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Interview de Eric Hahn (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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Eric Hahn (page 4)

You got one of the main roles in "Mannigan's Force" alongside with George Nicholas (whose real name is Giorgio Albergo) and Mel Davidson. What are your memories of the film? Mel Davidson doesn't have a good reputation, as John Dulaney said he was always a source of trouble on the sets he appeared...

One of the few movie posters with Eric Hahn's name on it.

I don't remember a lot about "Mannigan's Force". But I remember a lot about Mel Davidson. John was right, not only was Mel a constant source of trouble from stealing, fighting and other things, he was also a paedophile and preyed on little boys anywhere he could find them. I once caught him in a shack in a compromising position with a 10 year old. I told some of the Filipino stuntmen on the set and they took care of him. Gave him a black eye and threw him off the set. It was really a shame because he was a good actor, and could have gone far.

Some of the Western actors in the Philippines also acted in several HK films. As you are a physical actor, did you ever contemplate on playing roles in HK movies (as a 'Gwei Loh' fighter in kung-fu exploitation genre, for example)?

Eric Hahn, in « Mannigan's Force ».

I thought about it, but I wasn't very good with karate. I preferred bar fights. I did play a businessman who got tortured and ran over by a steamroller in a Jackie Chan film. I don't remember which one. I did learn a lot about martial arts in "Bloodfist 1 & 2" as I did most of the casting. I had to bring fighters from all over to audition for the director.

You told us you knew some behind the scenes events that never came out in the news, notably about David Carradine, Oliver Stone and Aaron Norris... Could you tell us about that?

As far as David Carradine goes: we were shooting "Behind Enemy Lines". We had been doing chopper scenes all day. There were 3 or 4 choppers. He was doing dialog in his chopper. Every time we would land he would be in the first chopper. He would get off and walk forward with his head down looking at the ground. On the final take they mixed up the order of the choppers and he was in the 2nd or 3rd chopper. He was apparently unaware as he started walking forward again looking down at the ground. I heard a big commotion and someone shouted a warning at him that he was walking towards the rear rotor blades of the chopper in front of him. He didn't hear the warning and kept walking. Finally someone ran up to him and stopped him just a couple of feet from the blades!! It was a close call and shook us all up.

Now Oliver Stone. I only worked on "Platoon" for about 8 days and was in the background, but I did have one close-up rolling a Vietnamese woman into a ditch they were bulldozing. So I don't know how Oliver was like for the rest of the film. But on this occasion Oliver got mad at a Filipino assistant director and either kicked him or insulted him. I heard both stories. So the crew stopped work and went on strike until he would apologize. He later did. I was by the wardrobe truck at the time and saw different crew members talking Tagalog angrily. One of our army security guys was waving his gun around wildly. He then loaded his M16. Several of the crew grabbed him and calmed him down. The crews in the Philippines are very close knit. Many are related. And the Filipinos are very emotional and impulsive when angry. This was Oliver's first real big production and he had a lot of pressure. I do know that after he won all those academy awards and came back to the Philippines with Tom Cruise for "Born on the 4th of July" he was just the opposite. He was friendly and polite.

Now for "Delta force 2". First I want to say that Chuck Norris was the nicest and friendliest of all the major actors that I ever met. He would spend hours writing autographs and taking photos. He really liked people. And I saw that at times he was ashamed of some of his brother's (Aaron) antics. He would hang around a lot with the extras and bit players. He was always doing exercises. One time he told me that no matter how old you are, muscles have memories, and they will come back soon after starting workouts again. Aaron had a very short temper and screamed at crew constantly. I saw him throw his walkie-talkie at someone who angered him. I know that a couple of crew quit as a result of his rudeness. One day we were shooting chopper scenes. I was talking with the pilot who was also the pilot in the film. He was also the mechanic for our chopper. He told me that he felt that the chopper was sounding funny and needed some maintenance. I told him that he should tell the director. He did. They had an argument. But the director won and shooting continued without maintenance. Later when it was almost dark, Aaron wanted to shoot a couple more shots with dialog inside the chopper. This time I heard the pilot tell him that they should wait till the next day so he could check things. Aaron told him that he would find another pilot if he wouldn't just start flying. The pilot ceded. As they were setting up the cameras and lights etc. the assistant director said that there were too many people and he started kicking people off. I was one of them. He said he would put us in the background on the next shot. The chopper went up. About 40 or 50 feet. Soon after we heard a pop sound come from the chopper and saw smoke. The chopper then sped off down the side of the mountain we were on. We knew something was wrong and ran up and looked down. We saw the choppers rear rotor hit the mountain and then spin out of control, and finally crash on the road below. Everybody started running down the road to the now burning chopper. Several of us started ripping it apart to get at the people inside. It was horrible. We were pulling bodies out, expecting the tanks to blow anytime. All in all, the assistant director, cameraman, the pilot, and a couple of the actors died. And the survivors were badly wounded and burned. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I heard later that the stunt coordinator got thrown out of SAG. But I knew who really was responsible. There was a similar crash a year earlier when Aaron was directing "Missing in Action 3". So you would think that he would be more careful. There were lots of other things that happened on the sets but these were the biggest that I remembered.

