Monday, 24 August 2009

"I've been killed many times, but this one was personal"

Bert Spoor in FIREBIRD


Intro by JACK J
Here's finally a proper update. Hah! This weekend ANDREW LEAVOLD did an interview with BERT SPOOR and obviously I had to bug him to let me bring it here. If you're a fan of trashy war flicks from the Philippines then there's a good chance you are already familiar with Bert Spoor. Well, if you're not then all you really need to know is that Bert went from Holland to the Philippines in the 80s and took part in the making of the kind of movies this blog is all about! Yes, trashy Vietnam War flicks!! I write about them, you read about them, but Bert starred in them! How cool is that. Anyway, other than that I don't really need to tell you anything except maybe just like some of the other "old" Filipino actors he's bloody nice. When I went thru a difficult time recently (due to a loss in my close family) he wrote again and again with supporting emails to my other (sometimes more personal) blog (but of course anybody who wrote to me during that period is great im MY book!). Anyway, just bite into this interview and you'll be alright with info. Thanks to Andrew. All photos and newspaper scans are from Bert's blog except the video covers which nice members of Cinehound have provided me with. You can click all the cover scans for bigger, proper size! Thanks to everyone!!

For Bert Spoor's filmography go here.



(Interview part one, 20 August 2009)

Andrew Leavold:
"I've been killed many times, but this one was personal." Just heard this from Philippines action star Bert Spoor on meeting Nick Tate, his nemesis from RETURN TO THE RIVER KWAI.


Andrew Leavold
What a line, Bert! Spoken like a true action star!!!


Bert Spoor
Well it wasn't Nick who did it but Dick Israël.

Andrew Leavold
Introducing Bert, everyone: A guy who was in around 20 Filipino A and B films throughout the 80s, including a few Chuck Norris and Oliver Stone films! Let's start an interview right here, Bert - what initially brought you to the Philippines from the Netherlands?


Bert Spoor
I was about to go shopping, well! 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 to 'do' a movie. After drinking a San Miguel beer I decided to join. Actually 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 as 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.

Japanese video release of FIREBIRD CONSPIRACY

Andrew Leavold
JURAMENTADO is a Tagalog-language action film for the local Filipino market, and is a far cry from the A-list and even B-list co-productions. What are the glaring differences between making local and export films?


Bert Spoor
I think that the international [companies] were more professional, had more budget and they brought their own 'first' cast, so the bigger parts were given already. They payed about the same salary, food was better [Italian food] and of course: time is money. They wanted to shoot the entire film in a week or so. FIREBIRD took over half a year to finish. The Filipino stuntmen however were the best I ever worked with. Last but not least: A flagrant difference is the exposure. Many Pinoy movies didn't make it abroad.

I was very lucky to meet the right people to help me around in the beginning. Guys like Nick Nicholson and Henry Strzalkowski became close friends, I can't count for the number of joints we smoked together on many a set (also the international productions). Man it was heaven those days.

Andrew Leavold
Nicely put! What was life like between films? I'd love to get a picture of what bored out-of-work actors got up to in Manila


Bert Spoor
I didn't stay in Manila for long, didn't like the pollution and the crowd. But when I was there most of the 'actors' were hanging around in Ermita, the tourist belt in Manila. We did things tourists do. After moving once or twice I found a nice place in Cavite, a province south of Manila. I lived there for some 5 years. At the beach !!! The problem was to stay in touch with the casting offices. There was no phone in my place Naic, and I had to travel half way up Manila to find the nearest phone-booth. My favorite casting bureau was Central Casting run by Ken and Maria Metcalfe. Ken and I were pretty close, he loved the way I used my healing-skills on the set and he often found me a part to participate in a production. When we had a shooting for several days in a row I used to spend the night at friends places (Bugsy Davao and Carlos Palacios thank you!).

Bert in BEHIND ENEMY LINES (not to be confused with Killer Instinct which Roger Corman released in the US as Behind Enemy Lines).

