Turns out that working in Hollywood and fighting in a steel cage are more similar than one would think.
Georges St-Pierre, the esteemed mixed martial arts fighter and former UFC star, is preparing a second act as a thespian. He notes that the two professions are somewhat alike.
“My sport is a full-contact sport, so there’s a lot of mental work,” he says. “Trash talking, mind games. Deep down inside, you’re afraid, but you have to act like the win is inevitable. It can be heartbreaking. You have to dig deep and show perseverance.”
Doesn’t that sound like a movie set to you?
The 39-year-old says many of his peers have an awareness that MMA is not forever, and eventually bodies will be diminished by all the punches and kicks. He’s been dabbling in films, upping his game by joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” he played the supervillain Batroc the Leaper, where he learned to love his new craft. He then appeared in 2016’s “Kickboxer: Vengeance” with childhood hero Jean-Claude Van Damme.
“I started taking it more seriously, and now I’m having acting class every week. Theater, camera acting, audition coaching and English lessons,” says the French-speaking Quebec native. “It’s a lot of work, and I put in the same amount of work and passion that I used for training. In martial arts, you start at white belt. That’s where I have to start with acting. I have to climb the mountain again.”
St-Pierre is returning to the MCU next month in Disney Plus’ Marvel series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” reprising Batroc. The casting is dead-on, as the hero of comic book lore is a martial arts master who speaks French.
“No one is more excited than I am to come back. I feel very blessed and happy. It was a great learning experience,” he says of the series. He watched co-stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan from the monitors between his takes, soaking up their acting chops.
Firmly in the action-star lane, St-Pierre is hoping to build a résumé that’s as robust as those of notable fighters-turned-actors Dave Bautista and Dwayne Johnson. (He even has a fan-friendly fighter nickname à la the Rock — he’s often called the Rush for his swift attacks.) Long represented by CAA Sports, he is also a client in the agency’s motion picture talent division.
While committed to his new training regimen, St-Pierre says he takes with him a lingering gift from the world of MMA: character building.
“When you see Conor McGregor, for example, he’s playing a role. Fighters play a role. That’s the persona that he gives himself: Love me, hate me, but don’t ignore me,” he says. “I’m more shy and true to the value of martial arts, and that’s how I carried myself in that business. We are all actors — when it’s time to perform.”