‘Deadliest Warrior’ Interview: Max Geiger & Geoff Desmoulin Pt. 1

Results3_deadliestwarrior_290 Somewhere in Downtown LA lies an unassuming warehouse filled with ancient weapons and armor, advanced technologies, master combatants, tactical experts, and meat analogs. Welcome to the world of "Deadliest Warrior."

When I walked into the building, the first three things I noticed was a table with meat remnants and a cutting knife, costumes from a wide array of time periods, and weapons (possibly replicas) being shined up by two crewmen.

The actual headquarters is very big, perfectly understandable since  you need a lot of space for these kinds of experiments. On this day, Maori Warriors are theoretically pitted against Shaolin Monks and in the middle of the room there are two racks of cow ribs, minus the meat, suspended from the ceiling. For today's purposes, these ribs represent the spines of two people which one Maori expert intends to cut in half with one swing.

Guiding the cameras, and therefore the audience, through all this craziness are our knowledgeable hosts/technical experts Max Geiger and Geoff Desmoulin are on set. Between Max's background of game designing with a degree from the Interactive Media division of the USC Film School and Geoff's research in Impact/Injury Bio-mechanics, ensuing PHD in Biomedical Engineering, formerly being a black belt in Karate, and history as an EMT, they have pretty much every deductive skill needed for the show locked down.

I got to sit down with them at lunch to pick their brains about weapons, movie fights, and to see if they can finally settle a debate that's been raging on about the interweb for years…
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Between your impact research, the black belt and the EMT background, do those things change the way you look at things?

Geoff: Absolutely they play into it…the impact/injury bio-mechanics part of the job is probably about 50% of my time. The other 50% of the time is like, now that we have an injury, what do we do about it? And the injury part of it is prevention. Well this is how much load it took to create that injury, now how do we design say a car seat to avoid those injuries.

Max: I mean, you've basically been looking at injuries, people getting hurt, all that stuff in the real world for a huge chunk of time and here I am – I've been simulating it and reading about it. We walk off set after the first couple days and I'm like, "I've seen so much fake murder." And he's like, "Oh yeah, it's no big…" [both laugh]

Inspection_deadliestwarrior_290 It's ironic since you deal with ragdoll physics all day and create some of the most horrific things…

Max: Exactly! So I'm looking at this and it's fun to simulate, it's no problem. Then it's like, "Oh my god, I'm looking at spleens bleeding out of fake torsos." [laughs]

How has it been being in front of the camera since you've had some hosting experience [Max hosted a show for TrojanVision that reviewed student movies] but you [Geoff] haven't?

Geoff: The first thing I told these guys when they called me after the pilot hit was, "Are you sure?" I'm not an actor by trade by any means so I try to keep to the business of the bio-mechanics, what I know I can bring from my martial arts background to the show. Outside of that, Max brings a nice spice and sometimes we play of each other and drop the one-liners every once in a while.

Max: I literally carry seasonings in my pockets. [all laugh]

Geoff: It's a great dynamic and it took me awhile to get used to the cameras, to be honest. But we're on the ninth show now and while it's never 100% comfortable, I did do some teaching and stuff in Grad School so I'm used to talking.

So far what's been the coolest experiment you've done?

Max: That is a tough call because we've had experiments where we've gotten very cool data and we've had other experiments where we've gotten very simple data but they've looked awesome.

Okay so let's take both – which have been your favorite looking ones?

Max: I think one of my favorite looking ones, but also a lot of fun to set up, a lot of fun to actually do the science on, was we sent a molotov cocktail into an AMC Hornet I think. We hooked up thermal couples into the roof of the car and the chests and faces of the dummies so we're getting actual temperature readings. So what's going on is As this car is burning out from the inside, it's chaos, everyone is running around…then we're over huddled over the computer watching the temperature spike…it's probably the most fun experiment to be in.

Geoff: For me it's gotta be, as for as the scientific experiment is concerned, is getting Chuck Liddell's hand speed and punch force. That was completely awesome.

