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French-Cambodian star nominated for stunt performance Emmy Award

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Daren in action on the TV series Moon Knight. DAREN VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

French-Cambodian star nominated for stunt performance Emmy Award

Through his performance of fight scenes in Moon Knight, French-Cambodian actor Nop Daren has been shortlisted for the 2022 Emmy Awards after his outstanding substitute acting in the TV series.

The 74th Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on September 12 in Los Angeles in the US state of California.

In the outstanding stunt performance award, Daren is one of 6 outstanding stuntmen to be shortlisted from the television series’ Barry, Hawkeyes, Moon Knight, Squid Game, Stranger Things and The Black List.

On his journey to win the Emmy Award as a substitute actor in the real fight scenes, the 36-year-old told The Post: “I will be flying to Los Angeles to attend the awards ceremony, and I hope to be able to win an Emmy. It will be a testament to my sacrifices and perhaps the beginning of something new.”

With parents who immigrated to France in the 1980s, Daren was born in Paris on June 10, 1986. He has four sisters and one brother.

“I was the middle child, but I felt like the big brother in the family,” he said.

From refugee to Hollywood

Many Cambodian refugees arrived in France in the 1980s after the fall of the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime. According to the International Centre for Transitional Justice, as of 1989, there were approximately 50,000 Cambodian refugees in France, a country where they had relatives and a language they already knew.

Like other refugee families, Daren’s parents told him about the tragedy in Cambodia and about family members who had lost their lives in the war.

In line with the description of his Khmer background, Daren recalled his parents’ advice: “They told me to be a good student and have a good job for the future...but it wasn’t my vision.”

His childhood was complicated and he admitted that he was not a good student, even though his parents did everything to encourage him to study hard.

“I wasn’t a good student – even if my parents did everything to push for it. It wasn’t because I was stupid but because I did not want to be at school,” he said.

Daren chose his life path and pursued his dreams in the world of martial arts, although many thought that such a choice would lead to no future for him.

“My goal was to prove to them that I could succeed in my life with my passion for the martial arts,” he said.

As a lover of martial arts films, Daren considers celebrities such as Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mark Dacascos as his idols.

Substitute career

Thanks to his martial arts talent, Daren began his acting career in 2009, joining the Parc Asterix Stunt Troupe. Later, Brad Allan, the leader of Jackie Chan’s replacement team, noticed Daren’s ability and hired him.

Daren has been active in acting as a stuntman and martial artist in film productions since 2017.

With his experience as a stuntman in popular Hollywood movies, including John Wick: Chapter 4, Daren trains every day, he when he is away from set.

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Nop Daren, who went from a Cambodian refugee to Hollywood star. DAREN VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

“I try to keep my martial arts skills up, so I practice kicks and some acrobatic moves every day,” he said.

“The training is repetitive, but I always focus on the work, as accidents can happen very quickly,” he added.

In Moon Knight, which earned him his Emmy nomination, he is the stunt double for American actor Oscar Issac. Daren replaces him in fight scenes when the Knight character turns into the Moon Knight.

“I am very proud and grateful to have the role! I offer my special thanks to the people who trusted I me. I have done a lot of good things as a performer, but always in the shadows,” he said.

“Now I have the opportunity to act as a stuntman for my favourite Marvel character, and I am pleased that so many people are enjoying my work,” he added.

Daren learned of his nomination through one of his fans.

“I was very surprised because I hadn’t heard about it – one of my followers sent me a private message on Instagram. I would love to win the Emmy, as this was by far my favourite project,” he said.

“Wearing the costume of my favourite Marvel character was already a dream come true. So, winning an award … That would be just amazing,” he continued.

Grandmother’s inheritance

According to the Preah Sorya Group’s Facebook page, which compiles information and biographies of famous artists from the past, Daren is the grandson of Nop Yada, an actress in the 1960s.

As an actress from the Golden Age who survived the Khmer Rouge regime, she was well-known amongst audiences through Khmer films such as Kolab Srapun, Baksey Cham Krong and Chao Sratob Chek.

She passed away on August 27 last year at the age of 81 in Marseille, France.

But Daren did not know about his grandmother’s background. Last year, he was told by his relatives that his grandmother had been a famous movie star.

“I did not know about her before. My uncle told me her story just a year ago. I’m really proud of my grandmother, but sad at the same time because I never met her,” he told The Post.

“I always knew that we were a family of artists! I hope that she is happy to see me following in her footsteps,” he added.

When he produced his first short film, Shadow of 13, in 2014, many people suggested that he be a prominent actor in a fighting movie, rather than just acting as a stuntman.

“After I went to the Cannes Film Festival, I was told to make my own film,” Daren said.

Making his own film was not easy, so he decided to focus on his role as a stuntman. One day, the director of Expendables 4 called him and asked him to play the role of Bok.

“He told me he had seen me in Shadow of 13. That’s why he asked me!” he said.

“I would never have imagined doing my first movie with so many Hollywood stars, but if anybody gives me a chance to play an action hero I will always say yes,” added Daren.

He visited Cambodia in 2009, but plans to return next year with his family.

“I plan to come next year for a holiday with my wife and daughter. I will catch up with some friends and spend some quality time in the Kingdom. It will be good for my family to get to know the land of my ancestors,” he said.

Even though he has been invited to act in films, Daren said he will continue to work as a fight scene choreographer and stunt double.

The simplest goal of his life is to keep doing what he loves in acting and film production, but he is keeping his next project a secret.

“My dream has always been to work in the film industry, whether as a fighter or an actor. I’d love to play a Cambodian-French martial arts star,” said Daren.

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