Andrew Leavold
Let's talk about Central Casting, as many of the international productions shot in the Philippines used Ken and Maria's huge butterfly net. Where were they situated, and how did they operate? What can you tell me about Ken and Maria as people?


Bert Spoor
Their office was at Filmore avenue Makati. People mostly dropped by and asked what was coming up. 9 out of 10 times you needed to come back next day or next week to join a casting. I had a friend in Manila, Dante Par Pasia who answered [my] phone for me. When the office called there was a shooting or something he would send his son as messenger all the way down Naic. I really loved those people. Once I was pick-pocketed in a bus on my way home. This happened near the office. I decided to stop and see Ken. I explained the situation to him and asked if I could borrow 10 pesos or so get home. He laughed and handed me a 100 pesos. Saying: "Well I guess I need to offer you a job to enable you to pay back your debts, haha."

He never asked me for the money.

Nick Nicholson in FUTURE HUNTERS

Andrew Leavold
Did they get you your roles in Chuck Norris' films? Can we please talk about your experience on those?


Bert Spoor
The first movie with Chuck I was casted due to my martial arts skills and because I had the same size as Chuck, 5' 8". They liked my resume and I was in (MISSING IN ACTION 1). When they returned to shoot MIA 3, Aaron Norris recognized me and said: "You have a job". Great!! Now it happened that the first camera man Joao Fernandez, had a painful shoulder, he couldn't handle his heavy cam. He was told that I did some healing stuff and came to ask me to have a look. Well, I could do those things, so I touched his shoulder and the pain was gone... He continued shooting and we became friends. That came in handy with the 3rd Golan Globus production. I was cast to play a skinhead. I didn't like the idea but it's exposure, [right?] I was just waiting for a friend to finish his casting when Joao entered the room. He asked if I had a part in the production. I told him about the skinhead scene, he looked at me and said: "Wait, I'll have something else for you".

He returned within a few minutes, smiling, and told me I was to play a Delta Force soldier. That meant a lot more shooting days, and more money.

HELLCAMP aka Opposing Force

Andrew Leavold
VERY cool. Cannon was a company that made a fortune on their Filipino-made action and war films, starting with ENTER THE NINJA. They appear to be very good at delivering what the public wants at the right moment - what was your impression of the Golan and Globus guys?


Bert Spoor
As you say they made a fortune on those productions. Chuck still was very popular after his fighting scenes with Bruce Lee. Some say he's a bad actor, I disagree. And his Choreography is also perfect. As Delta Force soldiers we were well prepared to do our fighting scenes. The production organized a training in Luneta park, a lot of Chinese came there as well to practise Tai Shi. We found us a nice piece of grass to practise. We were trained to non-contact combat, which means we had to pretend as if we were hit by our opponents. A correct camera position can't see if there's an impact or not. We were to react to uppercuts, and kicks, in the stomach, things like that. The next day I couldn't move my fucking neck due to all the moves and swings I had made, while nobody touched me. They made a fortune, we didn't ... that's my impression!

Andrew Leavold
Just beer and dope money, right? I'd love to know where and how you started your martial arts training, and what then led you to Eastern healing.


Bert Spoor
My Dutch sensei Johan v.d. Bruggen not only mastered Judo, Ju-jitsu and Kendo, but also practised Shiatsu, a Japanese way to cure or to kill either way. He was able to cure by touching. In the 70's I got interested in the magic of the pyramids in Egypt. When the son of a friend of mine became very ill I went for a search to find a cure to Pan-encephalitis. Regular doctors couldn't help. I even came to talk with the Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, he abusively was mentioned as a 'herbs doctor'. I ended in London where I found a Chinese acupuncturist who once cured the Dutch prince Bernard. He treated the boy, who only had weeks to live, 5 days in a row. Then we went home. The boy lived for another 2 years but finally died from pneumonia!! Since that time I'm a big fan of acupuncture and other non-regular ways of healing. I bought every book I could find about this subject and 'studied' some 20 different alternative healing methods. In the late 70's I met with the Yugoslavian karate expert Zeljko Iljadica, 6th dan Shotokan. He taught me how to breath and to concentrate. I learned how to break bricks but was more in for the gentle touch that enabled me to cure.