Max: Chuck Liddell fanboy. [laughs]

Geoff: I got his UFC punching gloves actually that he wore during the scene. I was able to snag those. Anyway, as far as looking good, I have to say the Spetsnaz guys I was over-the-top impressed with them. Our one warrior Sonny took a shotgun and ran through a multi-targeted house to house combat situation, using this rifle as he'd been trained, and he was just completely over-the-top deadly with this thing. He was hitting the throats of all our targets…

Max: With a shotgun.

Geoff: With a shotgun. And I'm asking why would do that and he says, "Oh, well it's above any plate or body armor on the chest and below any ballistics armor on the head." Both of those guys were first experts on the show I was squeamish with.

Weaponsrack_deadliestwarrior_290 I can see how that would be disconcerting. So far you've had a nice variety of warriors, do you already have a list of more you'd like to see?

[both laugh]

Max: Oh, we've got like a wishlist.

Geoff: Season 2, Season 3 – no problem. For me, it's the fictional characters I'd love to get into only because pulling information or engineering numbers from video footage alone I think is really intriguing and there's lots of different ways to go about. You may not get perfect results but you can get minimum values. You know when The Thing in "Fantastic Four" is on the bridge and he stops the semi-trailer? You can get a minimum strength value for The Thing based on that particular scene quite
accurately. That'd be a lot of fun.

Max: As a history geek and a tech geek, I'm looking back and [thinking] there's so much we can. We'd love to see [warriors on] horses…I'd love to take the fight to different environments like alpine fighters in the cold, simulate things like that. I really want to do Frogmen vs. Navy SEALS, see what a battle underwater would actually look like. Or a battle with multiple components – on land, into the water, back and forth. There's so much there and we're geeking out. Even a fictional thing – I'd like to look at legends from history, maybe test Amazons against a different warrior from that time.

What has been your favorite weapon so far?

Both: Oooo…

Max: It's tough because there's a pre-firearms era of warfare and post firearms…it's difficult.

Let's go hand weapons that are not firearms.

Geoff: Ah…that's a tough one. I like the Gladiator's sica a lot because of it's unique angles. It can get around shields but it can be used for thrusting as well. But I have to say, I'm gonna go with history on this one, I'm gonna say the Knight's halberd.

Max: The Knight's halberd…that's a tough one. Honestly, it's gonna sound a little bit lame, but I'm gonna say the knife. Just the knife, out of everything we've seen because a lot of warriors bring it to the game and they all have different techniques. But what we saw Apache knife fighters do…was scary. We did one take of it and they come over and look at us and are like, "What did you guys think of that…demonstration?" And we're just like…

Geoff: We were stunned. We just stood there in awe for about at least 10 seconds before we said anything.

Max: Everyone has something different that they can do with a knife and it's all scary. Just the knife for sure utility.

Pretest2_deadliestwarrior_290 Now that you guys have a critical eye for fighting, does that affect the way you look at movies and TV and fight scenes?

Geoff: You know, that's so funny that you ask that question because you're absolutely right. Like I said, I've never been in this business before and every television show I see, I think about where the DP is setup, where the lights are setup, why did they light it that way, etc., etc. As far as action movies are concerned, I kind of let it go. I like to get the [escapism] going but absolutely I start analyzing the shot a lot more.

Max: My design program was in the Film school at USC. All my roommates were martial arts guys or action movie junkies so we're already looking at all this, you know, high-fiving whenever we hear the Wilhelm scream. But you can see a lot of that and you can go, "Well, that's obviously choreography." And sometimes you're watching action just for choreography but there've been a couple tests that we've done where now when I'm watching something, I'm like "Yeah, it'd totally do that" or "No, there's no way." We tried throwing tomahawks, for instance, and there's a scene in basically every Western movie where a guy's running from a burning building and he gets tomahawked in the back and falls over. That'd basically never happen unless he got hit directly in the spine. So it's like, "Pssh, way to go Westerns, I've been mislead all my life."

So now I have to ask the inevitable question: it's the Pirate vs. Ninja thing. A lot of people, for some strange reason…

Max: Have just latched onto that. Thank you, internet.

