By: Sean Crose
“Rocky really wasn’t about the action,” director Nick Sasso tells me. He’s right. One of the numerous interesting things about Sasso, whose directorial debut, Haymaker, opens this week, is the fact that he’s knowledgeable of a wide range of topics. Not only does the man know how to write and direct, he’s also very proficient in Muay Thai, and boxing. “I learned to box early,” says the director, who also happens to star in the film. That makes sense, when one considers Sasso is close to former notable heavyweight Lou Savares.
Haymaker, a film about a former fighter who connects with a trans pop star in danger, may have Sasso finding himself in the spotlight, but the man knows the motion picture industry, having previously worked with the likes of, among others, legendary director Mike Nichols, who Sasso says was “the most kind person on set.” Needless to say, Sasso himself is a likable and engaging individual. Perhaps that’s why he was able to have his own friends in Haymaker, along with notables like Zoe Bell and Nomi Ruiz. “Those are my actual friends,” he says of some of the cast.
Every movie is difficult to make, but Haymaker is nothing if not a passion project. It took Sasso years to make his film. Although it didn’t have a Marvel sized budget, Sasso made it a point to film throughout the globe, giving the movie a large, international feel. Still, Sasso admits there were certain things he clearly needed guidance on. He credits stunt woman turned star Zoe Bell, for instance, for invaluable help. “Our plan was to just beat the breaks off each other,” Sasso says of one fight scene. “We didn’t have stunt people…Zoe stepped in.” With a professional stunt coordinator on hand, serious injuries were able to be avoided.
“Cinema fighting is completely the opposite from real fighting,” Sasso tells me. “You have to take certain liberties, particularly in the punching.” Being from a strong combat sport background, however, meant that Sasso wanted things as realistic as possible, something Bell helped him accomplish. Plus, the film was able to employ “the same car from ‘Death Proof’” (the Quentin Tarantino film that starred Bell).
Although it took some time for Haymaker to come to fruition (“I looked different when I started it” Sasso jokes), the director certainly has plans for the future. Not that he’s going to go on and on about them…though he hints there will be a UFO element involved in his next project. “Let’s just leave it at that,” he says sneakily.
Haymaker will be available in theaters, VOD and Digital on Friday, Jan. 29.