Mo Anouti is an actor, writer, and producer. Since moving to Los Angeles in 2004, Mo has appeared in several commercials, films, and TV shows. He can be found in supporting parts in TV’s The Young & The Restless, Chuck, The Unit and The Cape. In 2011, he started Arwayne Productions, a company specializing in producing independent film with Hero Of The Day, being its first full-feature film.
Below he discusses recent acclaimed films Birdman, Foxcatcher and Fight Club, all known for their stories of fame, redemption and violence.
The Oscar nominated BIRDMAN movie with Michael Keaton features an actor trying to redeem himself through one last performance. HERO OF THE DAY is about a former pro football player also seeking redemption. Why did you choose this as the theme for HERO OF THE DAY and how would you explain your own character’s search for redemption? And why do movies about redemption offer so much opportunity for an actor?
I was very much looking forward to seeing ‘Birdman’. It was not because of the acclaim it received nor because of the story or theme of the film as I honestly had no idea what it was about. What drew me to it was the involvement of two of my favorite artists, actor Michael Keaton and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I was deeply moved by the film in its study of Riggan Thomson’s (Keaton) path to redemption and his tenaciousness in pursuit of his goal.
I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between Keaton’s character and ‘Mark Chambers’, the character I portrayed in ‘Hero of the Day’. A film I also co-wrote and produced. Despite Riggan being an actor and Chambers being a professional football player, their respective attempts at redemption were very similar in their blind determination and fatalistic resolve. It is that fear of finality that drove me to conceive the idea for ‘Hero of the Day’. We are well familiar with movies about people rising from total obscurity to ultimate fame and success against all odds. None more inspirational than the original ‘Rocky’. Seldom though do we hear about what happens to these people after retirement. It is that ground that I wanted to expose as well as explore, because often enough heroes of yesterday fade into a life of hardship sometimes ending in tragedy. Being a former professional athlete (Bodybuilding) gave me a head start in my preparation to play the character. I drew upon several people I know in the sports world in developing and eventually becoming the character.
The role of ‘Mark Chambers’, a once bitter man who acknowledges his shortcomings and makes a last desperate attempt at redeeming himself, was very appealing from an actor’s perspective. Characters seeking redemption give an actor the opportunity to really explore the motivation and reasoning of the person they are playing.
Alejandro Inarritu’s direction of ‘Birdman’ is unique in the way the film plays as one single continuous shot. Because of its found-footage theme, ‘Hero of the Day’ also experimented with long continuous shots. Without the help of editorial cuts, that style of filmmaking makes it more challenging for the actor and director. The result, however, can really bring forth the realism of the story being told. Ironically, it was another Alejandro Inarritu film, ‘Biutiful’ with Javier Bardem that served as one of the inspirations for the story and main character of ‘Hero of the Day’.
Another Oscar favorite is the wrestling movie with Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carrel, FOXCATCHER which is based on the true story of Olympic Wrestling champion Mark Schultz and the paranoid-schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont, who murdered Schultz’s brother, Olympic champion Dave Schultz in 1996. As a former Olympic bodybuilder (For Lebanon) and an Iron Man competitor, how do you think they handled the physicality of wrestling and the pressures of being a professional athlete? Are there similarities between the Olympic weightlifting training program and the bodybuilding training program?
‘Foxcatcher’ with Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo is a mesmerizing film. What grabbed me about it was its extreme detail in depicting Olympic wrestlers and the sport of wrestling itself. The movie presents quite accurately what wrestlers go through in pursuit of their goal. The physical and emotional sacrifices they make to achieve success with the result never being guaranteed. It was something I could closely identify with being a former Olympic athlete and winning a gold medal for Lebanon (Bodybuilding) at the 2002 Asian Games. Although Wrestling and Bodybuilding are two different sports, they share a lot of similarities. Both require a lot of physicality as well as mental fortitude. In fact, one scene where Mark Schultz (Tatum) is trying to make weight reminded me of a similar experience I went through when I was required to loose 23 pounds in 2 days to qualify for my weight category.
Another popular film, FIGHT CLUB (2000) which starred Brad Pitt and Edward Norton and was based on the Chuck Palahniuknovel, helped glamorize the primal male instinct to battle mano-a-mano. Movies similar to FIGHT CLUB, mixed martial arts moviesor wrestling documentaries and DVDs are fairly popular with a certain cross section of people. What are some of your favorite film fight scenes and did they inspire your fight sequence in the underground club in HERO OF THE DAY? As a former athlete yourself how did you approach the climactic fight scene? Did you have to learn how to fake a punch or take a hit?
Although ‘Fight Club’ was not really about fighting, its groundbreaking dark underground fight scenes was something I drew upon heavily for the fight scene in ‘Hero Of The Day’. I remember years ago watching the first UFC and thinking to myself “Real fighting looks a little different from the fights we see in movies”. Fight Club, I feel, was one of the first films to depict one on one fighting in a realistic way. Other movie fights that served as inspiration was the Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris legendary battle in ‘Way of The Dragon’. Also the Roddy Piper and Keith David rumble in the 80s cult classic ‘They Live’. All that was before MMA and the UFC became the global phenomenon it is today.