Yeah and I have no idea why. But clearly the Ninja has a bit of an upper hand?

Geoff: 110% – I mean we tested the Ninja and we've tested the Pirate in two different episodes. But from what I've seen, hands down the Ninja wins against the Pirate. However….actually, I'm going to change that. Sorry, wipe that.

Max: Really? You're back and forth, okay.

Geoff: You know why I'm going to go with the pirate? The Blunderbuss was so impressive…it's essentially a hand held cannon. It's got nine round balls that shoot out like a shotgun.

Max: Well, as many as you can fit in plus the powder basically.

Geoff: Exactly. But this thing went through the knight's armor and the ninja doesn't have any armor, he's essentially bringing a knife to a gun fight. Though he does have some distance weapons like the shuriken, the throwing star, blowing darts, stuff like that. But from the effective ranges we're getting from those test, it just couldn't stand up to the Blunderbuss.

Max: There's an effective range to the Blunderbuss as well. You look at things like the puffer fish toxin on the darts, the pirate doesn't have any armor either so there's a lot…

Geoff: What about the Grenado though? You can't deny the Grenado.

Max: Okay, yeah…

Geoff: Boring holes in pigs that big. [motions big hole]

Max: Strictly speaking though, we have to remember that the ninja we're classically speaking of, Japan has had contact with the Western world and muskets already existed…Japan's probably the only country to successfully implement gun control. The Pirate vs. Ninja thing is more of a lifestyle question for people. Are you gonna be clean or messy? It's a  Type A vs. Type B and all that stuff. And when we get into the warrior thing, I think up close, one on one, everybody goes Ninja obviously is waiting for the pirate to go to sleep and the ninja slits his throat. Tell you what though, I'd love to see a pirate ship full of canons go into some feudal lord's castle on the coast and see what happens when he deploys his ninjas versus an entire crew.

Geoff: Yeah. It depends on the scenario.

Max: Right, right. It's numbers and tactics and I think it's because people loves to argue it really.

Demo3_deadliestwarrior_290 Yeah, and that's the problem.

Geoff: And for the premise of this show where we have one man against one man, advancing from like 100 yards and as they get closer their distance weapons start to play game depending on their effective ranges.

Max: And it depends entirely on the type of cover that we're simulating as well.

Geoff: Exactly.

Max: You do this out in the open or in the arena, the pirate gonna be able to turn around and shoot. If you do this in the woods, the ninja gets to be quiet. That's a very different scenario.

Geoff: Well let me say this then, for the simulations that we run here, I think the pirate would win simply because the ninja's bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Max: Ah, but we are simulating terrain is the thing so the ninja does get some cover. It's a back and forth thing. I would, forthe record, like to say that the two should just settle
down and have a baby together and we all just move on.

I agree.

Max: There are more important things to worry about like Monkey vs. Robot as far as the internet is concerned.

I also go with the Wolverine vs. Batman, even though that's harder since Wolverine has the healing factor.

Geoff: But Batman is the World's Greatest Detective so he'd know that.

Well I actually find Prof. Xavier vs. Batman more interesting because it's all mental.

Max: I think Batman just has to remember his parents' death, which I think is constantly haunting him, and Xavier can't handle that. It's a lot of trauma. [Geoff laughs]

"The pain!"

Max: Exactly. If he could feel Batman's anguish, the fight wouldn't even happen. It would end in bro-grabs, hugs all around, tears running down their faces, Marvel and DC finally shaking hands.

"Deadliest Warrior" airs Tuesdays at 10pm on Spike TV with repeats through the week. Also check out "Deadliest Warrior – The Aftermath" on the Spike website for post-episode discussions and shenanigans. Part Two of the interview will be up tomorrow!

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About Tamara Brooks

A few things I wondered about as a kid: Why didn't Wonder Woman punch more bad guys in the face on the tv show?; How does Superman flying around the Earth turn back time?; Could someone really catch bullets with their teeth?; Why didn't the liquid bits of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man cause 3rd degree burns on whoever it landed on? Because melted marshmallow is up there with molten hot lava.