You are of Dutch descent. Why did you move to the Philippines in the
first place, and did you have any film-experience prior to your
stay in the Philippines?
Well, I never ever thought about being in the movies and I did
not have any prior acting experiences. I was travelling thru Asia those days to
participate in a Judo training in Tokyo. I had a stop-over in Manila (and
other places) when a guy asked me if I was interested in doing a movie. I
decided to join. I also was invited to training the NBI agents in
Manila, which I did for a couple of months. I didn't like their attitude
and quit. I did some teaching at the PAJA (Phil. Amateur Judo Ass.) and I
liked that much more. After shooting Juramentado I was
infected with the film-virus, even if most of us didn't get payed for our
efforts due to a typhoon and greedy producers. My next film, Firebird
Conspiracy, made me stay for the rest of the '80's. And I never
regretted a day of it.
How did you initially hook up with the
local film industry?
The guy asking me to join was Paul
Vance, a Belgium who did a casting for a local film-producer. Since I'm
Dutch we switched to my native language. A
local Philippine production was about to film a notorious revolt of a
moslem jihad during WW 1 against the Christians on the southern island of
What can you tell us about your first
film, the pretty much unknown Juramentado (1984)?
means as much as going mad, a blind hate or as the pinoy call it
themselves: running amok. But there is more behind this word. It is a holy
oath with an intention to fight till death. For their religion. The
Japanese have a simulair word: Kamikaze, also until death, but on behalf
of the emperor...
An A.D. explained to us what to expect and what
to do upon action. He left us some space to perform our own vision and
improvisation. Our first confrontation would be with a superior power of
Moro-militants. Some of us were soon to die, but everything was great
footage shot from a distance so most of them were be raised back to life in no
time. Die in a close up, it was not the real end, because in the next hot
outline everyone was provided with other clothing and wigs
wasn't much of a story I thought, but is there any story in a real war? I mean a thing
such as war is out of any proportions, it all happens
with the intention to slaughter each other as fast as possible and under
the most cruel circumstances. And that's exactly what we did, creating
blood and death, sorrow and pain as brutal as we could. So did the enemy,
they tried to be even badder as we were.
We couln't finish the
shooting cos a typhoon destroyed the complete set ...
A few words
about The Firebird Conspiracy (1984, Jun Gaillardo, Vittorio
Romero), which I understand had a rather
chaotic production history?
(the G.I.Joes) had a contract for three weeks or so, but it would take
for over a half year to shoot the whole damned movie.
wasn't complaining as I was in it for over four months...
you're right this film had a lot of comlications, from the very start. A
tension built up between Jun Gaillardo
(he died about 10 years ago) and one of the leading cast: Bruce Baron.
This guy wanted to play first violin and constantly argued with the
producers and other BoBos.
Commander Beck was his part.
time he was doing the wise guy again and Jun asked his advisers to come
up with a plan to get rid of the guy. Nick Nicholson suggested to kill
him... Nick was an old vietnam war veteran and he was our military
adviser. We worked together on several movies
mine field was prepared. Holy shit, I guess it was one or two too many,
blasts all over, Bruce was ordered to stay down just a little
longer to wait the last smoke to disappear. “And cut!"
Of course we had noticed the friction but only realised what actually
happened when Bruce got confronted with his own condolences. The script
was revised and for sure, not for the last time...
A couple of days later an new guy, Steve Rogers, another Vietnam veteran,
showed up. He took over Bruce's part. Vittorio Romero made his
entrance, he was directing second unit. He and Jun absolutely didn't
have anything in common. Anyway, he changed the script and added his view
of porno. And Jun got sacked as well.
The Firebird Conspiracy was
also the first film you worked on with Nick Nicholson, a frequent
collaborator of yours from then on. What can you tell us about him?
first time I met with Nick was during the takes in Fort Santiago, Intramuros.
He was chained against the wall, facing the camera with his naked
ass. His manhood was wrapped in a handkerchief.
how I got to know Nick. As soon as we started shooting outside of Manila, I got to know him a little better. Couldn't miss him, the aroma of
cannabis was covering him all over.
in Action (1984, Joseph Zito): A few words about that film, and about its lead Chuck
Norris, whom you worked with time and again over the next few years?
My first movie with Chuck, yes that was something. I was selected for
the auditions in Ken Metcalfe's office. We were lined up, 20 guys or
something. I was in the middle of the row and only informed about the kind
of movie we're gonna shoot, so I knew it was Vietnam war stuff. I was
quite confident to get a part, 'cos Henry Strzalkowski was the assistant
to the production and we had become friends. I didn't know anything about
the cast, so I was surprised to see Chuck Norris to enter the room ... He
was holding our application forms and started short chats with the guys
first in line. Couldn't believe my fucking eyes to see my idol in person.
