Posted at 4:27 PM on March 28, 2008
by Euan Kerr
It's been great fun over the last week talking to friends and colleagues about "Redbelt." When they first hear it's a martial arts flick their eyes roll, but then snap back when they hear it's written and directed by David Mamet. Then the eyes scrunch when they hear the movie stars Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Actually Ejiofor is one of these actors whose name may not spring to the lips, but the moment you see his picture he's instantly recognizable.
He should be because he works a lot, and just in recent months has appeared in "Blood Diamond," "She Hate Me," "American Gangster," and "Talk to me" (for which he got a Spirit Award.)
Fans will point to his amazing performance a few years back as the illegal immigrant doctor in London in Stephen Frears "Dirty Pretty Things."
He also appeared on the London stage last year doing "The Seagull" with Kristin Scott-Thomas, and "Othello" with Ewan MacGregor.
He said that the training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for "Redbelt" helped him prepare for "Othello."
"Because they are submission bouts in Jiu-jitsu," he said today when he came by the MPR studios. "There is no time limit, so if you go into the ring with an opponent, nobody knows how long the contest is going to last."
Ejiofor says he learned how to conserve energy, and then use it in short bursts, which was vital for the Othello run where they were doing 8 shows a week.
"You'd literally be cleaning off the blood and then you'd be going back to put the first act costume on. It was kind of insane," he laughed. "So the thing that I took through was it was all about endurance, and all of Jiu-Jitsu is about endurance, about being able to train your body to withstand."
Ejiofor says he has always been attracted to acting because of the way it allows him to enter characters worlds. "Redbelt" will let him enter several more. The film is being marketed to the arthouse crowd, and to the grindhouse crowd, a combination which will make visits to the cinema a real cultural cocktail.
(You can hear an interview with David Mamet about "Redbelt" here, but please be warned,as is the case in his plays, that there are a couple of profanities.)