Accueil > Interviews > Interview de Don Gordon Bell (page 4)

Interview de Don Gordon Bell (page 4)

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Don Gordon Bell (page 4)

With Kinavesa crews operating under a very tight schedule and budget, one would expect a strong control over the whole production process, to avoid any unnecessary expenses, meaning no "artistic freedom" etc. But with scripts being completely rewritten just before shooting, we don't know what to think...

With Mr. Lim, Romano and I were able to have free rein, but of course we had to work within his limitations on budget. One example of convincing Mr. Lim to pay more was using "Smokeless squibs" on Body Hits, and throughout the filming of "Intrusion Cambodia" and "Rescue Team". Cheap squibs had too much 'white smoke' coming out which looked really stupid. Smokeless squibs were twice the cost, but with them, no more Chinese firecracker 'effects' when we got shot!

French VHS cover of "Rescue Team".

Another thing we did was placing less blood in the front entry wound, more behind the body making it spray the "blood" onto a tree or wall. This is much more realistic, which both Romano and I knew would also be more cinematic. At first the Filipino Special Effects people thought it wasn't good, but when they saw the color prints after a test then they were convinced that it looked better.

We also tried to make firefights more coordinated, instead of ten men going down at one time from a burst of automatic fire, only half of them were "hit". This is reality and Filipino stuntmen quickly adjusted.

In addition to using expensive smokeless squibs, we did got Mr. Lim to spend more for quality military equipment, especially on "Rescue Team". In this movie, a team of Green Berets is on a mission to rescue an important P.O.W., the members of the team eventually sacrificing themselves one by one to hold off the enemy. I 'died gloriously', allowing the survivors to get back to the A-camp and prepare for the major assault. We had a great location for the base camp and spent three weeks shooting on the final battle scene - that was unprecedented for Mr. Lim!

Jim Gaines, Romano Kristoff, Richard Harrison, Don Gordon Bell and Michael James on the set of "Rescue Team".

He even gave us a real Philippine Marine rifle company of 250 men for five days shooting. I worked with Romano and the Marine Major in command, discussing the attack plans. Our stuntmen would be the Montagnards, as allies of the Green Berets, and the Marines would be the VC/NVA. The Marine Major had served in Vietnam as a Lieutenant so we were 'on the same page'. So we dressed the Filipino Marines into a combined enemy force, which is what happened frequently. The VC Main Force was dressed in Khaki colored uniforms, armed with assorted weapons, AK-47s, 'captured' M-16, authentic web gear, soft covers of different kinds. The North Vietnam Army or NVA unit was dressed in dark green uniforms, with pith helmets-a red star in front, all armed with AK-47s, RPG rocket launchers that were real but with dummy rounds from Special Effects, again authentic web gear of the NVA. I challenge anyone to check the equipment of both units for authenticity, and the Philippine Marines were fantastic as the attacking forces. On defense the equally fantastic stuntmen were dressed as a Montagnard Stryker Force in Tiger stripe uniforms. They were armed with an assortment of weapons, M-1 carbines, AK-47s but mostly with M-16s, M-60 medium machine-guns, .30 caliber Browning water cooled machine-guns of WWII vintage.

Don and, on the left, Jerald Willy Williams, another familiar face of the Filipino B-Movie industry in the 80's.

The only thing missing was T-34 tanks firing on the camp, I tried to get the director to find footage from some other movie and edit it into the attack without success. The A-camp is overrun but we simulated a devastating run by "Puff the Magic Dragon", a C-130 Hercules Gunship with four Gatling-guns, called Mini-guns, firing at 6,000 rounds per minute. In that single scene, hundreds of squibs made it look like the enemy was cut down by massive firepower from 'Spooky', saving the few survivors. It was my tribute to the film "Green Berets" starring John Wayne, one of my childhood heroes. "Sands of Iwo Jima" was one of the reasons I joined the US Marines!

Don on the set of "Rescue Team".

It seems Nick Nicholson and you were the only ones to act intensively for both K. Y. Lim (Kinavesa / Silver Star) and Cirio H. Santiago (Premiere Productions). How did it go, and how would you compare working for one and the other?