I was a fan of this man since his fighting scenes with Bruce Lee. And he
came closer to me, tell you man my heartbeat went up ... Then we shook
hands, I noticed he was a small guy like me, makin' 1.70 m only. Now that
was my luck as well, he didn't like to work with people taller than him in
the same frame. We talked about my martial arts skills and all of a sudden
he asked me to step forward, wtf !! He asked my weight, I told him: 66
k's. Then he grabbed me and lifted me on his shoulders.
"Perfect", he said. That sounded positive and I smiled, I got
Later I screwed up by showing up late at the shooting and missed the scene
I had to do with Chuck, you can read about that on my blog. This was MIA
I missed the 2nd MIA but was invited for a line-up for MIA
3. I had a good feeling about it already. This time Chuck's bro Aaron
Norris came to do the casting. Circumstances were similar to the MIA-line-up.
I stood somewhere in the middle again and felt sort of
disappointed that Chuck didn't show up. But then ... Didn't expect it at
all, Aaron ignored all the others and came straight to me, saying: "Hey,
how are you, I remember you". That felt great and I got the job ... I
had to play a commando and we were very well trained, we used to work on
our routines in Luneta park Manila. On this job I made a name as a Hilot
(Tagolog: healer). First cameraman Joao Fernandez all of a sudden
suffered a sour shoulder and couldn't handle his cam anymore. Big shit. I
got to talk to the man and offerd him my expertise as a psychic healer (I
posted an article on healing in American Ninja). I did what I had
to do and Joao could move his arm again, everybody happy. So was Aaron.
And that helped me when the casting was there for Deltaforce 2.
Same scene, same line-up and Aaron doing the casting. The only thing he
said to me was: "You got a job ...". Later when I walked into
Joao, he asked me if I had a part in the production. I confirmed and added
that I needed to shave my head to play a skinhead (something I didn't like
to do). He entered Ken's room and returned a little later to tell me a got
a better deal. I was a Deltaforce soldier.
I became good friends with Chuck, Aaron and Joao. I was even invited by
Chuck to watch our activities of the day that were taped on VHS. With some
other guys we watched the video in Chuck's room sitting on te bed ... Nice
to remember, thanks for letting me write this Mike, hahaha.
Destroyers/King's Ransom/The Devastator (1985) was the first
film you did with director Cirio H.Santiago, with whom you would film
quite a few movies in the future. Could you talk a bit about the film and
about Mr Santiago?
The Destroyers, my first shoot with Cirio - I
guess he liked my way of dying, because in this movie I probably died 4 or
5 times. And once I came pretty close to an accident. We were playing a
couple of outlaws, defending our marijuana plantation!!! In one scene I
was trapped, a booby trap was placed beneath a tree with a hanging rope,
ending in a loop, I hook my leg and go face down, the camera stops
rolling and my foot is placed in the loop. Camera rolls again. There
were a couple of guys, pulling the rope, but with too much horse-power, I
ended off-frame way too high. It had to be done again, and I was placed in
position again, and "Action!"
And up again, at the right height this time, but I was moving and swinging
too much, and Cirio wanted a 3rd take...
But half-way the 3rd take I went back down with the same speed as I got
up. I hit the ground but was able to break my fall, the knot in the rope
didn't hold and slipped. All four guys were down on their asses as well. I
was furious, and told the director to find another stuntman to finish the
take, I didn't feel much like hanging up side down again, well, they found
me a double to finish the shoot. They placed a bamboo frame (having sharp
spears in it) around his body. I didn't know what was going on and
asked someone what they were up to. I was told the booby-trap had a
follow-up. This bamboo frame was supposed to pierce the guy as it swings
down. Now it will be filmed backwards and later edited the reverse way.
The same guys, holding the rope with the bamboo frame were to do the job
again. On action they pull their asses off, and believe it or not, two of
them slipped, and the bamboo frame went back all the way it came, the move
came to a hold only inches before it was to hit the hanging man. My
stomach turned: I was supposed to be hanging there, if I had, would the
frame have missed me ????
Bert Spoor in
Born on the 4th of July
What's the difference between working on a
low budget movie with a director like Cirio H.Santiago and a big bucks
feature working with Oliver Stone, with whom you did Platoon
(1988) and Born
on the 4th of July (1989)?
Working for the big guys was a little different. Of course they had a
bigger budget, but they also brought the best professionals with them.
Only the lower cast was done in Manila. Payment was about the same
- an extra could make a 500 Ph pesos per day, bitplayers made it up
to 2000 Php. I was lucky to do some stunts so that paid a little extra.
