This film image released by Columbia Picturers shows, from left, Bas Rutten, Henry Winkler, Mark Dellagrotte and Kevin James in a scene from "Here Comes the Boom." (AP Photo/Columbia-Sony Pictures, Tracy Bennett)
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:19AM
Kevin James wanted the awe.
“I wanted to shock everybody,” says James, who lost 80 pounds for his physically demanding new film. “I started training 14 months ahead of filming.”
Gone were the burgers and pizza of the past. “I drank nothing but greens, which meant I completely changed my diet. No soda. Nothing processed. Everything was natural.
“I worked out with professional [Ultimate Fighting Championship] guys, too, because I didn’t want to make a mockery out of the sport. I even started winning a few fights.”
In “Here Comes the Boom” (now in theaters), James is a bored biology teacher who competes in mixed martial arts to raise money to save his school’s music program.
He also voices Frankenstein in the animated hit “Hotel Transylvania.”
James, a native of Stony Brook, N.Y., wasn’t always the cutup. “I was funny with my friends, but a shy kid,” he says. “I took a public speaking class in college because I heard it was an easy A and it was a way to get over my shyness and I loved it. The class was laughing. “
After perfecting his stand-up act over a decade, he landed a recurring role on his friend Ray Romano’s sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which led to his own series, “The King of Queens.”
James, 47, is married to Steffiana De La Cruz and they have three children: Sienna, 7, Shea, 5, and Kannon, 1.
1 Really? An MMA movie with the heart of “Rocky”?
It’s not “Mall Cop.” It’s not as goofy or slapstick, but it does have comedy in it. We wanted to make a big, fun, inspirational comedy and put in this weird sport of MMA. We add the whole profession of teaching to it on top of all of the above. I just want people to feel inspired and have a good time. My favorite movie is “Rocky.” I remember how inspired I was by “Rocky” and I left the theater completely changed.
2 You got in the ring with real fighters. Are you crazy?
I wanted to do these guys some justice. They’re not gladiators in a cage, but real people fighting to put food on the table. By the way, everybody I fought was 20 years younger. You can’t imagine all the aches and pains the next day after the fights. But it was worth it. The hardest moves were when I had to land on my back. We really went for it — and sometimes the cameraman missed the shot and we’d have to do it again. At night, I lived with Tiger Balm on me. But my family was so supportive. At night I’d just hold my wife and kids and moan.
3 Have you kept up the training and drinking the green gunk?
Since we wrapped the movie … not so much. I did feel great when I was on my program. It’s hard now that we’ve wrapped. The kids are sitting there eating mac and cheese and, of course, kids don’t finish their food. I’m like, “Kids, you don’t realize the riches in front of you! That’s real pepperoni!” I hate to say that I’ve made up for lost time with the eating.
4 How are you adapting to nearing 50? Are you moisturizing?
Since I had kids I’m kind of going with the aging thing more and more. I think with every age you have to embrace it and enjoy it. ... My makeup lady always tells me to moisturize, and I can’t stand doing it. She has given me all kinds of moisturizers and it’s very easy. I guess you just rub it in before you go to bed, right?
5 We hate to tell you, but Channing Tatum says he moisturizes.
If I was Channing Tatum, I’d be moisturizing everything on my body. When you’re starting out of the gate with all that, you moisturize. When you’re me, you turn into a dried-up lizard. You can’t turn around that ship. But believe me. If one of my movies was called “Magic Mike” — or should I say “Magic Kevin” — then I’d be moisturizing.
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