As Nick Nicholson would say, you've worked with some big names and some big losers as well. With the hindsight, what look do you take at this experience in the cinema in the Philippines? What are your best and your worst memories?

My best memories was when we went to another part of the country to film. And we would be there for one or two months, staying in hotels (3 or 4 to a room) sometimes on the beach. The camaraderie between the guys. Doing a stunt well or not screwing up lines. We were big boys playing war and getting paid for it. There were so many good memories I would take up pages writing about them. The friends I made, the actors and crew I worked with. Being part of a project. My worst memories were fewer. The worst was the helicopter crash on "Delta Force 2" and helping to pull the bodies out of the burning chopper. Also when the rope broke during a stunt on "Nam Angels". I fell only about 15 feet but I landed hard on some rocks, busting a couple of ribs and getting 8 stitches over my eye. I got food poisoning during a shoot on location and ended up in a dump of a clinic for 2 days. Sometimes it was bad when I had to start at sunrise after a hangover running up and down hills with full gear, in 100+ degree temperatures. Or pulling leaches out of my boots after wading through rice paddies all day. Or sitting in the jungle at night during the monsoon fighting off mosquitoes. But you know, as Nick says "it was all good". I would do it all over again.

You told Nick Nicholson that "leaving the Philippines was the biggest mistake of [your] life"... What made you leave the Philippines for Mexico? As you acted in several syndicated films, did you join the SAG to have more opportunities in the Hollywood industry?

Well, I really loved the Philippines and have always felt that I made a big mistake leaving. I thought I was going to retire and die there. But after the movies started drying up I left. I didn't have much work experience at anything else and the wages there were pitiful. Now, in hindsight seeing that Nick, and Mike Monty did O.K. I wished I would have stuck it out. I first went back to the U.S. and got a job in telemarketing. I hated it. I had been an ex-pat since 1974 and couldn't stand living in the fast paced dog eat dog society that was called the United States. I've been in over 40 countries since 1974 and always felt that America was living off the rest of the world. I hardly ever liked its foreign policy. And still consider myself a world citizen. SAG contacted me a few years back and offered me membership. But I declined. It's good if you live in California, but most productions shun you because they don't want to pay SAG wages and benefits.

I hope to continue working in south Texas on some independent productions. I live in the border town of Renosa in Mexico. I have four kids aged 2-12 and a Mexican wife 15 years younger than me. I also have three other older kids aged 17, 23 and 24 from my other two marriages, and a 4 year old grandson. I work as a clown for birthday parties making animal balloons. I work just over the border in McAllen, Texas. It's not so bad there, as 90% of the people are Latinos.

Is there a reason why the Filipino industry stopped movie productions for Occidental market in the last 80's? Nick told us it was the government's fault and Mike Monty blamed the terrorists... We can also invoke the Mt Pinatubo eruption or the Peso devaluation, as we're living far from Philippines, we don't know exactly what happened. What is your opinion?

I think that Mike and Nick were both right. The government was making new rules that hindered these productions. Also the First Gulf War was starting and there were thousands of Arabs going to school in Manila. Some were radical and getting together with Abu-Sayef and the MNLF in the South. Also I think that the demand for this type of films was on the wane. The Peso devaluation was actually not a problem as most of these films were funded by dollars and other currencies, which were stronger as a result of the devaluations. Mt. Pinatubo only did what the Philippine government was in the process of doing. And that was to get the U.S. military out of the country. The volcano just sped things up. I left in 1991 as the Gulf War was starting and the movies were drying up. I do know that Cirio Santiago still made a bunch of films during the 90's and all of my friends were still there. If I had known that I wouldn't have ever left.

Nick Nicholson told us you were possibly working on some werewolf film in Texas at the moment. Could you tell us a bit more about it? Do you have other plans for the future?

I was being cast for an independent film called "Lycan Rising". I was trying for the part of a detective investigating some grisly murders. I got called back for a screen test and everything was looking good until the director [Melinda Marroquin] quit because of "artistic differences with the producers". So now the project is on hold. I have started to put out my resume on line and may soon get an agent. There are some films that come to south Texas. And I hope to be a part of them. Although I am getting older and my body doesn't respond the way it used to. So I will be auditioning for old guy, non action roles. Well... maybe a little action...

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