Exclusive: Director Dimitri Logothetis Talks To Us About His Films Kickboxer And Jiu Jitsu

Dimitri Logothetis knows a thing or two about movies. Dimitri acted in a few movies as a child, including The Choirboys, New York, New York, and Victory at Entebbe. Dimitri has worn many hats in the entertainment industry, including producer, writer, and director.

We had the incredible opportunity to interview the busy director about his movies Kickboxer and his latest film Jiu Jitsu which stars, Nicolas Cage and is now streaming at #4 on Netflix.

AOTN: What is it like working with a major studio?

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: You know, the majority of my work is independent. 75% independent?  And I do about 25% of major studio stuff. Which is a longer road because you need to, you know, build your resume. You need to work at the studio, and the studio needs to agree. You get an actor, and maybe there not available. So you go through a lot of development. You know, you have to fly by the seat of your pants when you’re ready to go. And most of the time, what I tell everybody is, you know, there’s a time when there were a number of reviewers, and a number of fans understood what it was like to make an independent feature. And they were very supportive of that.

AOTN: You never really know what is going to be a major hit.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: What I explained to everybody is listening for the major studio, as much as all the filmmakers, and I’ve got many friends that can major studio stuff as, as I was in television and film, you can go back to our studio. Listen, we got to face this. This scene got to be reshot. We got to do this. We got to do that. We got to change this. It’ll just make it a better movie. And as much as they want to stay on budget, their goal is to sit there and have a hit film. I don’t want to say, By the way, we’re on budget. But, but we lost all the money on the movie. We got to have a hit film. So, with me, I can’t go back. I have to be correct. And I gotta be right 85% of the time. So when I’m shooting my movies story wise, I have to be correct action sequences. You’ve got to work. Because there’s nobody to go back to and say, By the way, I need another 2 to 4 million bucks. So hopefully, knock on wood. I happen to be correct.

AOTN: So, how did you get involved in the Kickboxer franchise?

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: Well, there was an available company called Kings Road Entertainment. Many years ago, and I got involved with a couple of friends, we acquired Kings Road entertainment. And they haven’t produced anything in a long time there was about there’s about they had they made about 37 titles. They being a fella by the name of Steve Friedman, who was an incredible filmmaker.  And,  he had passed away. And so he made a movie, many, many years ago, which won an Academy Award with Cybill Shepard. It was a black and white movie called The Last Picture Show.

AOTN: I need to see that.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: And he was a lawyer turned filmmaker. And then what he did is he went out and raised a bunch of money in the public market, on penny stocks. And the very first movie he made under Kings Road was called All of Me with Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin. It was a big hit comedy. And because it was his own company, he ended up making about 37 titles. Like I said, out of those titles, Kickboxer was the one that was the most lucrative and relicensed around the world over and over and over again.  It’s what we call an evergreen meaning. It’s the kind of movie that you know. They’ll relicense in television around the world.  And, of course, it helps that it’s got its own cult fanbase.

AOTN: I remember seeing the original A long time ago.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: And so I was a martial artist. In my 20s, I got two black belts—one in Kempo and one in Tank Seudo. I was also a big fan of martial arts films. And certainly a fan of Kickboxer. So, I thought, if I could make this movie and do a remake, it would be something that would be cool. And something I’d want to watch.  So the first thing I did is I set up a remake of All of Me. And then, I immediately started to work with a major studio. By the way,  the studio was Steven Spielberg’s company at DreamWorks. And then, I turned around and began to focus on a remake of Kickboxer. And so I went back and forth, and then finally we ended up with a wonderful cast. I brought back Jean- Claude Van Damme. I wrote it myself with my writing partner and modernized it. I brought Dave Bautista on board.

AOTN: I know that name. I’m a huge wrestling fan.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS:  And then I was able to get Gina Corano, and we had an excellent cast. And the main thing was I got Alain Moussi, who’s an exceptional martial artist. He’s sixth-degree jujitsu, Master. And a wonderful stunt guy. And the kind of athleticism of George St. Pierre, we got, there’s the kind of athleticism that Alain can do. It is beyond, you know. And so I always felt that you could not do a martial arts film. Without a true martial artist in the lead, I think.

AOTN: Yeah, that’s coming across the screen.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: And if you notice, I pull the camera back. I don’t screw around with editing. I don’t. I let the I let you see that. My martial artists are doing everything. And I think that really helps with the audience. And it allows them to buy into the credibility of the art form. You know, if you see some of the most amazing martial artists and martial arts films throughout the decades, you’ll see that all of them had Jackie Chan, or Donnie Yen, or Jean- Claude Van Damme. You know, they always had somebody who could do everything without being doubled. And so that was the key. So we did very well with the first Kickboxer then, which I produced and wrote, and then we did so well that the world wanted us to make another one. So then I made Kickboxer: Retaliation. And with that, I ended up getting these incredibly good critics reviews, you know. I always warn everybody that makes the movie with me. I say, Listen, you know, Western critics don’t buy into martial arts. In the east, it’s, it’s about the best genre of film you can make. It’s their equivalent of making the Godfather because they view martial arts films as their art form.

