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Nathan Chukueke

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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Nathan Chukueke (page 2)


In 1988 you appeared in "Bloodsport". What are your memories of this shooting and of Jean-Claude Van Damme?


Bolo Yeung facing Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Bloodsport".

That movie is the only one I wish I got some royalties for doing. The movie shooting was OK. I am glad I had many movies before that one. I took some patience dealing with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Let's just say not everyone had my patience. Those that did not show enough patience were not going to get paid. I think Bolo Yeung would agree with that statement.

In "Bloodsport", there were also people like Bruce Stallion alias Paulo Tocha, Geoffrey Brown, Wayne Archer or Omoade Falade alias Eric Neff, a martial artist of Nigerian origin. Just like you, all of them had previously appeared in films produced by IFD (Joseph Lai & Godfrey Ho) and/or Filmark (Tomas Tang). Did you know them?

I don't remember all of them but I do remember Eric Neff was a great guy to work with, on and off the set. Down to earth person, not like some of the other action actors who actually start believing they were the characters they played on the screen, off the set in daily life, 24 hours of the day.


Omoade Falade alias Eric Neff, in Filmark's "Silver Dragon Ninja".

In 1990, you also had a small part in "Dragon from Russia", directed by Clarence Fok and starring Samuel Hui and Maggie Cheung. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

I found out about that movie from other actors. I think it may have been Anthony Houk, from San Francisco, California. He lived in the same area as me. Very cool actor and solid friend from the West coast: highly underrated I should add. He was really a good fighter off and on the screen, and had some good fight scenes in "Dragon from Russia".


Anthony Hook, cast in the part of a Russian assassin in "Dragon from Russia".

They took their sweet time getting that movie together. The part I was in was shot in Macau near HK. A very nice and friendly place compared to HK. Shooting in a grave yard, which was a bit strange, then even stranger when you learn they move the bodies every few years to make room for more, really. That movie had the friendliest support staff. When I mentioned it to them, they said they were Taoist and that it was how they behave.

Among all these Western guys who could be seen in HK films, you told us you also met "Kung Fu John" alias John Ladalski. How do you remember him?


John Ladalski, "mentor, friend and drinking buddy".

John Ladalski was the grandfather of all foreign action actors: period. He had class and knew his stuff. He was Jeet Kune Do person. Not many know, but he knew lots of Chinese and Western philosophy. He was the guy that introduced me to the inner Hong Kong movie scene. He had some problems with some of the young bloods come up unfortunately.

Some "gweilo" actors ("foreign devils" in Cantonese, that is to say "White westerners") told us Chinese crew members or people were not always very friendly with foreigners. How was it to be a "huggwai" (Black guy) in HK? What about Japan?

My time in Hong Kong was not my first with Chinese people. I grew up hanging around Chinatown in New York and still do now. With my little bit of Chinese and understanding of their culture it was alright. I never expected much like some of the Western guys in terms of respect.

I used to tell other actors from the West, who were White, now you know how I feel back in New York. Then again I also knew you got to politely tell people to cut the crap out, when they are calling you a Black devil or just correct them without yelling. Then I never pissed anyone off by going after the local Chinese ladies, back then that was just not professional and crazy. I also hang out drinking with some of the more street Chinese locals so no one messed with me overall.

The Japanese couldn't care less as long as you were not going out with someone from the royal family, besides there are all those western military people. I will say in both countries if you don't watch yourself: the little few hundred or thousand you make on a movie or TV gigs will be lost to the agents, because you are a foreigner.

It's funny to see Jacky Chan and other Hong Kong stars making nice, nice with big named Black actors over the last decade, marketing, marketing, and more marketing. The Africans and I are finally out of picture I think anyway. Considering the type of roles we played perhaps it's for the best. I had little to say in what roles I played other than to refuse working on a project, which happened from time to time. Me no play bushman.

Of course, the need for Black actors in anything other than a minor role was limited in the 1980s, in Asia in general. I should say it was better in Japan for work and socializing, but freaking expensive. The only problem in Japan was a load of Africans guys trying to get casting agents believe they were from the hood back in L.A. or New York. This could have been OK, if they knew something about the place they were pretending to be from at all. Once there was this guy chatting up this cute Japanese girl one night in Roppongi. Her friend asks me if that African guy is really from New York at all? So I strike up a little conversation with this dude, then find he doesn't even know the "G" subway train does not go to Manhattan. I did not tell him he was full of it, but did tell the girl to watch out for her friend.

Anyway, the same misrepresentation stuff would happen with people saying they knew a particular martial arts style to a talent agent or casting director for martial arts movie auditions. They would usually look like a fool later, when asked to show something of what they were supposed to have known. Lots of fights between some of the younger western action actors in later years were over conflict stemming what makes one skilled in particular fighting system. These guys would fight: in the back streets and roof tops of Hong Kong's Kowloon district, down near the beginning of Nathan road. That happened sometimes in the competitive Hong Kong movie casting. I mean we are talking often about guys from the streets of America's and Europe's big urban cities, not trained diplomats. That's why the Eddy's gym was important. People could at least get an idea of where others were at in their skill set.


Nathan Chukueke posing in the Shaw Brothers studios.

Because I went to Hong Kong to practice Gung fu, not do movies, people looked at me differently and did not have such issues overall. Then, because I taught dance, worked in a bar here and there, I was friends with many young Western travelers. Knowing me made the social life for some of the guys easier. I did not spend as much time in the gym as they did. Another reason I never got into street fight was I was usually too busy drinking with the locals in Wan Chai, maybe the Fringe club, or hanging out at "The Four Sisters" bar on Minden road on Kowloon. This was usually after all the tourists ran home. At The Four Sisters, usually all that was left were the hostesses having a night cap and few street business men of the evening wanting to talk about the latest western boxing matches when I was there. No place for a proper "A" league movie martial artist to be, when they had to get up early to go to Eddy's gym. As seedy as they were, my back alley socializations in Hong Kong kept me out of lots of problems, I must at admit. From the New York streets to the Hong Kong ones, oh well.


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