Catering with the local movies sometimes was a terrible experience, I'd
call it fishheads and rice. The Italians of course brought their spaghetti
- not too bad. The American productions served good food. I was in Platoon
only for a few days, but Born on the 4th of July was good for
several weeks. We shot this movie in the north of the Philippines (Ilicos
North) during the Christmas holidays '88. The best food we ever had, and a
new years BBQ at Jan 1st '89. Staying on location for that long is a good
time to get to know your friends cos we spent the evenings together.
met with Richard Harrison the first week shooting The Destroyers
not much later we met again shooting King's Ransom, and a while
after that we were shooting The Devastator. It was much later that
I learned that it was all the same movie with different working titles. I
remember Richard as a very nice person, always talking about his family,
especially his son Sebastian.
few words about American Ninja (1985, Sam Firstenberg) and its
star Michael Dudikoff?
I'll never forget American Ninja, as I was surrounded by a bunch of
martial artists, most of them stuntmen from the SOS Philippine stunt association.
Dudikoff wasn't really skilled in any art (neither was David Carradine) but both
of them did a nice job. My part in the American Ninja was to play a
bodyguard, easy job, not much action but a lot to see and enjoy. I learned a lot
from other martial artists. It was very diverse,
there were Judoka, Karateka and Tae-Kwondoka, and other experts showed their
skils in Kendo, Nunchakudo or Shurikendo. I became a real fan of Kuntao with its
typical short moves and whipping technics. I became good friends
with the guys from the SOS-team and would see them again on other filmsets....
Here's a clip I found on You Tube, I'm the bodyguard with the beard and glasses.
On Behind Enemy Lines
(1986, Gideon Amir), you worked with the recently deceased David
Carradine. What can you tell us about him?
yeah, a very nice person. Did you ever see him in Kung
Fu? He wasn't a
martial artist at that time, but a cladsic ballet-danser. He had the moves
however and the mysterious looks as well, so he made it in the series.
By the time I met with him on the set, he had become a master already and
wrote a book about the spirit of the Shaolin. I had the
privilege to talk with him for a while and I think he was a very friendly
and educated man, open to our questions. What I remember from Behind
Enemy Lines is the chaotic choreography of the helicopter-scenes.
I had to play a medic on board of one of those helis. We were supposed to
land in the middle of a lot of action, explosions, fire and noise. About 2
feet above the ground, my buddy and I jumped down with a stretcher to
resque the wounded. We were very close (too close) to the fire and
explosives, but as soon as we hit the ground, the pilot told us to board again
'cos he couldn't hang around over there while all sorts of debries could
hit the propeller. Well, it wasn't just the heli that was endangered, our
asses weren't safe there either... The second take was about the same, we
couln't see enough, too much smoke, the pots with explosives too close,
complete chaos, no rescues at all. Guess that's what the director wanted...
... it was the next day when our
leading actor hardly escaped decapitation. There were about 4
helicopters involved and they had to land in a specific sequence. When we
did the rehearsels there were no problems, but when we had to do the real
action, things got really fucked up. David's heli was supposed to be the
first to land. But the pilot in another chopper took that position and
David's heli landed second... When he jumped out he couln't see
the heli in front of him, cos he was looking down to protect his face
against the strong winds produced by all helicopters and was walking
straight towards the tail-rotor. It must have been a couple of
meters only when he was notified by shouting and waving people. Once again
I thought about the accident with Vic Morrow about seven years ago...
A few words
about Women of Valor (1986, Buzz Kulik), probably the chick flick
in your filmography?
Women of Valor, that was indeed different stuff. It wasn't
Nam, it was 2nd WW. We were held prisoner in Bataan province in the
Philippines and we started the Deathmarch. That's what I remember best,
the walk in the sun, the burning heat and of course Kristy McNichol!!! Wow! OK,
Susan Sarandon was there, but Kristy was HOT. One evening she
even came down to visit one of my friend's house (Carlos Palacios) , where
I used to stay during the shooting. I think it took Buzz more than a week
to shoot the march. Since I lived near the beach for several years
already, I got used to the sun, but a lot of extras from Manila got their
first full exposure after their San Miguel in Ermita... They got
sun-burned I tell ya. As the title suggests, the women are in charge. We
men just were background J.
The last day on the set was a painful one. We are hiding in a building
when Japanese Zeros fly over at low altitude, I mean LOW... We are
supposed to panic and run away. My scene seems easy, a truck in front of me
is accelerating and I chase it and try to get on board. But the very
moment I jump to get inside, the truck hits a hole or a stone or
something, and the edge of the truck hits me full on the knee.....
From the knee down my leg felt numb, but I managed (with the help
of the people inside) to get inside.
It took me quite some time to
Cast of Hamburger Hill
What about the starkly realistic Vietnam War movie Hamburger Hill
(1987, John Irvin)?
