Headshot (read our review here) is an Indonesian martial arts action movie directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, better known as The Mo Brothers. Fans of The Raid (2011) and its 2014 sequel would love this knockout film which provides two hours of adrenaline-pumping action sequences.

In the movie, famed Indonesian actor Iko Uwais (the 33-year-old is also a stuntman, fight choreographer and martial artist!) faces off with Singapore’s very own Sunny Pang, who stumbled into acting and doing stunts for TV in 1992 after finishing his National Service (he appeared in various local short films and features like 2004’s Perty and 2005’s The Maid).     

We caught up with the two to find out what it was like punching each other in Headshot.

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What were the easiest and most difficult things working on Headshot? Why?

Iko (IU): I’m not so sure there is anything easy with the working process of Headshot. I mean, the preparation for this movie is very short. We only had three weeks to create choreo for the whole film. And another two weeks to train and make the video board. So it was pretty intense training. Even when shooting has started, we the choreography team has to work during the weekends to perfect the choreography. But it was all worth it.

Sunny (SP): The easiest is to get to the filming location, and most difficult part is learning Bahasa. I do not know that i have to learn Bahasa until director Timo Tjahjanto, and producer Mike Wiluan told that i have to speak Bahasa in the movie. So without hesitation, I took up the challenge and learn Bahasa within a short amount of time, but it all worked out.

Why do you think you were cast?

IU: The Mo Brothers go way back with me and I think they and I have a clear and full understanding of what our capabilities are in making action movie and choreography. So that probably had anything to do with why I am casted for this part. The chemistry was already there. It’s like working with your family. 

SP: I didn't expect anything to happen, to be honest. It was a mutual friend of mine and director Timo Tjahjanto’s, Andrew Suleiman, who introduced me to Timo because he was looking for an actor to play a role in his project, and that was how I was discovered.

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What was it like appearing opposite each other? How was the on-screen/ off-screen chemistry?

IU: Sunny is an awesome guy! We have known each other before Headshot was initiated and we had instant chemistry. The working relationship with has been very good as he is a very open and communicative person, we certainly had fun on and off set. He has his own style of fighting and somehow it complimented our style and brings something new to the table. It was great.

SP: I knew Iko back in 2013 before Headshot. It was Director Timo Tjahjanto’s previous project titled The Night Comes For Us. I was in the project and Iko was the fight choreographer for that movie. That's how i got to know him. But somehow that project was put on halt but we still keep in contact with each other. Not long after, Headshot happened in 2015, and we grow closer through training and rehearsing the fight scenes. Fighting Iko Uwais on screen was awesome. He has no ego and no attitude. He’s just a professional and humble guy, so the fight scene went very well and fun.

Sunny, how does your background in martial arts help/ hinder your involvement in this film?

SP: I was trained in traditional Chinese Martial Arts, Boxing, Shanshou and other Martial arts as well. I used to be a part-time actor/stuntman back in 1995 to 2000 in Ch8 Chinese Drama, so I know how to deal with fight scene and stunts. I also run Ronin Action Group - my own stunt team, so I am pretty sure what's going to happen next. I’ve also done all of these fight scenes before and they did not bother me. What bothered me the most is missing my family, especially my kids!

Iko, How does it feel not being in the same film as Yayan Ruhian after the success of The Raid and its sequel, considering how people often associate you two with these two blockbusters? And what was it like working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

IU: I don’t see it as a disadvantage that’s for sure. This is the first time I am not working with Gareth Evans also, so I think it’s normal if people will or still compare this movie with The Raid. It’s hard not to. But to tell you the truth, Uwais Team which is the team I’m working with right now for Headshot really did a good job as my partners in making the choreography, as they did when I did the Choreography for Merantau, and The Raid 1 and 2. With all due respect, since the beginning Yayan is never a part of our choreo team. And the ones working with me right now were.  

Working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a good experience. It’s nice and is an achievement for me to have a part (though small) in an important piece of pop culture history.

Sunny, you appear in Headshot and Siew Lup in this year’s SingaporeInternational Film Festival, and is also a member of the Silver Screen Awards jury panel. How do you feel about this, and what does being a Singaporean actor mean to you?

SP: Honestly, I didn't expect all of this. Everything happened at one go. I was surprised that SGIFF asked me to be part of the  Sliver Screen Awards Jury cause I don't think I have what it takes to be in that position. They told me that I have worked on many films and that I could share the experience of an actor with the other jury members. I eventually took it up as a learning journey for myself, to learn more about filming industry and get to learn from top directors like Herman Yau! I am looking forward to meeting and working with all of them. I do feel pressured but then again chances like these don't come very often, so why not pick it up and go with it? Besides, I will be learning something new.

As for being a Singaporean Actor on a big scale project and with big Stars like Iko Uwais, of course, there is a lot of pressure and I am representing my own country so I can't screw it up. Directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel had fought for me to be in this and insisted that I play the role of Lee, the antagonist in Headshot. And I told myself that I will not let him down and the flag I am carrying behind me, and my family, my wife, my kids and my team! So I go all out to make it happen.

Iko, what does being an Indonesian actor mean to you?

IU: When I first started, I did not have any ambition of becoming a famous movie star. It all happened by chance. I’m still the same kid as I was years ago. My goal is simple, I would continue to introduce the world to Indonesian form of martial arts which is Pencak Silat. It is our culture and I’m proud of it. 

What do you want viewers to take away after watching Headshot?

IU: I want the audience to be able to feel the choreography we made, that it’s a fusion between a lot of styles of martial arts. That we try to incorporate Pencak Silat, and other styles like Wushu or Kung-Fu into the choreography, that lead into a very entertaining and impressive film. 

SP: I hope they will enjoy the movie, spread the word around and know that there's a Singaporean actor is in it and he is fighting in the movie as well.

What are your upcoming plans?

IU: I’m currently in pre production for the next film called The Night Comes For Us. It’s a lot more work and I’m truly excited for this project. Stay tuned.

SP:  My stunt team and I have just completed another project in Singaporewith director Gavin Lim on an indie drama action film. I have also already agreed and signed on to star in The Night Comes For Us, and is also now in the middle of discussion with local director and investors on an action film which hopefully takes place next year along with my team from Ronin Action Group to do the action, so keeping my fingers crossed!

By John Li