Bert in BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY

Andrew Leavold
Nice story. Can we now talk about your experiences on individual movies, starting with THE DESTROYERS (dir. Cirio H. Santiago, 1984)?


Bert Spoor
I told you I was killed before! In this movie I probably died 4 or 5 times. I guess Cirio liked my way of dying, hahaha. Once I came pretty close to an accident. We were playing goons, awkward hoodlums, roughnecks defending their marijuana plantation!!! We were the motherfucking bad guys. One scene I was suppose to be trapped. A booby trap was prepared beneath a tree, a rope hanging down ending in a loop. When I reach the loop, I hook my own leg and go face first, the camera freezes so my foot can be placed in the loop. Then I'll be pulled up the tree, hanging up side down, swinging one leg .OK, it was action I tell you. There were four guys, off-frame, pulling this rope with all their enthusiasm to the limit. So I ended off-frame as well, in top of the fucking tree. It had to be done again, so they got a mark where to stop pulling and I was placed back in position #1. "Ready for take 2? ... Action !"

And up it went again. Oh yeah, at the right height this time, but I was moving and swinging and spinning around, clashing with the tree. I tried to make the best of it and started yelling and cursing for help. But Cirio didn't like it, he had planned something else. It had to be done a third time.

"The direct is shouting action again, the guys start pulling and I go up". But half-way only, from there I went back down with the same fucking speed as I got up. I had a split second to duck my head before I hit the ground with a serious impact. The knot to extend the rope didn't hold and slipped. All four guys were on their asses as well. I was mad like hell, threw away my wig and told them to find another fucking stupid asshole to perform in their fucking amateur approach.

I didn't hurt myself at all cos I could break the fall just in time, but I didn't feel much like hanging up/down again. I mean I perished a couple a times already that day, where was my enthusiasm? Puh...... Now I expected someone to come down and ask me to try again.

I probably would have. But they didn't. They didn't dare fucking me up one more time.. hahaha. Well, they found me a double to finish the high-light. I was watching this picture from a distance and noticed that my double was placed in up/down position directly. He needed to hang to a complete still. I had no idea what was going on. I still didn't get it when they placed a bamboo frame, having sharp spears all over, around his body. Curiously I asked a smart-ass what they were intent to do. He explained to me that the booby-trap had a follow-up. This bamboo frame is suppose to pierce the person as it swings down from the trees. Now it will be shot backwards. The frame is pulled away in this shot, but edited the reverse way. Yeah, now I got the picture why I had to hang in pose. But I wasn't told. Never mind.

I found myself a nice place behind the cams to value the first class trick. The same four guys, holding another rope with the bamboo frame now, were ready on action.

I remember me thinking: I hope they made a good knot this time. There was no rehearsal, they pulled at action...
Now, how many times can you fuck up ????????

Cameras are rolling, ACTION... and they pull their asses off. Oh, believe it or not, two of them slipped out of their slippers and the frame ( quite heavy), went back the way it came. I tell you, my heart stopped beating for a while...Only inches before it was to hit my double, the move came to a hold. I had this 'funny' feeling in my stomach I can't explain to you. Wasn't I suppose to have hung there ??........
... Read more
This was A Dangerous Life, was my conclusion.

But I would do some more films with Cirio !!!!



Andrew Leavold
Cirio's a huge name in Philippines film-making, now sadly passed away - you also worked with him on one of his many post-apocalypse movies, EQUALIZER 2000 (1986). What are your memories of him, and of EQUALIZER 2000?


Bert Spoor
You're going fast Andrew, hahaha, just a minute, I'll make me some coffee...

Andrew Leavold
Bert, you're going like a champion yourself! I'm outta here in 20 mins, please feel free to wax lyrical about Cirio if I've headed off to bed. Add to that your memories of working with David Carradine on POW THE ESCAPE (1986)!


