Save for his physical action star appeal given the fruition he’s amassed as a professional bodybuilder, Daniel Stisen has every intent to prove his versatility as a well-rounded actor and producer of stories that compel and inspire, as well as entertain.
Over the past week, I got acquainted with Stisen who’s own endeavors of late have seen him make the case to potential investors at this year’s virtual EFM, for projects hailing from his eponymous production banner. His latest shortfilm performance, Gain, is also making the rounds on YouTube – a gritty, NSFW dramatic thriller about the introspective perils of bodybuilding, and he’s currently shopping his newest lead role in action thriller, Last Man Down, on which he is finalizing post-production, along with another project with director Sheldon Lettich, which is currently listed on IMDb for those curious.
Stisen reached out to us to share a dialogue and help get the word out. Alas, enjoy!
Greetings Daniel. How’s 2021 been for you thusfar?
It’s been a good year so far, even if the situation in the world is tragic at the moment. I’ve spent the last two months in Norway. I’ll stay here until London opens up again, where I prefer to live in the big metro.
Talk about your history with bodybuilding and what led you to get into film and entertainment?
I grew up in a gym. My dad was a bodybuilder, and he owned a gym, so that’s where everything started, when he’d teach me about Arnold Schwarzenegger at young age. After that, I watched the Rocky movies, and when I got a bit older, films like Rambo, Commando, Predator and Terminator inspired me through my teen years. All this made me dream about being strong. I chased that dream as a teenager, spending every day after school in the gym, training, working there, reading magazines, and so on.
I started compete at age sixteen, in powerlifting, at twenty, and started to compete in bodybuilding, and I won my first shows, and became national champion in junior and senior class the year after. My goal was to compete in the Olympia, and become a pro. In 2009, I was close to achieving this, and many predicted I was ready to soon step into the pro circuit. It didn’t happen as I got a few injuries before a show. I built up so many injuries over the last two years, I knew I would not reach the top anymore, and so that gradually pushed me into films a few years later, which is what I always wanted to do after I was done with bodybuilding. I attacked my film career the same way I did in sports. I moved to London where I trained stunts to learn how to handle action.
Later, I moved to Los Angles where I studied acting at Ivana Chubbuck Studios. She was one of the best acting coaches. I also built relationships and started to learn how the industry works, and I made and executed my plan based on that, and in recent years its really started to bear fruit. I moved back to London where I set up my own production company, while simultanously doing all kind of jobs in the industry to learn, learn from the best, learn from big and small sets. Later on, I started to produce my own films, beginning with some action, and made sure they kept very high standard, the first one being Retribution which was along the lines of Marvel’s Punisher for its inspiration. It won some awards for it, and got great responses from media outlets.
Just curious: How much can you bench? What’s the most you’ve lifted?
I don’t lift too heavy nowadays due to the injuries I sustained in my twenties. Instead I focus more on getting a good and intense pump every day in the gym. Long before that though, I did lift very heavily in the past. My Bench record was 210 kilograms, lifted in two reps at the legendary Harald’s Gym in Oslo, Norway. What I’m most proud of, however, is my squat record. I was 21 at the time and I did 370 kilograms with an bodyweight of 99 – equal to world record back then, but I lifted it in the gym, so it would not count as such.
Who and what are some film influences that have helped shape your craft up to this point?
Much of the eighties and early 90s acton stars and their movies in general, though years later I’ve since looked at films a bit differently than before. I look more at the drama than the usual ballyhoo of guns and explosions – I believe good drama and good action must be achieved in the same space. Good balance with a high standard of action and fights, all based on a strong script.
What have been the more challenging aspects of film for you?
I find the emotional scenes hardest, because you need to show your weaknesses. I also find it challenging sometimes to produce and act in the same film, as sometimes you have to sit in meeting in the evening to sort the production, when you would rather prefer to be at the hotel room and in prep your scenes the next day. But you have to to do what you have to do to win and achieve.
You’ve worked with Nick Wall on several projects which so far comprise his directing resumè, including your latest, Gain. Talk about how this one and how you two and actress Péline Liberty worked to develop this concept as a narrative film and prepare for that kind of role yourself and story.
Gain was my second project with Nick after Retribution, set in the bodybuilding world. We released this one on YouTube and our current focus now resides on ninety-minute action films, with several in the pipeline at the moment.
With Gain, Nick and I know each other well, and know what the other wants, so we are good tag team on set, and we may make more together in the future as well. Next time though it will likely be in a feature film capacity.
With Peline, she was handpicked for the role as Paula. We studied together in an acting course in London some years ago, and we had a good chemistry, and I told her I would love to make something with her. She is very talented, and so I asked her to play Paula on our project, and I knew she would be able to play the part to very high standards.
I notice you have a small uncredited role on the 2017 iteration of Justice League. Are you looking forward to Zack Snyder’s four-hour revisal this month?
Yes, that’s correct. I did two-to-three days on Justice League with Zack Snyder. It was in a scene which was not used in the initial studio version, though maybe, and I’m curious to see if it’s been included this time around for the new Snyder cut. It was a great scene, so I looking forward to watching it.
Talk about Last Man Down and what you and director Fansu Njie had in store for buyers tuning in to the virtual EFM this month.
We shot Last Man Down in 2020 in Sweden. It’s a UK-Sweden action thriller co-production with a “kill rate” up to par with films like John Wick. It’s inspired by lots of the films I’ve mention earlier in this interview. It’s a film made for “action junkies” like myself.
Any words you want to share with our readers as we exit this interview?
Please check out Gain. It’s a dark bodybuilding drama set in the bodybuilding world. It’s not an underdog-type Rocky story, but rather, it is a story of one of the ones that don’t succeed. The ones who struggle regularly to do so. The one out of the ninety-nine percent who don’t win. There are a LOT of tragic stories out there, and while this is a fictional take, it is a story that bears veracity and stems from the real-life tales I’ve listened to from real people about real situations over the years through my own bodybuilding career. It takes on a lot of themes in twenty-five minutes and is totally worth every minute.