Chad Stahelski counts 25 years of stunts to his name, a quarter-century of movie-making experience that prepared him to make his directorial feature debut in the original John Wick, which kickstarted the action-packed franchise that continues to be a worldwide hit. His counterpart David Leitch, an uncredited co-director on that Wick flick, banked nearly 20 years of stunt experience before helming such action-focused films as Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Sam Hargrave, a 15-year veteran of the stunt world who just made his feature directorial debut with Netflix’s Extraction earlier this very year.
See the pattern? Hollywood has long had a history of stuntmen-turned-directors, but it’s only recently that these below-the-line experts who have contributed to billion-dollar movie franchises are getting a chance to head up big-budget pictures of their own. Stunt veteran and multi-hyphenate Chris Jai Alex aims to be the next in line. To do it, he’s writing, producing, directing, and starring in his passion project Get the Girl to take control of his destiny into his own hands. But he’d be happy to get some help along the way.
It’s been a pleasure to speak with Chris Jai Alex over the years. The industry veteran boasts roles in everything from animation, to live-action stunt work and guest appearances on the big and small screens, motion-capture for top-tier video games and leading roles in major franchise titles, and years of behind-the-scenes filmmaking work. Now, he’s pushing pause on all those other distractions in order to bring his indie action-thriller Get the Girl into the world.
For more, be sure to visit the film’s IndieGoGo page to help fund it and make it all it can be; below, you can read my chat with Chris Jai Alex about his passion project and more:
— chris jai alex (@chrisjaialex) September 14, 2020
So before I jump into your indie movie project Get the Girl, I always like to check in with folks and just see, how are you doing during 2020? A year that just, for most people, just can’t end too soon. So how’s it going on your end?
Chris Jai Alex: Actually it’s been a really productive year, believe it or not. I was able to get a lot of writing done. We did two scripts and I have been able to face my biggest nemesis of all, which is the cookie. I love cookies and I love eating sweets. So I’ve really had a chance to focus on kicking the bad habits. And I think I’m over the hill, so that’s great. If anything, we’ve got that.
I was going to say, it sounds like you found some silver lining in what’s been a pretty rough year for a lot of folks out there and it’s not quite over yet. We got some more to go.
Chris Jai Alex: No, it’s not quite over yet. Here. We’ll see what happens in November.
Chris Jai Alex: But I really love this thing, I forget who said it, but it was like, “Tough times do not last forever, but tough people do,” or something along the lines of that. But I heard that somewhere and it really resonates with me. So I’m like everything’s peaks and valleys, everything ebbs and flows, but if you can be comfortable in the chaos or just knowing how to drive through it and if… I feel you really figure out who you are when adversity comes your way. How do you deal with adversity, it really lets you know who you are. So I never shy away from that stuff. So I always try to focus on the good thing, acknowledge there is bad. I’m not delusional. It’s been rough, it’s fine, it’s analogy. And let’s focus on what we can do to add that silver lining.
Absolutely. That’s great. A great way to frame that up too, as a nice way to test and maybe realign some priorities and just push forward. Definitely.
Chris Jai Alex: Absolutely.
Forgive the double post.. doesn’t Instagram do this automatically?… well just Incase give us money internet 😜💰 pic.twitter.com/0tcJHuYLF4
— chris jai alex (@chrisjaialex) September 9, 2020
Now rather than look back over 2020 necessarily, I’m looking back over your career. You’ve got a ton of different variety from animation, from TV series to movies, to video games.
Chris Jai Alex: Stunts.
Right, stunts. A ton of stuff in there. It feels like you’ve almost done everything. Do you have a favorite medium to work in? Is there one that you prefer over the other?
Chris Jai Alex: I really enjoy what I’m doing. I just want to do it at a… I guess I want to do it at a higher level. For the most of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on really big movies, but just the parts were small. So super thankful to be involved with some of the stuff that’s just now that I’ve had the appetizer, it’s time for the main course and that’s what I’m really focused on. So as far as me picking the medium, I absolutely love everything that I’m doing, but to progress and do it at a higher level and to be trusted with a little bit more responsibility and even making your own way is something that’s important to me.
Definitely. And you’re talking about making your own way. Are you more comfortable, maybe, in front of the camera or behind the camera doing some more of the creative buildup work? Do you have a preference of one of the other or would you like to do both?
Chris Jai Alex: Well, here’s the thing I feel like in a perfect world, I would love to do something that would kind of like a Jon Favreau does. Not only does he write, not only is he front of the camera, he’s behind the camera. The man is a Swiss army knife. And same thing with Jordan Peele. Those are the kind of people that I really, really admire. And I’ve always been of the mindset of if you know as much about the process as you possibly can on all sides. It’s just going to make things easier for you.
I feel like when you’re directing the show or you’re doing something, producing that show, it’s really up to you to understand it. Not all of the minutia of everything, but you got to have a broad understanding of the thing from start to finish. So that way when you’re communicating or you’re hiring, you have a good handle that you are hiring well and that you are delegating well. And then just having the understanding that certain things need prep. If you want to keep a stunt person safe, you can’t just like, “Let’s go, let’s go. This hurry.” There’s certain things and precautions and lead times that different department needs in the morning. You understand that? I think the better shoot you’re going to have then more access to higher quality people you’re going to attract.
