MMA?
No. I never felt that competing in the UFC would bring progress to my jiu-jitsu. I’d rather have a good training day with one of my masters at the beach. I’m not saying the money aspect isn’t tempting, but that’s all there is.
Read the review of David Mamet's REDBELT here.