Shirtless in Hollywood by Matthias Hues (Book Review)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021


PLOT: German action star Matthias Hues (I COME IN PEACE, KICKBOXER 2: THE ROAD BACK) chronicles his turbulent and triumphant 32-year career as one of the baddest ass-kickers in Hollywood.

REVIEW: Even If you don’t know the name off hand, chances are, if you grew up watching awesome ‘80s action flicks, you most definitely know who Matthias Hues is. Indeed, the unmistakably hulking muscleman with distinct facial features is a physical presence almost impossible to forget, and so too is his sprawling new memoir, SHIRTLESS IN HOLLYWOOD (GET IT HERE), which hits book shelves on Tuesday, September 3rd. It’s an absolutely essential read for anyone trying to make it in Hollywood, as you’d be wise to heed the words of a man caught in the whirlwind of Hollywood rollercoasters and merry-go-rounds. And even for non-actors or other Hollywood hopefuls, the detailed exploits of Hues’ journey from native Germany to the sunny shores of California is as compelling and entertaining as they come. The ups, downs, trials, tribulations, heartbreaks, triumphs, Hues leaves no career stone left unturned as he chronicles his biggest breaks and baddest busts. From making his screen debut in NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2, to trading blows with Dolph in I COME IN PEACE, to headlining his first actions film in AGE OF TREASON and DIGITAL MAN, with a whole lot of love, laughter, life-living and lesson-learning in between, SHIRTLESS IN HOLLYWOOD is a fun, fast-paced and highly entertaining read!

For Hues, it all started in his native land of Mainz, Germany. As a youngster, Hues dedicated himself to the world of sport, training intensely for German pentathlons while also mastering martial arts in his teenage years. A gym rat if ever there was one, Hues dedicated himself to treating his body like a temple en route to becoming a chiseled, 6’5’’ 250 lb Adonis and one of the most formidable action movie antagonists of all time. One of the cool things about his lengthy, 500-page memoir is how Hues weaves in and out of the past and present, giving us historical context from his own personal life and how it played out or paid off in the future. Jumping back and forth between his formative years trying to figure out what he wanted to do in life and the intervening years during which he makes those desires a reality keeps the read exciting and prevents a linear monotony a book of this length could have easily suffered from.

Among his early exploits, Hues details his time working as a security guard for Ziggy and Rita Marley, and how close he became with their family while traveling the world on an international music tour. Hues almost comes off as a Zelig figure in certain parts of the book, as he finds himself in one shocking right place at the right time. For his part, you’ll never find a humbler, more down to Earth gentle giant than Hues, who is quick to dismiss his successes as the product of good luck rather than the hard work and natural talent we know he has in spades. It’s impossible to dislike Hues and the way he opens his heart and bears his soul in some of the most intimate ways imaginable. In addition to detailed accounts from the sets of early movies he worked on, NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER and I COME IN PEACE most notably, Hues gives sweeping romantic chronicles of all the many different women that got away. While many fell victim to the fast lane of Hollywood excesses – drugs, drink, debauchery – Hues makes it clear that he valued his body too much for such destruction, and instead focused his attentions on achieving success, doing whatever necessary to become like his screen idols. For a ferocious fighter, Hues is also the quite the lover, and his romantic dalliances around Hollywood make up a giant portion of his memoir.

One of the things that immediately stand out with Hues’ writing is how honest, direct and straightforward his prose is. There’s a charming authenticity to the way Hues communicates his life stories, whether it’s coming up in the famous Gold’s Gym Venice without a work visa, picking up after mud-wrestling strippers at the infamous Tropicana, schmoozing with Hollywood socialites at pool parties, etc., Hues paints a clear picture of a man willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, even if it means overcoming a wide-eyed naivety en route to learning hard life lessons. One instance of such includes a story Hues tells in which, in first few days in L.A., gets into a gangland shootout that he somehow miraculously survived. Of course, for action fans who know Matthias’ work, the most intriguing parts of his memoir come when chronicling his time on-set, working with the likes of Craig Baxley and Dolph Lundgren (DARK ANGEL), Frank Zuniga (FIST FIGHT), his close friend Chris Kriesa (BOUNTY TRACKER), Randal Kleiser (BIG TOP PEE-WEE), Bolo Yueng (TC 2000), not to mention the time he rubbed elbows with his screen heroes like Van Damme and Schwarzenegger.

As Hues details his time in and out of Hollywood, the globetrotter gives insight to his time spent in Germany, Paris, Miami, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and several other places he was lucky enough to visit in his life. It’s all expressed with such a genuine gratitude that it’s hard not to appreciate all Hues has been through. He speaks candidly about his failures, such as the time he was cast opposite Jim Carey in THE MASK, but was replaced last minute, or the time he played a gladiator in one of the most expensive pilots never to be aired, or the time he was set to portray Arnold in a Kennedy-Shriver biopic, only to have the project buried at the last minute. While I do wish Hues spent more time telling on-set stories, as he tends to detail the first few before skipping 40 credits ahead, the decision to paint the whole picture of his life rather than just his movie career is a wise one. It let us know how far he’s come, what it took to get to where he is, and all the lessons learned in the interim to get there. All told, Shirtless in Hollywood is a wildly entertaining and wide-eye-opening account of one of the baddest action baddies to ever do it. Read it as soon as it drops on September 3rd.


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.