ACTING TIGER, GENTLE DRAGON. Beyond his kick-ass fight scenes, the calm and collected Donny Alamsyah reveals his untold life story, which apparently is just as exciting as any of his movies
Outfit by Etro
When doing a story on a well-known celebrity, you tend to look for points that make the individual in question seem down to Earth or in touch with their roots—something to make them feel relatable. With rising actor Donny Alamsyah, however, it’s hard not to see him as “one of the guys.” He’s more than happy to slurp black coffee from a flimsy plastic cup bought from a warung near the photo-shoot location; he looked nervous and self-conscious during the first half of the shoot. In short, he looks, well, like a normal guy.
Then there are the things people say about him; mainly about how he’s a model father or how he’s a pious man. Indeed, at one point he took a quick break to observe midday prayers.
“The three of us were told to go and stir things up”
Yet, at the same time, you can’t escape the feeling that his humility and casual attitude belie a powerful persona. The way he walks, for instance. There’s a confident swagger that speaks of self-assurance and awareness. Part of it, we’re sure, is due to his martial arts background, which reaches all the way to his days as a toddler. “My father teaches martial arts,” he begins, “but only to his relatives—my uncles, his nephews all trained in silat.”
Alamsyah’s own training, however, didn’t begin at home. “When you’re a little kid and you see people training, you get excited, right?” he reminisces. “But my father told me, ‘You should look elsewhere first, not with me,’ so I started looking into various styles, to find something that would fit me.” And that’s exactly what he did, from taking up karate in his elementary school days to dabbling in aikido and many other arts. Interestingly, unlike many of his fellow action stars, it wasn’t his martial prowess that propelled his acting career. At least not initially.
Acting, for him, came by accident. “I often accompanied my friends who went to casting calls,” he explains, “but ended up getting a part.” Essentially, his friends would encourage Alamsyah to try out as well and when he kept refusing, they simply signed up his name with the casting directors. “Fortunately, the casting process didn’t involve any dialogue. They just wanted to see how I captured certain emotions,” Alamsyah goes on. “As it turns out, I got the part.”
As it turns out, “the part” was in the critically acclaimed 2005 movie “Gie” by director Riri Reza. “So, in the middle of production, I came across Nicholas Saputra, whom I used to see only on movie screens and on TV,” Alamsyah gleefully recalls. “There was Lukman Sardi, Dedi Rizal … it was apparently a big movie.” More importantly, his stint with “Gie” included a month-long workshop, which introduced our action star to the finer points of acting in the style of legendary coaches such as Eka Sitorus. At this point, Alamsyah realized that he wanted to pursue acting full time, and he gladly left his prior career as a programmer, animator and “anything related to computers.”
“Indonesia has the potential. Hollywood films will come here”
His second movie, “9 Naga,” essentially cemented his reputation as a promising actor. Asked what he found most memorable from the famed crime thriller, he mentions the bond he formed with his two co-stars, Lukman Sardi and Fauzi Baadila, and the high jinks the trio went through during training for the movie. “We had shooting practice and weapon drills, but the training involved a lot of mental conditioning,” he explains with a huge grin. “So the three of us were told to go to pool halls and start fights, go to bars and stir things up.”
A close second is the lessons he learned from director Rudi Soedjarwo. “It was as if he knows when you’re faking it and when it’s for real,” Alamsyah says of his days on set. “I could be doing the exact same thing, the exact same gestures, the same look, the same words, but he’ll know and say, ‘Don, you’re not feeling it, aren’t you?’”
Outfit by Louis Vuitton
One thing that Alamsyah does feel is the potential for global recognition, for him and for Indonesia’s movie industry. “Indonesia has the potential. It has a unique martial art, unique action styles and I’m sure, one day, Hollywood films will come here,” he says with confidence. “At the moment, I may have no plans for the future, but I’m constantly preparing myself as best as I can. I train, I continue to improve my martial art skills, so when opportunity comes knocking one day, I’ll be ready.”
That opportunity might just be around the corner. Just take a look at the some of his fellow “The Raid” alumni who have gone on to appear in movies like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond.” With his combat prowess and his incredible acting range—from badass antihero (both “The Raid” movies) to real-life, historical hero (in the “Merah Putih” trilogy) and beyond—fate may yet cast him in a role where no Indonesian has gone before.
To see more images from this shoot, grab a copy of DA MAN February/March 2016 here.