Hamburger Hill was an environmental disaster. Thousands
of car-tires were burned to achieve the special fx. Sometimes we couldn't
breath due to the smoke, there were heavy complaints about it. The scene
I'll never forget was when we had to climb the Hill. This was
supposed to be action during the rainy season, but it didn't rain ...!!
That's why the fire brigade showed up to wet us. A couple of hoses
were pointed at the hill which we had to climb. This was mud man... and
slippery. For each step we made forward (upward if you like) we slided
down two. We were soaking wet to the bones - good for us it wasn't cold. I
got shot and killed several times in this movie ...
A few words about Return from the
River Kwai (1989, Andrew V.McLaglen)?
the river Kwai was one of the nicest films to work for. We were POW's
and treated badly by the Japs. We had to march and stand in the hot sun
for hours, without water of course. For real this must have been a hell
for the prisoners. When the allies destroyed our bridges we were
transported to Saigon by rail. For several days we were travelling in our
wagons before we reached the harbor. There were 2 waggons and we
were cast by dialect. So we had an English one with Edward Fox in it and
the other one with Nick Tate to for the Aussie group. It was a real
pleasure to hear the dialogues between Edward and Nick, both of them very
friendly and nice guys. Another nice person was George Takei, our japanese
camp commander. So different from the character he played. It was here I
think where he met his friend, Brad Altman, whom he married in 2008 when
homo-marriage was allowed in California.
When we reached Saigon (Manila harbor) we had to embark the Brazil Maru.
We are sailing the South China sea (Manila Bay) when we get torpedoed by
an american sub. Just after we defeated the japanese and were in charge of
the ship. The scene where we jump overboard is filmed in a swimmingpool.
The mock-up they built was a perfect (part) replica of the Brazil. I
remember the water was cold, didn't do any good to my back (already
suffering the hernia at that time) so I decided to drown. That's why I'm
not in the final shot when the survivors are rescued by the submarine... !
(1989), you worked with Italian cult director and Philippines veteran
Anthony M.Dawson/Antonio Margheriti [Antonio
Margheriti bio - click here]. What can you tell us about him and
the movie you made together?
was a nice film to do. I didn't have to do a screentest as I was
recommended by Ken Metcalfe to the production. They needed a stuntman.
Ken had told me to visit an address in Makati to get more details. There I
met with the casting director and had my contract signed in no time.
The shooting was to start the very next day. Our location: Caliraya lake,
Laguna. That's where Apocalypse Now was shot. MIA 1 had some scenes shot
here. Most of the cast and crew were on the set already. There were just
me and 2 other guys whom I had never met before. It was only on the set
where I learned that this Francesco was the son of Anthony Quinn (Guns of
Navarone). We didn't talk too much but he seemed to be a nice guy. He was
playing the Indio protecting his people against the forest burners. He
eliminates one after the other, then finaly the baseball team is mobilized
to terminate this pain in the neck. But he gets us all. I got blown up by
a coconut bomb. It was a relaxed 2 weeks on the set, where I met with Kay
Wade and Chuck Hicks (both in their 80's now but still active as
stuntpersons). Brian Dennehey was our chief and sent us after the Indio.
nbSome old buddies I met here: David Light and David Brass (who worked for
the production). I still have contact with Kay and her friend Chuck.
Are there any other movies
not mentioned here you'd like to talk about?
dawn of the 1990's, you seem to have quit making movies. Why is that?
returned to Holland in 1990. My old man got sick, so I went home. He lived
for another 3 years but then the international film industry was almost
gone, so I desided not to return anymore. An old hernia was biting
me once in a while. I started a small practice in alternative healing and
like to get the real difficult cases. Last year I started my blog to
publish some of the movie stories, but for now it becomes more and more a
Bert Spoor in
martial arts pose
Has your background in martial arts helped you in your movie career?
My martial arts background gave me an advantage over others. I was in a
good shape and could make a nice fall... This helped me to get access to
film productions. However my reputation as a hillot (healer) opened
many doors, and I think this was one of the reasons why Ken and Maria
Metcalfe liked to have me on their filmsets...
most (maybe all) of your films, you were hired primarily because of your
background in stunts. Do you see yourself more as an actor or as a
I see myself absolutely as a stuntman, less an actor - I had some
dialogs in Indio
and American Ninja, but that was all deleted or cut, how do you
call that ???
you still in contact with some of your frequent co-workers from your
After such a long time I was surprised to
find so many friends from the past. Henry Strzalkowski, Don Gordon Bell,
Steve Rogers, Bill Kipp, Eric Hahn, Dick Israel, Kay Wade, Chuck Hicks.
I'm still looking for more...
With your film career over, what are you
doing these days, and could you ever be lured back into
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Bauliche Angelegenheiten ein Roman von Michael Haberfelner