Bert Spoor
I cannot remember much of the EQUALIZER, I did the routines and died again several times. A lot of background action, being blown away and fly the sky. There was a small incident however I won't forget. There was a little tree left in the frame, and this little tree was supposed to break at gunfire. At action the little blast made some noise and but the tree was still there. At take two, just about action, this sucker all of a sudden falls down, very slowly. It's quiet on the set then everybody starts laughing when Cirio was cursing: Putanginamo. Third take the tree was set back to position, I think this one worked...

Dutch video release of BLACKFIRE

Andrew Leavold
Thanks for all your amazing stories, Bert! When you have some more time I'd love to hear more! Cheers, arrividerci and GOOD NIGHT.


End of part one.



Part two, 23 August, 2009.

Andrew Leavold:
BERT SPOOR INTERVIEW PART 2: We continue our in-depth probe into the Philippines filmic adventures of a Dutch B-actor and martial artist a looooong way from home.


Andrew Leavold
Bert, you spent a good part of your time in the Philippines on a Cirio H. Santiago set. What do you remember of him as a director, and as a person?


Bert Spoor
First I thought that Cirio had an alias as Teddy Page, only later I learned it was two guys, haha. It was great working with him, fun and a lot of humour. To many guys he was like a father. He hardly raised his voice and was friendly to the end. He managed to shoot a film in weeks were others needed months (Firebird). In his directions he gave us a lot of space so you could improvise. I loved the guy, but who didn't ?

Andrew Leavold
Henry Strzalkowski described Cirio as "the General", and said he commanded great respect from his "troops". Would you say that's true?


Bert Spoor
It was a meeting point for all foreign actors. It's there I met with Richard Harrison. A nice guy always talking about his family. I was confused when we were shooting THE DESTROYERS. We started shooting with this working title. A couple of days later we were shooting Kings Ransom, and not much later The Devastators. I thought I could add 3 more titles to my filmography, but it was ONE movie..

Andrew Leavold
There's quite a few in your filmography, POW THE ESCAPE (1986) with David Carradine for one...


Bert Spoor
Everybody had great respect for Cirio and he deserved it, I wouldn't call him a general, but he was in charge for sure and always open for suggestions.

You asked me about my experiences on the Behind Enemy Lines or POW set. I was cast by Maria Metcalf to play a 'medic'. I thought I had to play a doctor in a hospital, but they needed a guy on-board a helicopter. Only later I learned that "the Grasshopper" was there as well. He became famous in the Kung-Fu series long before you were born I think.

Andrew Leavold
I think I was 2 when Kung Fu came out, and hooked me early on martial arts films for life...POW was another Cannon Film, right? Presumably they were trying to duplicate the success of their own MISSING IN ACTION (1985).


Bert Spoor
I had the days of my live (again ). It was one of the easiest parts I ever did. We were flying sky high having a nice view on the set below us. We were suppose to land on the spot to rescue the wounded. But often the special FXs were so huge we couldn't see the spot. After landing we hurried to pick up the wounded and take off again. In between I had the opportunity to talk with David Caradine. I was taking 5 with some other guys when David came over and introduced himself. A very friendly man answering all our questions. Unfortunately I lost most of the pix from this movie.

This time they didn't succeed to making it a hit. I don't know why. There was a lot of action and David acted great, may be the supporting actors fouled up, haha. But Cannon came back with Chuck in MIA 2 and 3, and the DELTA FORCE series.

Andrew Leavold
Did you witness the fatal helicopter crash?


Bert Spoor
There were 2 crashes. One happened very close to my house in Naic, less than a mile [away]!! I was exercising on the beach in the early morning when the chopper passed by at low altitude. I could see the people inside. When I turned around I heard a noise and the helicopter was gone. I hurried back home and learned that they crashed near the beach. The tail-rotor was blown off and landed in a house (nobody was inside). I hurried towards to hospital in Naic, less than 2 km from my place and saw the dead and wounded. One of the worst experiences I ever had.