Once Mr. Lim accepted me into his 'group', I became a regular. In 1978 I started to work on almost every film with Kinavesa. He also introduced me to other action stars and directors such as Regal Films. I felt a sense of the old days of being an actor on contract with a studio, but he freely 'shared' us to other Filipino production companies. So when I could, I accepted work with Cirio Santiago's Premiere Productions. I always tried to work with both productions during the year, and I was very lucky to be able to do it. In most cases, Mr. Lim even planned his productions between the shooting dates in order for me to do this. This allowed me to keep busy throughout the year.

On the set of "Wheels of Fire", a post-nuke movie shot in 1985 by Cirio H. Santiago.

Director Cirio Santiago gave us steady work, twice a year usually. He gave us freedom to develop our 'character roles', nodding in approval at some of the things we did to look 'special or stand out'. Some of us went to military shops and got our own complete web gear, new and old, backpacks, canteens, the works, even replica pistols that shot pellets. I made my own accessories for the "post nuclear war" type films, war and action films. I also kept different size suits and ties available for party scenes, or high class parties requiring suit and ties that no traveler would have with them. I always encouraged others to do the same if they wanted to be a professional 'character artist'.

Don on the set of "Wheels of Fire".

One day, Director Cirio Santiago saw me on the set of "Stryker", preparing my costume, and told me "Hey, Babe, you make up some good characters", with his encouraging nod. I had carefully broken the right lens of a pair of sunglasses, to make it look more realistic, as it was post nuclear holocaust. The Props guy was getting angry but Cirio told him to relax. He nodded and winked in approval when he saw my wild hair, samurai sword behind my shoulder, with a .45 Colt Automatic pistol in shoulder harness which I had bought myself. Cirio asked where I got the shoulder harness and I told him I bought it myself. Then he asked me if I could ride a motorcycle, I said sure. (I actually had ridden all types of off-road dirt bikes, street bikes from 12 years old on I had owned six motorcycles). Long story short, here I am chasing the old parents of the female lead in the opening scene of "Stryker". I come speeding up on a motorcycle leading several carloads of bad guys. I slide to a stop, right up to the camera, peer over my broken glasses to find the old couple who are trying to escape me and my band. I spot them and we run them down, shooting the wife, then I decapitated the old man's head with MY samurai sword (a real blade).

Henry Strzalkowski (on the left in the background) and Don on the set of "Wheels of Fire".

Bruce Baron also told us he, Romano Kristoff and you had made some sort of an informal pact that you three wouldn't work for less than US$2,000 for a lead in one of K.Y.'s films.

I think it was Mike Monty, Romano, and Bruce that did that agreement perhaps, but it must be said that each one had his own persona, type of character, age differences, appeal, so it doesn't make sense that Romano and Mike would really mean it. You must remember that they had a long history with Mr. Lim that went back many years, where Bruce was the new guy. If you compare Bruce and Mike, Mon Dieu, there is no comparison. Mike could play any part that would be 'age relative', but Bruce was limited in "age range". He does not, in my own humble opinion, look like a Bad guy. He could not be cast in that role in the beginning, with little experience at that time, though he probably had the ability later on. Bruce had a great "Face" for a Lead Role in the genre that we 'cadre de la guerrilla des artistes' were best suited.

When I met Bruce Baron I saw some very good potential in him. Bruce seemed to some as, well, prideful even an arrogant dude from Hong Kong, but I saw someone who was confident and certainly had the looks, size, etc. that could and did indeed get him leading roles. I did not actually work with him on any films but knew with my casting experience that he could 'Make it' with experience and that he would improve with each chance. I believe that he did very well in the many films that he appeared on. I have not seen but a few but Bruce was also dedicated to improving himself. I appreciate his mentioning me in his interview, and truly regret that we did not get to work together more.

French VHS cover of "Hunter's Crossing", the only movie Don and Bruce Baron did together along with "Mad Dog".

Actually, as far as we know, it seems you never got any lead. Do you think it was because you were of Korean descent, just like Jim Gaines being confined to ethnic roles as "the Black guy"?

