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Iko Uwais, the reluctant action star

Posted 4:42pm on Wednesday, Apr. 09, 2014

Iko Uwais, star of the “Raid” movies, may be the biggest name to come out of Indonesia these days, but he doesn’t act like it. Ask the 31-year-old champ of the local martial art known as silat, who is now a film star, if he has to worry about being hounded by fans, and he demurs.

“No, I have a family now, a daughter and a wife,” he says in halting English. “That’s it.”

Before the success of The Raid, Uwais was well-known in some Indonesian circles, as he had won a first-place National Pencak Silat Championship. But such titles aren’t enough to pay the bills, so he was a driver for a telecom company when Raid director Gareth Evans approached him.

“I was excited but I didn’t have any experience acting in front of the camera,” he says. “He taught me a lot and he still teaches me everything.”

You can still find Uwais in silat competitions, though. “[I do it] for my reference and to get ideas,” he explains. “I’m the choreographer on this movie and the next so I need to practice my martial art.”

Evans recalls that Uwais was extremely wary at first about being in a movie.

“[I told him,] ‘I’m going to make films and I want you to be in them.’ He was looking at me like ‘B.S., this foreign guy is promising [bull],” Evans says. “Then I came back out [to Indonesia]. … We went into pre-production on [the first film] Merantau, and he didn’t trust me at all until the first day of the shoot and he finally sees lights and cameras everywhere. He says, ‘This is real?’ That was the start of it.”

— Cary Darling

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