Andrew Leavold
Then there was the one on the Chuck Norris set...


Bert Spoor
Both helicopter accidents were on Chuck Norris sets. The first one was MIA. The 2nd [on] DELTA FORCE 2. About 30 Delta force soldiers were trained and were suppose to board on 3 Sikorsky helicopters. Due to the first accident with a Filipino chopper the government wasn't to eager to provide us again. Even Imelda couldn't help !! So many of the soldiers were dismissed. I was still part of it. They hoped to get at least 1 Sikorsky, but no way... Finally a small private Dauphin was found. It only fitted 6 men or so. I didn't make it to the last 6 and was dismissed as well. I returned home to Naic switched on the radio on heard the news. I tell you, my hair turned grey that moment. You better ask Eric Hahn about this accident, as he witnessed the whole thing. He even joined the rescue team that hurried to help survivors. It was my last movie....

Andrew Leavold
Why was that, Bert? And when did you return to the Netherlands?


Bert Spoor
In fact it was a dangerous life, no insurance and I had spent some of my savings already. "What happened with all the millions we made the movies?" hahaha.
Well, there were many close accidents on the set, I almost had a helicopter in my backyard and missed another crash by inches!! I had turned 40 and wanted a change. I decided to start a practice in Holland doing this alternative healing. My father wasn't doing too well either and had a massive surgery (colon cancer, stoma etc.). We had a nice 3 years together, he passed away in '92. He was my best friend, and I'm glad he had the opportunity to visit me in '85 and experienced the set of HELLCAMP!!

Andrew Leavold
Now we come to HELLCAMP, starring Tom Skerritt...


Bert Spoor
We were heading for "Hidden Valley' near Alaminos.
This valley is situated between Laguna-lake and Taal-lake and formed ages ago when the whole area was blown apart by a huge eruption. The volcanic activities didn't stop since then, it still rumbles and bumbles once in a while. There are hot water springs all over the place, small lakes, a unique flora and fauna, little rivers everywhere, the sound of falling water, the smell of the jungle. It was such a nice place to be a real Wonderland. The film set was a prison camp supposed to be on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. The prisoners needed to be guarded and I was one of them. The shootings might take as long as three weeks, weekends off. It was a relaxed set, there were more crew than cast. There was plenty of time to smoke a dooby and to enjoy the nature at its best. Henry [Strzalkowski] really was a nice guy, typing his name is the only unpleasant part of this guy, hahaha. I think this was the 5th or 6th movie I worked with him. He was close to Nick too and joined many a joint. Henry didn't give it a second thought when I asked him how about bringing my old man to the set next week? He said it was a nice idea and would ask higher-up. Production didn't mind and it was OK'd. When I told the cast about my fathers visit next week they all saw it as a very nice opportunity for a retiree to experience this.

Bertus sr. jumped sky high when I told him about things to come. He couldn't wait the weekend to pass. Pa had a good time on the set and it didn't bother him at all that nobody understood what he said and that was vice versa.

Housing wasn't a problem either, there was plenty of room and an extra bed was provided in one of our nice bungalows. I wanted to pay for the food but he was an 'all in' guest and it was for free. My father was surprised by all the hospitality and felt a little like a movie star already. He was allowed to stay for a couple of days and he enjoyed every minute of it. I'll mail you some pixs.

Andrew Leavold
I saw the photos of your dad's visit on your blog, he looked like he was having a ball! Do you remember feeling like the crazy ride was coming to an end around the last few Chuck Norris pictures? Film production in the Philippines was definitely on the wane around 1990 - what do you put that down to?


Bert Spoor
I went home...

Andrew Leavold
Of course!! And everyone else followed!


Bert Spoor
Who knows, hahahaha.
Well, it was politics that fucked up I guess. Ermita (the source of extras) was 'dismantled' and Imelda Marcos, who was a great fan of the film industry and often interfered when military equipment, [and] was needed on the international film set, was no longer there. But who's to blame? I will not comment on that, cos I burned my fingers before commenting politics...

