TO BLODLY GO. Joe Taslim sits down with DA MAN’s Joezer Mandagi for a chat about going where no Indonesian has gone before
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
We caught up with Joe Taslim at the end of April, only a couple of months away from the release of “Star Trek Beyond”—the second sequel to the 2009 reboot of the movie series and the first to feature an Indonesian actor. Alas, at the time of writing, not much is known about the movie beyond its basic premise and some of the new faces added to the cast. Who will they play? Will we even see these faces or will they be hidden under layers of prosthetics? Nobody knows and nobody—including Taslim—is talking.
“This year’s premiere coincides with the 50th anniversary of Star Trek,” he begins, “so they’re really waiting for the right moment. They’re going to release more information, but not during events like CinemaCon or whatever. It’s going to be during the 50th anniversary celebrations, which will be dedicated to fans.” As no amount of prodding or begging would elicit any spoilers about Taslim’s adventures in “Star Trek Beyond,” we instead talked about his own personal journey to the set of Trek.
Outfit by Lanvin
It all began, apparently, when “The Night Comes for Us,” a project involving many of “The Raid” alumni, was shut down. In the aftermath, Taslim decided to go to the U.S. and take up acting classes. “Then, in America, after several months of acting classes, I got an email from Justin,” he recalls, referring, of course, to Justin Lin, director of the newest Trek movie who also collaborated with Taslim for “Fast & Furious 6.” What came next was a meeting with casting directors at Paramount Pictures before the offer was finally revealed.
“And I said, like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to ask,’” Taslim says of the fateful conversation. “But in Hollywood, it’s all done very proper. So, when offering the project, he was all, ‘Could you do it? Would you like to work with me again? If you’re free, we’re happy to have you.’ It was a very, very humble offer.” What followed was a flurry of visits to the embassy to get all the necessary paperwork squared away, and then it was off to Vancouver for the movie’s principal photography.
“It’s about the emotion that you bring into the fight”
So, what was it that convinced Hollywood to start putting more and more faith in Indonesian acting talent? “I have to say it again, ‘The Raid’ was what opened a path for everybody: For me, Iko [Uwais], Yayan [Ruhian] and even Gareth [Evans],” Taslim points out. “For everybody who was involved in ‘The Raid,’ it’s like we now have a bachelor’s degree. I imagine that if it weren’t for ‘The Raid,’ going to Hollywood to look for a job is going to be, like, a million times harder.”
For sure, many of his fellow “The Raid” alumni are finding success in increasingly bigger and more high-profile productions abroad. But while many would point out that it’s their martial art skills that really put them on the map, Taslim sees things differently. “I think why they picked me twice, it’s not about [my ability] to beat people up or about badass fight scenes. It’s not about that. It’s about the emotion that you bring into the fight,” he explains. “Why is Bruce Lee such a legend? He can’t do crazy acrobatics and flashy moves. But when he throws a simple punch, it’s already so cool. So, the charisma of the actor also needs to be strong.” It is, actually, an age-old problem in movie-making, even in Hollywood. Great actors often don’t know how to fight, and great fighters often can’t act to save their lives.
“I’m busy doing something great for my career, so when I’m off, it’s time to pay it forward”
Indonesian actors, in his opinion, have the potential to bring both to the table. “If it’s only about people who can fight,” Taslim adds, “there are plenty of those in Hollywood. Thousands. There were people in front of me who could do flips and then kick a book and that book would hit that guy’s head.” [Points to person across the room.] “But they cannot act.” Then he concludes: “So, I think, acting is always on top.”
Outfit by Alexander McQueen
Acting might well be on top, but when news goes out that Joe Taslim is back in Indonesia, a lot of other things that were put on hold come flooding in. For example, there’s his well-known ad campaigns for several well-known brands such as Garnier and Telkomsel. Less well-known but quite a lot more important, however, is his work for a host of good causes. “I’m with WWF [the World Wide Fund for Nature] as an ambassador for Sumatran tigers, I’m helping the UNICEF as well and I’m working with the UNHCR,” he lists off. “I’m busy doing something great for my career, so when I’m off, it’s time to pay it forward.” And in what may well be a nice example of how karma works, all of these good vibes are working wonders for the actor.
“Every time I work with the UNICEF, the WWF, I work better. In terms of focus—my mind, my heart—I work better,” the former member of the national judo team explains with a big grin on his face. “And I think they’re helping me instead of me helping them, to be honest. I’m more focused and when I get up in the morning I feel lighter, like I can go 110 percent.” That’s certainly the attitude for somebody who is more than ready to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new roles and new opportunities, to boldly go where no Indonesian actor has gone before.
To see more pictures from this shoot, get a copy of DA MAN June/July 2016 here. And check out these outtakes below!