Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tell Me A Question: Todd Senofonte and Pound of Flesh

Jean-Claude Van Damme's latest action-thriller Pound of Flesh hit select theaters and VOD this past Friday. After speaking with director Ernie Barbarash and producer Kirk Shaw, I attended the Los Angeles premiere where I met a plethora of JCVD's known associates, including long time stunt double Todd Senofonte. An actor, martial artist and military veteran, Senofonte was easy going yet full of energy and looked in great shape. Senofonte has worked with Van Damme on the likes of Sudden Death, The Quest, Maximum Risk, Double Team, Knock Off, Legionnaire, Universal Soldier: The Return, Until Death and PoF. He's also appeared in Kung Phooey!, Super Shark, A Reason To Live and Power Rangers. We caught up over e-mail following the premiere.

Dammaged Goods: You've had a very physical career and are still in fighting shape. What is your background in athletics and martial arts?

"I come from a very athletic family, been playing sports since the age of  5. My dad was my first coach and he is my idol and role model. He is the epitome of what a dad should be. My mom's dad was a professional boxer in the 40's, so I pretty much got the best of both worlds born with that innate ability. I studied the art of Tang Soo Do and was in the military for 6 years. I achieved one of my goals in the military, getting the Physical Fitness patch doing 124 pushups in 2min, 85 situps in 2min and running 2 miles in 12:36. Nowadays I work out on my own using free weights and the Smith Machine."

DG: How did you end up working with Jean-Claude Van Damme on Sudden Death?

"The night before I graduated from basic training from Fort Benning, the drill sergeants brought in a TV and a VCR and played the movie Bloodsport and everyone in the room kept looking at me. Later, I had done some modeling in Scranton, PA. On a certain shoot, the photographer looked at me and said, 'Do you know who you look like?'.....I said jokingly, Eddie Murphy. He said, no you look just like Van Damme. The photographer happened to have Jack Gilardi's (Jean-Claude's agent at the time, what are the odds?) card. He said 'here see what you can do with it'. A couple months went by and one day I was eating my Cocoa Puffs and thought 'what the heck?'. I had my cousin take pics of my doing kicks and splits and FedEx'd them to California. I get a call from Gilardi's office the next day, they received the packet and thought I looked great. Jean-Claude was out of the country but they would make sure he sees it. I thanked them and hung up the phone, thinking Holy $%^$. I called all my buddies and told them what happened. It was pretty cool for them to call me let alone opening an unsolicited envelope."

"I waited a couple weeks, sent more pics. Waited another week and then finally called the office and they said, 'glad you called, Jean-Claude is doing a film in Pittsburgh why don't you show up on set and see what happens'. I drove 5 hours from Dunmore to Pittsburgh. Didn't know where I was going to stay...I didn't care. I will never forget when I walked into the production office and the girl at the desk looked up and said, 'Oh Mr. Van Damme you're here', I look behind me and say 'no my name is Todd and I'm here for the Stand In job'. So I went in for an interview and was asked if I can come back next week...ABSOLUTELY!!!! I came back the next week and was told they could definitely use me in the film. Jean-Claude already had a stunt double but for standing in and photo doubling I could help out. And that is how I got my foot in the door."

DG: You worked on two of Van Damme's craziest films, Double Team and Knock Off. Any close calls, injuries or memories of working with the Hong Kong crew and director Tsui Hark?

"I would say of all the films I worked on, Double Team and Knock Off was where I've had a couple of close calls. The tiger chase in DT was the scariest for me, but it looks so good on screen. On KO driving the speed boat I was supposed to jump up on the seat then jump and grab the towing line. As I was ready to jump, the boat stalled and the ship crashed into the boat. It was a scary time, but the finished product looks great."

"Tsui Hark is one of my favorite directors. He is non-stop and very aware of his surrounding. That's what makes him a great director and a great guy. The Chinese crew are the hardest working in the business, love those guys and girls."

DG: Any memorable co-stars or opponents while working with JCVD?

"Working with Michael Jai White was awesome in Universal Soldier:The Return. He is one of the best martial artists out there and it was an honor just meeting him let alone working with him."

DG:You've traveled around the world making movies, any favorite spots?

"My favorite location has to be Phuket, Thailand. The most beautiful beaches I've ever seen."

DG: You've done a bit of acting as well, how do you prepare for less action oriented roles?

"I do consider myself an actor and probably one of the few stuntmen out there that does not mind reading lines off camera to other actors for Jean-Claude. My first role was in Fist Of Legends 2: Iron Bodyguards. It was my first on screen performance and my first fight scenes as an actor. Kung Phooey! was a comedy I acted in also. A Reason To Live was a dramatic short that I'm very proud of.  I have a few projects in the works, but if I'm needed to double I won't hesitate. Even though acting and stunt work are different, they are the same where you have to be on your A game."

DG: Pound of Flesh has received a warm response, what was the fight/stunt preparation like?  How was shooting in mainland China? 

"Pound Of Flesh is Jean-Claude's toughest film to date...physically and mentally. The shooting schedule was brutal and it took its toll on everyone. The stunt crew on this film was awesome. All the doubles and the stunties really gave it their heart and soul, and it shows."

DG: Thoughts on director Ernie Barbarash?

"Working with Ernie was a privilege. He has so much energy yet he is very calm and soft spoken, but that works for him and I enjoyed being on set and watching and learning from the mastermind."

DG: Any parting thoughts?

"I do have to thank Jean-Claude, because of him he gave me a name in this business. He knows all he has to do is call if he needs me. Not just for work, but to talk about everything and nothing."

Many thanks to Mr. Todd Senofonte for taking the time to chat with Dammaged Goods. Keep up with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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