AOTN: It’s so weird how in different areas of the world. There are different fan bases for different things.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: And well, you know, look in the Asian culture, respect, honor, loyalty. There, there’s a whole set of other qualities that come integrity that comes into a character when it comes to martial art. smell. And so, and that’s ingrained in the martial art itself, you know, humbleness, you know, having to take on somebody on that you can’t possibly be doing it and not being afraid to do it. Believe in yourself pretty much. And so all those things are something that’s ingrained in the Asian culture, you know. And so, but in the case when it came to Kickboxer: Retaliation, we ended up getting like a 92% score, I think, by the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, that’s huge. And then we are our fanbase. It is growing even more and more. And so we got a massive following because of it. And because of some of the action sequences that we pulled off, I was very pleased with that. And I’m preparing Kickboxer: Armageddon, which will, sometime late next year. So that’ll be the third in the Kickboxer series. So I was very, very pleased. And I’ve got many fans who constantly write me and tell me that they think that’s, it’s, comparatively speaking, they feel that we have elevated the Kickboxer franchise into a completely different level. And so that that’s, that’s wonderful.

AOTN: That is, That sounds amazing. I’m happy for you guys. What, what was it like working with Nicolas Cage on Jiu Jitsu?

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: Well, he’s a terrific actor, and he’s terrific to work with, and he’s a collaborator. He takes acting very seriously. When he got off the plane, he immediately came to me after this, you know, 18-hour flight and wanted to sit down with me right away and get into the character. And he said to me, what is it exactly that I can do to help you tell your story?  And, and then, after spending several hours together, he immediately wanted to go and work with the stunt guys. He had done a lot of MMA training. And so he didn’t, you know, he didn’t go to bed to take a nap. He immediately went right to work.  And, again, on set as a collaborator, he was just incredible. We’re looking to do something together again, very soon.

AOTN: He’s one of the busiest guys I’ve ever seen. Like, when I look at his IMDb, he’s always doing something.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: He’s very prolific. He’s very similar to a lot of European actors, you know?

AOTN: Yeah.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: A lot of the British and the European actors, by the time they’re done with their careers, will have done about 100, 120, to 130 movies. Whereas on this side of the world, we tend to do, you know, they’ll, they’ll do about 30 or 40. And so he’s very prolific. And, you know, he and I have had a lot of conversation about it, and he has told me, “I do better when I’m working.” He says,” I just, it helps me to hone my craft.” How can you get better at anything without doing it? So, he was just terrific to work with.

AOTN:  What got you interested in directing?

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS: Well, I did a movie called New York, New York, with Robert De Niro and Liza Minnelli. And Martin Scorsese was directing the film. That’s it was a huge musical, the first 10 minutes, 10 minutes of the film. And then he saw me writing something for writing class at the time. And he grabbed it and read it. And then he said to me, said, you know, you’re a pretty good writer. He said, You should, he should go to film school. And I said, What’s film school because it was a new thing. And he said, films, he goes, you know, you learn how to be a filmmaker. Like, like you. He wrote a letter for me, and I sent it to many film schools, and I was accepted, had a number of film schools because of my grades. And also I was, I was accepted at Yale as an actor. I decided to go to film school. I made a short film on film school that won a bunch of awards around the world, and that pretty much set the pace for becoming a filmmaker.

AOTN: That’s amazing.

DIMITRI LOGOTHETIS:  I wanted to say this if I can. We did something unique. Jiu Jitsu was released on Netflix, came out of the top 10. That’s a big deal. And, you know, Netflix has 200 million subscribers. So we and then by the time by the end of the week we were number four.  So Jiu Jitsu crossed over. You just can’t do this with a martial arts fan base. You need everybody out of the 200 million to put you at number four, certainly in the top 10. And so that was a fantastic Feat. Secondly, the Kickboxer franchises. Both the new Kickboxers were in the top 15 most-watched films on Netflix over the last four or five years, so, somehow, I’ve been hitting a nerve with the audience. So you only hope that when you are enjoying something, as you’re making it, your hope that the rest of the world enjoys it as much as you do. So I’m very grateful that the movies are working on, especially independent films, and it’s definitely not only are they working, but they’re surpassing, in many cases, some of the major motion pictures that have cost ten times as much as ours. That’s what I wanted to say.

Want to thank Dimitri so much for the interview, and look forward to seeing what the future holds for this talented filmmaker.

Check out the trailer for Jiu Jitsu below:

 

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