Btw re-reading my posts I spotted some typing errors. Hé, my fingers are faster than the Eye. Sorry for that [By some mysterious magic most of those are gone now. Jack].

Andrew Leavold
Regardless of your political persuasion, the Marcos' were great supporters of the film industry.


Bert Spoor
The whole family. As a fact I happened to know the Romualdez family pretty close. I attended a Romualdez wedding in '85 where I met with the first Lady (that story will be posted on my blog in English very soon). But also the vice-president's family were supporters of the local and international film industry.

Andrew Leavold
In what ways do you remember the Marcos regime subsidizing film-making?


Bert Spoor
Well, most of all they were subsidizing themselves. Supporting, censuring or subsidizing what's the difference, films are used as a political outlet. I have no idea how far the influence of the regime was involved in the film-making in the P.I. But believe me, it was huge...

Andrew Leavold
One film we haven't been able to find is THE B TEAM. Can you please tell us something about it, and who was involved?


Bert Spoor
It was filmed with this working title, a film with Richard Harrison again. I was there for one day only, I met with the usual guys. I was always blown away somewhere in Cirio's films. To me it looked all the same. And after almost 6 years doing stunts I can't remember one from the other. I'm not sure if it even was released, probably [under] another name. Sorry, I can't add more info on this.

[Edit Jan. 24, 2010: I've actually just discovered that THE B-TEAM was released under the alternative title of ABOVE THE WAR. There's an entry for it on this blog! Jack J]

Andrew Leavold
I totally understand! How are we going for time, Bert? I'd love to hear your favorite anecdotes about some well known faces. Nick Nicholson, for instance...(remember he'll be reading this!)


Bert Spoor
I'd better be careful cos he loves kicking asses, hahaha.
No, he's really a good guy, from the very first day we met we were 'smoking' buddies. So was Henry of course. There aren't really anecdotes, it's all big stories with this guy! It would fill a book to write about that. And he is doing that right now on his blog. The most hilarious was I think when we wrapped early on the FIREBIRD set. After diner we started to play Monopoly (we played that a lot) and alcohol was involved. I believe it was Peta Wittle who managed to find a bottle or two. Most of us were pretty 'greasy' after a few drinks, but what the hack, we had fun. Then all of a sudden Bugsy Davao our AD showed up to tell us we had a night shooting. We were "lasing", intoxicated and hardly capably to move our hotels on the board. On the set everything went wrong, I mean Everything. When the direct told us 'to stick our guns in any hole we could find' filming was no longer possible. We all pissed our pants.

On the set of HELLCAMP: Raphael Shulz, Berto Spoor, Steve Rogers, Bill Kipp, and Henry Strzalkowski

Andrew Leavold
How about Paul Vance? Has anyone heard from him recently?


Bert Spoor
Bugsy had a hard time on us. So often he had to warn us to find another place to smoke our doobies cos the smoke was blurring the set...

Paul Vance. He was in the picture for a short while a few months ago, after some mails he all of a sudden disappeared. He's residing in Thailand somewhere. Seems to do OK. He was the guy introducing [me] to the film industry, without him I wouldn't be writing these stories now. Maybe he returned to Belgium.

Andrew Leavold
Many thanks for everything today Bert - gotta run home now, but would love to more if you get the chance?


Bert Spoor
I enjoyed it Andrew. L8r


Bert Spoor
Btw. Visit my blog
http://bert-firebert.blogspot.com/

Bert Spoor's Filmography

No comments:

Post a Comment

Yes, we have a comment filter now! It seems most comments these days come from shit spammers in India so there you go.

Bikini girls with machine guns

Yep, this video is from the one they're watching in Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN. It's an awesome video; I mean all it is is a bunch of scantly clad sexy babes with automatic guns going: "This is an AK47" pow pow pow pow - Haha. Absolutely fantastic! xD.