creed III It’s not the only boxing movie in theaters. While Punch uses the often violent sport to illustrate the internal struggles of the main character, it’s almost completely different than the Michael B. Jordan anime-inspired film. Set in New Zealand, Punch centers on the struggles of Jim (played by newcomer Jordan Oosterhof), a young boxer who must navigate a difficult relationship with his father, Stan (played by She-Hulk: Lawyer actor Tim Roth), and a growing friendship with a gay Maori teenager, Whetu (Conan Hayes).
Digital Trends spoke with Oosterhof about what drew him to Punchhow he worked with Roth to develop the complicated and sometimes abusive father-son relationship, and how he trained mentally and physically to become a credible boxer.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Digital trends: Punch it’s a lot of things: it’s a father-son story, a love story, and a coming-of-age story. What is Punch To you? How would you describe the movie?
Jordan Oosterhof: Punch is all those things. I would describe it primarily as a coming-of-age story involving Jim, my character, and his relationships with his father, Stan, and his friend, Whetu. They are all good people with good intentions, but they are all clumsy in their own way. None of them really connect perfectly with each other and they all learn from each other because of it.
What prompted you to get involved with Punch?
In New Zealand, when you get a script after an audition, you read it and say, “This is a little lacking.” Punch It was the first script I read and I thought, “Wow, I can see someone’s vision and I can see the story.” I can feel for Jim as he read it. And I thought that he wanted to do everything possible to be a part of this project.
Punch it took 14 years to happen. For me, it was three years from my initial audition to the start of production. After the first COVID lockdown, I received a phone call informing me that I had to start boxing training in a month and a half, that I had to train five days a week, and that Tim Roth was playing with my dad. It was a whirlwind, but after waiting all that time, the experience became something more than it would have initially been.
Let’s talk boxing. Your character, Jim, is training to be a boxer throughout the film. Can you describe what you had to do both physically and mentally to prepare for Punch‘s intense boxing scenes?
Well, physically, I’ve always played soccer (football) all my life, so I’m pretty fit. But I never played a solo sport like boxing. I had to train with Commonwealth Games level boxers. At first, it sucked. He couldn’t even hit with the correct technique. I went on and on for five days a week for three months.
Mentally, you just learn to take the hits. It’s like acting; you learn to take it moment by moment and place that tension and focus on the other person and try to react as it moves.
How did you develop the father/son relationship with Tim Roth?
We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare together because he was in quarantine when he flew out before production started. We talked on Zoom and got to know each other. We talk about Jim and Stan drifting apart and how they relate to each other or, for that matter, fail to do so. We were on the same page about where our characters were coming from.
I’ve always had a good relationship with my father, so Jim’s dysfunctional relationship with his father was something that I found quite difficult to connect with emotionally. But using all the work and preparation that I did with Tim, the conversations that I had with Welby Ings [the director]and the humanity that was presented in the script, that’s what made it all work.
What do you want viewers to take away? Punch after seeing it?
I hope you appreciate the beauty and depth of the story, which is something everyone can relate to. We all have these things that we feel make us different and that don’t fit together. Whether it’s thinking that we were born in the wrong city, in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that our family doesn’t love or appreciate us because of our gender, sexuality or personality, we all struggle to find our place in the world.
And I think that Punch It shows that sometimes you have to fight for that place that makes you happy. If you keep fighting for where you want to be or to be around people who love you for who you are, I believe you can do it no matter how old you are or where you are in life.
Punch now playing in select theaters and available On Demand and digitally. The film will be on DVD on April 11, 2023.