WITH nearly 30 years of stunt design experience, Filipino American Robert Alonzo adds this week’s box office hit The Batman to his extensive international resume.
He has racked up over 200 credits in television, commercials, music videos and films and his extensive work in front of and behind the camera includes training Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Mark Walberg, Jeremy Renner and Jake Gyllenhaal to name a few. than those. some. With The Batman, we add Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz to this growing list.
Alonzo is a multi-hyphenation talent in Hollywood. He is a fight choreographer, stuntman, stunt coordinator, occasional actor and 2nd unit director in films such as Oblivion, Tomorrowland, Deadpool, Bright, Braven, Lethal Weapon and Ad Astra. He also worked closely with Disney’s Pixar film Incredibles 2, to formulate and capture the physics of live action cinema.
In our recent chat, the 51-year-old martial artist talked about his Filipino background and how he incorporates Filipino martial arts into his thought process when designing action-packed fight scenes for Hollywood blockbusters. .
Alonzo’s journey to becoming the supervised stunt coordinator and second unit director for The Batman began with a call from Dylan Clark, with whom he had previously worked on Oblivion with Tom Cruise, where he also had dual roles. manage the stunts and lead the unit.
Clark called him without telling him what the project was. Then they phoned director Matt Reeves and he started talking about the project and what he would like to see from this project. Alonzo also presented his ideas.
Looking back, he says the reunion had “a moment like chemistry when it comes to creative collaboration.” He told Reeves he gravitated to “designing action sequences that are so raw and gritty and real and based on real physics that we as humans can relate to”.
And that’s exactly what he did when he formed the cast led by Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz.
“My process stays pretty much the same from film to film, from project to project. But you know, what I do is dive deep into the study of the actual character, everything like what Rob and Zoe did,” Alonzo told the Asian Journal. “What I like to do is do concrete, raw, emotion-based action.”
Alonzo said he did a lot of reactive training with the characters “so they don’t get used to doing choreography.”
“I focused more on reactive training – with Rob Pattinson I practiced Filipino martial arts like Eskrima Kali and Arnis, Penjak Silat exercises, Muay Thai, also boxing and kickboxing and with Zoe , I focused a lot on Taekwondo and Hapkido,” he said.
This means that for the character of Bruce Wayne as The Batman, they trained Pattinson and used more hammer fists, elbows and knees, while drilling with sticks that would later allow him to not only improve his reaction time in closer engagement pockets, but also picking up anything and using it as a weapon.
He explained that he likes to train that way and that he doesn’t show them any choreography until two or three weeks before they shoot mainly because he doesn’t want them to get used to doing the same thing again and again and again in the same way. .
“You don’t want to say dialogue because then it’s anticipatory, and you don’t really feel the moment, so I focus on reactive training,” he shared.
Through reactive training they are able to learn to fight in a particular style so that they always look at the central mass or know how to stand and how to close or open their midline when needed, and know how to change range.
“It’s not necessarily about learning choreography but about understanding their own spatial awareness. And also, when they take an offensive or defensive position, or a neutral position, they can understand what the options are in the positive and negative effects of each position so that they actually use their mind to see what options exist,” added Alonzo.
Alonzo sounded like a proud mentor when he shared that he was Zoe’s taekwondo teacher when she was just seven years old.
“Yeah, it was such a great experience working with her on that. I mean, I’ve known her for so long and always had an affinity…for my students to be successful in whatever form and whatever. whatever their age,” he said. “She was really good and was so driven and focused, even at such a young age when I noticed a lot of kids were so easily distracted.”
Alonzo was born in Manila and moved to the United States with his family when he was 10 days old.
“The first five years of my life, I think we lived in San Francisco near Daly City, where I believe there’s a big Filipino community,” he recalls. “The family moved to Los Angeles five years later.”
His mother Julieta was from Tarlac while his father Dionisio was from Cagayan.
“Unfortunately, my brother and I never learned to speak Tagalog or Ilocano. One thing I wish I had learned growing up,” he lamented.
He started training in martial arts around the age of eight or nine.
He got into the Filipino martial arts at the age of 16, adding to his growing arsenal of skills.
He made it a point to be trained in different styles including Capoeira, Jujitsu, Judo, and Wing Chun because all he wanted to do when he was younger (before getting into showbusiness ) was to have his own school as a martial arts instructor.
“I love it. I train in different styles all the time because I think the more styles you have as a martial artist, it’s like a painter. If you only have three colors, you Obviously you can have the colors, you should have all the primaries. But if you have more colors on your palette, you can create much more definitive paintings and, you know, visual pieces,” he said.
Another thing he wished he could have done more of was visit his parents’ homeland, answering our question about when he was last in the Philippines.
“Oh man when I was 14, that’s a long time ago,” he exclaimed. “So hopefully I can go back at some point.”
He shared a story where he had the opportunity to potentially work there, for The Bourne Legacy with Jeremy Renner.
“He asked me, he’s like, ‘Dude, I’d like you to come and work on it with me,'” Alonzo recalled. “My schedule didn’t allow me to accept the offer because I was already locked up doing a movie called Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise.
Alonzo said he and Renner became good friends after training together for Mission Impossible. He said he took the same approach and that Renner loved the training he received when they traveled and whenever the opportunity arose.
“You know, I don’t do choreography. I love teaching or training actors to fight in their particular style because I draw from different styles depending on their character, and that’s how their character is physically shaped,” he said.
Reactive training paid off and using Renner as an example, he said other actors should continue this type of training even after their films.
“I mean, now he’s so well versed and can do a lot of his own stuff,” he said. “He constantly wanted to train and it shows because looking now, in any of his fight sequences, he’s the one doing it.”
Nowadays, Alonzo lives where he works and says he is everywhere.
“So I still live in Los Angeles but I also live and work in London. I’m currently in Italy at the moment. So I’m pretty much wherever the work is. That’s where I lay my head. But you know, I’ll always be an Angeleno. I’m a big Laker fan, a big Dodgers fan and a big Rams fan,” he said. “I’ll always have my roots there. But you know, i love to travel and i love london too.