Movies & TV / Columns

411 Talks w/Alexander Nevsky His New Action Film Showdown in Manila

January 31, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Showdown in Manila

The 411 Interview: Alexander Nevsky

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Alexander Nevsky is an international action superstar from Russia who has been in the movie business since the year 2000. A former professional bodybuilder, multi-time Mr. Universe winner, and current member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Nevsky has starred in movies like Moscow Heat, Treasure Raiders, and Magic Man and directed and starred in Black Rose (check out my review of that movie here). Nevsky’s latest effort is Showdown in Manila, an action ensemble distributed by ITN Distribution that recently had a limited theatrical run and is currently available on Video On Demand (check out my review here). Nevsky co-stars in Showdown in Manila with fellow action superstars Casper Van Dien, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Olivier Gruner, Cynthia Rothrock, Mark Dacascos (Dacascos also directed), and the incomparable Mathias Hues. In this interview Nevsky talks with this writer about Showdown in Manila’s production, cast, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you get involved with Showdown in Manila?

Alexander Nevsky: I’ve known the great Mark Dacascos for many years, he’s a personal friend. He introduced me to writer Craig Hamann in 2014 and all together we created a story for Showdown in Manila. Craig’s script was ready by 2015 and Mark decided to direct it. I just made my directorial debut with Black Rose at the time and was happy to support Mark and to get involved as a Showdown in Manila producer and co-star.

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BK: How did you prepare to play your Showdown in Manila character Nick Peyton? Is he the most physical character you’ve played so far in your movie career?

AN: I’ve played cops before but Nick is ex-special forces also. First, I gained about 30 pounds of muscle to get bigger for the part. After that I tried to learn everything I could about my fights in the movie from the legendary Al Dacascos (Mark’s father who was a fight choreographer). Al didn’t want me to try some fancy martial arts moves because we didn’t have much time to rehearse it and I’m not a martial artist. But I was an amateur boxer for a long time when I was a kid before I started bodybuilding so we created some short and brutal fights for my character anyway. And yes, you’re probably right, Nick is the most physical character I’ve played.

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BK: What was it like working with Casper Van Dien?

AN: I’m a big fan of Casper. He’s an action icon but he’s a great actor also. It was very interesting to work with him. Casper was very supportive and we improvised a lot. Thanks to him we have many funny moments in Showdown in Manila. It was also Mark Dacascos who introduced us to each other before the shooting and now we’re very good friends in real life.

BK: Where was Showdown in Manila filmed? Did you film in an actual jungle?

AN: It was Mark’s idea from the beginning to shoot in the Philippines. He did a couple of movies there before. We shot all around Manila and in the real jungle. We also had those scenes on the river and it was the same place which Francis Ford Coppola used for shooting Apocalypse Now many years ago! I should thank our Philippine co-producer Chris Santiago and his crew, they did a great job! Showdown in Manila director of photography Rudy Harbon was also at the top of his game. He worked with me on Treasure Raiders and Black Rose before. He shot city and the jungle beautifully, in my opinion.

BK: What was the hardest scene for you in Showdown in Manila? The easiest?

AN: Hardest scene was the running through the huge fish market in the center of Manila. My character is trying to catch a bad guy (played by the great Matthias Hues) in this scene. The problem was that I got food poisoning the day before and couldn’t even walk. I still did the scene but it was really painful and the smell at this fish market was really terrible, too! The easiest scenes were with Casper (we just enjoyed it) and with beautiful Russian actress Maria Bravikova. She played my character’s love interest in the movie and she’s my girlfriend in real life, so we had a lot of fun!

BK: How long did it take to make Showdown in Manila? Why did it take two years for Showdown in Manila to get a U.S. release?

AN: We started pre-production and made Showdown in Manila in 2015 (we spent about a month on the actual shooting). Film was finished and released wide theatrically in Russia and CIS in 2016. We made most of the international sales in 2017 and in January 2018 Showdown in Manila was released in limited theaters, on VOD and all the digital platforms in the US and Canada. The DVD will be out in March and premiere on Netflix will follow in April. But independent filmmaking is getting tougher and it’s very hard to get a nice distribution deal now. But I like producing and know what I’m doing well so my films are always getting an international release. It just takes time.

BK: How difficult is it to work as both an actor and a producer on something like Showdown in Manila? How do you separate the two jobs?

AN: As you know, on my previous film Black Rose I was a co-writer, producer, actor and the director! So, to be just an actor and producer on Showdown in Manila was a walk in the park compared to that 🙂 But, to talk seriously, I had never been in Asia before and never had so much action in the film so it was challenging. My great co-stars helped me to separate those two jobs: Casper rehearsed with me a lot, Olivier Gruner and Don “The Dragon” Wilson advised me on fight scenes and director Mark Dacascos was creative and flexible always. Saying “flexible” I mean his ability to use any location we got and overcome all the difficulties of having limited budget and time.

BK: Did you ever consider directing Showdown in Manila?

AN: No, I offered it to Mark right away. He told me about his dream to start directing movies years ago (I think in 2011) and I decided that Showdown in Manila was the perfect opportunity for him to finally make his directorial debut. He did a great job and I’m really proud of him. We just had a Los Angeles premiere in Beverly Hills last week and about 500 people gave him a standing ovation after the screening!

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BK: What was Mark Dacascos like as a director?

AN: Mark is such a good actor himself and he likes and understands other actors. He wasn’t pushy as a director at all. He explained his ideas for each character very clearly and it was easy to follow his directions. He’s also a great martial artist on and off screen himself and he created great action scenes in Showdown in Manila. Also, his character had a cool fight with several opponents in the movie so Mark’s fans will not be disappointed.

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BK: What was it like working with so many bonafide action stars? Was it difficult to get them all to participate or were they eager to get involved?

AN: It was a dream come true for me to work with all these legends! Their movies were never released in theaters in Russia in the 80s and 90s but we watched them all on pirated video anyway 😉 It was an honor that Casper Van Dien, Tia Carrere, Matthias Hues, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner, Robert Madrid, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Don “The Dragon” Wilson all liked the project. I think we all wanted to support Mark’s directorial debut!

BK: Any upcoming projects?

AN: My next film Maximum Impact is finished and will be released internationally and in North America later this year. It was directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die) and written by Ross LaManna (Rush Hour). I produced it and co-starred with William Baldwin, Danny Trejo, Kelly Hu, Tom Arnold and – again – my friends Mark Dacascos and Matthias Hues. Maximum Impact is an action film but with a lot of comedy in it and it’s my biggest project to date.

BK: Will there be a Showdown in Manila 2, and if so will it actually take place in Manila? The ending of the movie seems to suggest a showdown in some other town.

AN: We all want to make a sequel. I’m not sure when and where it will happen, though. I’m
in pre-production on an action project called Savage Attack right now and have to make this one first. But another Showdown movie is a real possibility. I’ll keep you posted.

BK: How long have you been a cigar guy?

AN: I’m a natural bodybuilder and a strong proponent of a healthy lifestyle. But I do have one bad habit: I can smoke a cigar or two a week (no more than that). I’ve been a member of the Grand Havana Room private cigar club in Beverly Hills since 2007. My idols Ralf Moeller and Arnold Schwarzenegger are cigar smokers as well and let me tell you that it’s just great to be in their company in the Grand Havana Room once in a while!

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A very special thanks to Alexander Nevsky for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for helping set it up.

You can check out Alexander Nevsky on Twitter here and on Instagram here

You can check out the Showdown in Manila website here

All images courtesy of Alexander Nevsky