Definitely. Well, you’ve definitely got those building blocks and stepping stones for all angles of the process from all the different roles that you’ve taken over your career. What are you currently working on? What are you most looking forward to next? And what are you maybe in the process of working on now?
Chris Jai Alex: Pretty much my whole life has been this movie called Get the Girl. Now Get the Girl is, it’s pretty much about this legendary gun for hire, who is now retired, living with his it’s complicated roommate, Renee. And what happens is this girl happens upon them and they nurse her back to health. While nursing her back to health, some weird guys attack the house and Sebastian being who he is, Sebastian or “Bash”, being who he is, he kills those guys out of self defense. And it turns out that this girl escaped being trafficked from this criminal organization.
So she went to the one place where she knew this guy was capable of pretty much taking down a criminal organization. So her going there, she pretty much traps them into… look, these guys are definitely going to retaliate now that you’ve taken their guys out. So either we all go and we take them down or they come here and then essentially he has to eradicate them. He has to eradicate that syndicate in order to go back to his quiet life with his partner. And that’s all, that’s the movie.
That’s the tease right there. So how did this idea come about and how you work through the story beats?
Chris Jai Alex: So what happens is pretty much, I have a really good friend of mine, big action director. And I had wrote a script that he really liked and he wants that to be his first thing he directed. So I’m like, “Oh, that’s awesome.” But me knowing that he works in the studio system because he’s a really big guy, and just knowing where the trends are going with much more action people getting more films to direct because it turns out they’re fantastic at it. I don’t feel shocked that me being a quote, unquote, non recognizable talent, I’m on a uphill battle that I would actually be able to act in it. So I wrote this much smaller movie that I wanted to shoot while he was away shooting his movie that he’s working on now. And I thought it would be a much better conversation to say, “Hey, we just showed this really cool contained action film. We shot it for this. We sold it for this.” And that’s a much better conversation as opposed to saying, “Please read my script.”
Exactly. Always good to have a proof of concept or something you actually produce there to show off.
Chris Jai Alex: But then again, shooting and completing and selling a movie and making someone money, is a different conversation then saying, “Hey, I wrote this thing, could you read it?” It’s a different conversation. It puts you in a different category of people. So I’ll say, well, during the climates of things, what’s interesting to me? What’s an interesting story? What’d be fun? Well this would be fun. And then what’s important to me? All right.
Human trafficking is a really big thing. If we shine some light onto that and we can bring awareness to that, but at the same time, make this really contained action film that I can write it essentially along the lines of what’s capable in this climate and what I have. And then just make the story really interesting, and make the characters and the relationships really interesting. That I think we got something and that’s essentially what we did. So I actually wrote two scripts. I wrote Follow Me, which was one thing that I thought was, that’s cool, but it’s more comedy. It’s a tougher sell. Then I wrote Get the Girl, and through writing it I was like, I really like this story, I really like these characters. And we decided to go on that. So that’s how that came about.
And like you said it goes back to story.
Chris Jai Alex: It goes back to story and relationships. This is interesting. I like these characters. I like this world and it’s a good cause. You’re drawing your attention to something that’s a human issue. Okay. I like this and that’s what we did. So we just bootstrapped it. I was like, “Okay, what do I have? I’ve got X amount of dollars.” I was like, all that Wingstop money that I had, I actually announced for Wingstop for a while. But I was like, all right, Wingstop money, cool. I’m going to go for it. This is the time where it’s like, do you want to put your money where your mouth is? If you try to convince a studio head that, “Hey, your work got shot.” It’s a very… How can you say that and then you have a means of creating something and you haven’t done it.
So you know what, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I believe in me. I’ve got some money, I’ve got some friends that want to do some stuff, let’s go. And that’s what we did. So I wrote it and now we have this crowd funded campaign. I think there’s seven days on it. So if you go to Get the Girl at indiegogo, please support that because every penny helps. We’re making this film, whether we raise the funds or not, but everything helps. But that’s how that came about.
Absolutely. Much respect to you for bootstrapping it and doing the old fashion, literally indie film, but this is truly indie. And as someone who’s also trying to do indie production in animation and things like that too, I definitely appreciate and respect the hustle and wish you the best of luck with the production. Absolutely.
Chris Jai Alex: I appreciate you.
And anything else that’s coming up in the near future for you, you want to tease or put on the radar for your fans out there?
Chris Jai Alex: I am actually refusing to take work and I’m refusing to do anything until I finish Get the Girl. Even my agent was like… I was like, I am not doing any of this. This is my whole entire world right now because it’s a lot. We’re making the biggest movie we can. I was like, I need to make sure that my focus is solely on this because a lot of people are coming to help me. And I owe them a good movie. Anything less than a hundred percent of my attention is disrespectful because people are volunteering and I’m pulling a lot of favors and that’s what you do. You come to LA, you get in anything you can, you do favors. And then you get to a point, it’s like, okay. And then your friends will come out and they’ll do a favor. You get one call, everyone gets one.
You get one.
Chris Jai Alex: Everyone gets one. So this is my one. And I owe it to everyone involved in making the best possible film that I can. That is all I’m doing. And if you guys love my work so far, please support that because that is all my energy. And when that goes, right, I’ll say that’s going to be my Iron Man. Meaning, Iron Man is the first movie that set up the MCU in the way that we know it today. So it’s not Iron Man [but it is] Get the Girl.
Exactly. Get the Girl. I appreciate the commitment to it and I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
Chris Jai Alex: I appreciate you brother.