Joe Taslim: 6 Things To Know About The Mortal Kombat Actor

Joe Taslim - Warrior

Adopting the mask to play the menacing Sub-Zero, Joe Taslim advances his profile with the high-profile release of Mortal Kombat, director Simon McQuoid's R-rated cinematic reboot of the classic Midway Games franchise. While the martial arts movie received mixed reviews from critics, the Mortal Kombat cast has been praised, most notably for their fighting skills, and Taslim's breakout performance has certainly been highlighted.

Over the past decade, Joe Taslim impressed audiences with his performances in The Raid: Redemption, The Night Comes For Us, and his ongoing role in Cinemax's Warrior. As he continues to propel his career, Taslim has gained some great insight, particularly when it comes to fine-tuning his craft and advancing his skills. If you're a fan of the hard-working martial artist, here's what you should know about the Mortal Kombat star!

Joe Taslim - Hit & Run

Prior to Acting, Joe Taslim Was A Judo Athlete Who Modeled On The Side

Before Joe Taslim found his way to the big screen, the martial artist was a member of the Indonesian national Judo team. This tenure lasted from 1997 to 2009 — a sizable chunk of time! While this membership advanced the artist's talents as a martial artist, it wasn't Taslim's only source of income. The future actor was also in front of the camera as a model — a side job that found him in magazines, TV commercials, and various films prior to his acting days. It wasn't until Taslim signed on to star in Gareth Evans' The Raid: Redemption that the skilled performer's career path really blossomed, though.

Joe Taslim - The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption Fueled Joe Taslim’s Desire To Pursue Acting

As noted above, Joe Taslim began his acting career in earnest when he was cast in the role of Jaka in Gareth Evans' acclaimed martial arts drama, The Raid: Redemption. The future actor won over the filmmakers through his impressive fighting mixed with his versatile line delivery, and the new actor impressed in this breakout performance. From there, the developing star continued to find his style as a performer, resulting in an impressive series of projects throughout this past decade:

Here's what Taslim said in an interview with That Shelf:

When I began learning martial arts, I had never thought of being an actor. It was just a passion. And it wasn’t just something for me to be tough with or ‘kick somebody’s ass’; not like that. My dad was also my coach, and he told me that if you want to be an athlete just, 'do something for your country.'...Years go by, I begin watching these films and I really like them...I watched our local hero here, Iko [Ukwais] in Merantau...I joined The Raid and I started brushing up on Silat with Iko and his partner. I was not a Silat guy, I was a Judo player. Even with this choreography, made by Silat player, I still had the chance to show off my capability as a Judo player. We planned together, discussed, planted things into the choreography, things that I could show myself.

Joe Taslim - Star Trek: Beyond

Joe Taslim Developed A Strong, Family-Like Working Relationship With Justin Lin

The best collaborators can feel like family. They allow the actors to excel at their craft while also complimenting the creative vision of the filmmakers. When it comes to Joe Taslim and director Justin Lin's creative bond, they've reconnected on a number of projects in the past few years, including Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek: Beyond, and Cinemax's Warrior, where Lin serves as an executive producer. They're close to one another, and Taslim equates their bond to family. Hopefully, they'll continue to collaborate on future projects.

Joe Taslim - Warrior

He Believes That There Should Be A Great Emphasis On Balancing Great Acting With Great Action Choreography

Great action choreography is a splendor to behold. At its best, it's like watching a beautiful ballet ... except that two people are beating the crap out of each other. While a great on-screen fight can bring its fair share of excitement, it's only half the ingredients to success, according to Joe Taslim.

In an interview with Asian Movie Pulse, Taslim discussed why he believes that great acting and character development should complement great action. He claims that the root of one's emotional investment comes from what one knows about the characters and how much that person cares about their own personal stakes in the fight. Otherwise, whatever emotional investment you'll get out of a fight is superficial, fleeting even.

Here's what Taslim said:

Many action films focus on the choreography of the fight, but not the acting. The audience is still entertained by the fight, but it has no sense of what the characters are going through when they suffer a blow to their legs and start to stumble or limp. If you do not show that as an actor the fight is not believable to me. To know the different stages and important moments in a fight has been important to me ever since my first role in The Raid. When you see how a character suffers and what pain he or she is in the audience is more invested in the fight and the story as a whole.

Joe Taslim - Mortal Kombat

Joe Taslim Believes That Pain Is An Important Part Of Acting For Martial Artists

Martial artists are among the most dedicated performers in the world, full stop. Every actor's body is their instrument, but these action-intensive professionals throw themselves wholly and completely into the art, putting themselves through rigorous physical turmoil for our entertainment. Subsequently, pain is a key factor of martial artist's work, according to Joe Taslim.

In an interview with Daily Dread, Taslim claimed that when it comes to martial artists, "pain itself is part of the acting." He believes that trading these scenes to stuntmen is a "cheat." In that sense, Taslim equates it to method acting, in that the actor needs to commit to the stunts to experience what the character's feeling and be able to show that in their performance. "You owe it to yourself and the fans to just go for it," as Taslim notes:

Because there are some parts, some things in a movie, where it just ends up being the journey of the character as a human being, but then they're replaced by another guy. Which is, I think for me, a cheat. To become this character, you need to be involved on both sides ... Suffering is part of the acting. Pain is part of all of this, because there is no way I can fake it. I need to feel it. To feel the pain, I can react, and I can deliver the acting aspects of my role.

Joe Taslim - Mortal Kombat

The Actor Has An Emotional Connection To Mortal Kombat, The Video Game

Sometimes, a role is a role. Other times, it's something special. When Joe Taslim was cast as Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat, he didn't take the role lightly. As he noted in an interview with POC Culture, Taslim giddily discussed the elation he felt for this project. He also discussed why this role was so meaningful for him, and how it had a direct connection to his youth. Here's what Taslim said:

It’s so special to me as an actor and as a human being, because playing a very legendary character, and I’ve been a huge fan of that character since I was a kid, so this is quite a dream for me. So when they offered me Mortal Kombat and Sub-Zero, I was like, 'Whoa dreams do come true!' [Laughing.] And for a person like me who was born in South Sumatra, very limited situation financially, it’s just impossible when I thought about it. This kid, who goes to his friend because he doesn’t have Super Nintendo because he was so poor, he needs to go to his richer friend and play only 5-10 minutes, and now I’m playing the character. It’s just huge for me.

You can stream Mortal Kombat on HBO Max here.

Will Ashton

Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.