With "Here Comes the Boom," Kevin James proves he's more than the delivery guy we know from "King of Queens." In the movie (which he co-wrote), he plays a burnt-out biology teacher who finds himself pulled into MMA fighting to scare up enough money to save the job of a fellow educator, Marty (Henry Winkler), and the school's music program. It's a feel-good movie with lots of punching, slugging and body slams, as James has to take the brunt of the beatings.
When I asked James why he'd bother to write himself a role which required him to be beaten up on a daily basis, he said, "I don't think I realized the physical pain it was gonna cause me every day in shooting in this movie. You write it on paper, and it doesn't hurt as much on paper, until you're in there and then you're getting punched in the face, and then they say, wait a second, we didn't get that on tape because the camera angle missed it or whatever, so we've got to get it again. So getting hit constantly, it was pretty brutal. But I've got to say, every time we watched the dailies, we saw that it was getting, it looked real real, it looked great, let's keep going for it."
Not only did it looked real -- some of the hits were exactly that. "Some did land, and they didn't feel too good at the time. But now they feel good, because it's really you in there and you're really doing it and hopefully inspiring others."
For James, it was a natural to write a screenplay about MMA fighting. "I've been a big fan of it since 1993, just really a big fan of these fighters I've got to meet over the years, especially Bas Rutten [who plays Niko], who is in the movie with me. He became friends with me and came to this country and trained me a lot and worked with me a lot, but just knowing him and knowing these other people and knowing they're not just these barbarians who go in there, but real people, family people, people going through the same everyday stuff we do… Just seeing that fighting is part of their life, it was so interesting to me, because to see what motivates them to do this, because obviously you're going above and beyond when you're locking yourself in an octagon and going against another human being. It's not like playing a round of golf."
Even though MMA fighting is a major element in the film, the more compelling thread for most audiences will likely be the emotional core of the story. For James, making this movie resonate at a deeper level was key. "That's what I wanted to show, that it's not just brutality and fighting and stuff, though that can get intense at times, but it is about sticking up for your friends and going above and beyond and going out of your comfort zone sometimes and seeing how it affects the people around you and how they can all move in a personal way."
In addition to introducing audiences who may not know much about it to MMA, the movie hits on another topical theme -- school budget cuts and burnt-out teachers. "It is topical now, and it's a shame. I had some great teachers who inspired me to no end, and I also had some that were really lousy and just punched the clock and you just sit there for 45 minutes, They have an opportunity to mold you and they don't do it… you have a real opportunity here."
Literally my favorite movie of all time.