I have done about 50 Filipino films, about 20 were only extra and bit parts, but the rest were character roles with five days to two weeks work in the film, and I was thus credited in about 30 Filipino films, mostly action, drama, some comedy. However, my being of mixed Asian/Native American/Spanish/Mexican heritage precluded that I simply did not have the FACE for leading roles... this is the reality of show business, and I have learned to accept it. Nick, Henry, James Gaines, Willy Williams, Paul Vance, Steve Rogers, David Light, Berto Spoor, and so many others, we did our best with what we had, teaching each other to make ourselves 'stand out', to make the film more interesting and to 'sell ourselves'. I became an enabler to many, from showing extras what to do, training them to do bit parts with dialog, etc. This was my area of expertise to help others who might have a better chance than I did. It was not noble of me, "it just is, what it is", or "that is life, no?" I always tried to constantly learn more, to improve myself and show others how to improve their character roles. Perhaps it was the training under my mentor, Ken Metcalfe that gave me this understanding. I wish sometimes that I could have done more, but I did my best.

Now, this being said... No Leading roles? Oh, Mon Dieu, pardonnez-moi... I actually did three, though one was just a Filipino film. So please, give me a break! Just a little respect, S'il Vous Plaît, mon ami."

As I said, I was the main Contra-vida Lead in "Bruce's Five-Style Fists" (1978), which counts for one.

My next Lead was in a comedy produced by Sining Silingan Films and entitled "Wanted: Wives!" (1979), as the leading man of Cherie Gil. Cherie Gil came from a family of actors, she was the daughter of Michael Mesa and Rosemarie Gil, and choose to use her mother's name for her screen name. I met Cherie through her brothers Michael Gil and Mark Gil because we had done several action films together.

Cherie saw me at a late night party when I, "Crazy Don" went swimming nude in the pool first, then many others joined me and jumped in also some partially or totally nude. I was always starting something, wanting to be the 'life of the party'. Cherie seemed surprised that I had not tried to try out for the Leading Man role in her coming film. I had heard about the film "Wanted: Wives" already and that they had already cast with an American that I knew. He was signed on by a rival talent agent, "Peter", who was to have a great impact on my life in 1985.

I told Cherie that I wished that I "looked more White", she laughed and asked me why? "Because they wanted someone who Looked really American, blond or red hair with blue eyes, light complexion, like the guy they had signed up." I regretted that if I had the right looks then I could have done the love scene with her. "Ay na ko, walang luck!! Oh my God, No Luck!!" Cherie thought I was so sweet for saying that and a little crazy for the skinny dipping in the pool. Two days later though, I received a call from the producer that Cherie had insisted that I be her LEADING MAN. My luck had changed!

We filmed on location in beautiful Cebu with Gina Alajar playing her cousin. Cherie's skin color is light brown, so her character thinking it would be better to send a picture of her "lighter complexioned cousin" to a Lonely Hearts Club for meeting foreign men. My character comes unannounced to Cebu and the two cousins try to fool me that Gina is really Cherie. The real boyfriend of 'Gina' blows the secret, the truth comes out and everything turns out, there is a double wedding at the end of the movie. My comment about "wishing I looked more White" made Cherie realize THAT was the theme of the comedy! Reel life imitating Real life.

Filipina actress Evangeline Cheryl Rose Eigenmann y Gil, better known as Cherie Gil.

On Filipino television shows I appeared on "Colorful World of Nora Aunor" as the boyfriend of Vivian Valdez as her "leading man". It is another 'boy meets girl through letter writing' story'. Vivian's character does not mention that she is confined to a wheelchair but when I arrive to meet her it is another 'fairy tale ending'! I have also had appearances as a character actor with Filipina actresses Gina Alajar, Alma Moreno, Susan Roces, Pilar Pilapil, Alicia Alonzo, Nora Aunor, Gloria Diaz, Vilma Santos, Lorna Tolentino, and Sharon Cuneta. Usually I was the "American Friend, boyfriend, or some Ugly American type". I do not have a complete listing of all the "bit parts" or "guest roles" that I did in the Filipino film industry. In fact I'm still trying to get copies of my Filipino films.

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