Ninja Dixon: ....and I have to ask you: You, if someone, has experience of running around in the jungle with bare chest and arms - how do you cope with the mosquitos? :) I've been in Thailand, and I plan to visit it again, but for me its hell out in the countryside hiking, with the heat and the insects trying to feed on my blood!
Christoph Klüppel: Of course, we had some insect repellent to put on our arms and other exposed bodyparts for protection. But mosquitoes and insects were not as much of a nuisance as one might expect. First of all, most of Chalong’s movies of the ”Gold” series were usually shot during Thailand’s sunny, dry ”cool” season, between November to January, when the mosquito plague is not so severe, and bad weather is not an obstacle to continued shooting. In the rainy season, things can look quite different. Also, many “jungle” areas used in the movies look more like ”jungle” than they actually are. Although there are trees, undergrowth and truly “jungle-looking” locations seen in Phillip Chalong’s various action movies, those scenic locations were hardly ever deep in the jungle, but often merely a few hundred meters off a farm lane or even a main road. After all, the set had to be accessible not only by the actors and camera team, but also by lighting trucks, crews, and trucks bringing lots of various equipment , and the “jungle areas“ chosen for the shooting were generally selected so that they could accommodate all that.
ND: I need to ask about Devil’s War (1993), the only time I’ve heard or read about this movie is on your homepage. So can you please tell us about it? Is it possible to find on VCD or DVD?
CK: “Devil’s War” is the very first, if not the only movie of Kitti Dasakorn, who also plays a part in this movie, next to his older brother Darm Dasakorn, who had been quite famous as an actor in the local movie scene, before he actually shot someone in real life and had to spend a few years in jail. The movie “Devil’s War” was low budget and lives of the good storyline and the great commitment of all the actors. I am playing the part of a Vietnam war veteran, whose plane gets shot down over a dense jungle area, survives badly hurt and is eventually found and nursed back to health by a local woman, who becomes his wife. Living in the jungle, hunting for food with arrow and bow, I one day get back home from a hunting trip and find my wife and daughter murdered. Following the foot traces of the small group of murderers through the dense jungle, I realize that this small group eventually joins a larger group of travellers and that the two groups continue their journey together. Falsely assuming that the larger group is complicit in the actions of the murders, I decide to kill all of them. However, as the number and weapons of this group are far superior to my own knife and bow, I start killing them one by one from ambush and with “jungle-techniques” such as traps, sharpened sticks etc. However, there is eventually even kind of a happy end. But I don’t tell you about it now; wait until you see the movie. I don’t think that it ever came out on VCD or DVD.
ND: Mission Hunter 2 came some years after, in 1995. Is this a direct sequel to the movie, or is it just in the title? The story and cast is similar.
CK: “Mission Hunter II” is not a direct sequel to “Mission Hunter I”. It is an entire different independent story, even though the cast is similar.
ND: You’re back, Rittikrai is back – but the movie is most famous for Tony Jaa’s small part. The US DVD markets it as a Jaa-movie for example! Do you have any memories of Jaa during this time? He must have been very young?
CK: To say the truth, I don’t remember Tony Jaa and his little part at all. There were a number of other stunt-men in Panna Rittikrai’s stuntman-crew, who in my opinion performed quite as difficult and impressive stunts, as Tony Jaa did. So at that time, at least in my personal view, Tony Jaa didn’t stand out in any special way. And, by the way, not only Tony Jaa, but we all were yet pretty young back then!
ND: The showdown in this movie is fantastic, one of my all-time favourite action-sequences. It seems quite complicated with a lot of explosions and stunts everywhere. How long did it take to shoot that ending?
CK: I can’t remember any more, how long it took exactly to shoot this action-packed finale, but it definitely didn’t take more than a few days. Everybody worked hard with dedication and did the best they could with whatever little was available, as the budget of the movie was quite limited. But the result was definitely impressive.
ND: And by the way, before I forget, how long was the shooting schedule of these movies?
CK: As far as I recall, the shooting schedule of these movies never much longer than some 4 weeks. It may be that some scenes may already have been shot before my involvement or afterwards, but I don’t think that the total shooting took much longer than those few weeks.
ND: “Mission Hunter II” became, what I know, your last movie – at least in a major part. Why is that? Did you feel yourself that you wanted to focus on other things? Please tell us about your career now and future.
CK: In fact, I actually did some further acting work after the completion of Mission Hunter II; for example, I played a short part in yet another movie produced by Khun Chokechai, called “Sing Siam” which is concerned with Thai boxing. Later on, I also played a part in a 15 sequence-TV action series, called “Dangerous Duo” (“Ku Anatarai” ) with Pete Thongjuer and Amphon Lampoon in the lead.
However, there are mainly two reasons for my eventual “withdrawal” from acting. First and foremost, with the shift of technology from shooting movies on film to the arrival of modern “video”-type shooting technology in the late nineties, things became more difficult, especially for me as a non-Thai. The arrival of “video”-type movie-shooting technology enabled , for example, the shooting of extended conversations without any cuts, making memorizing longer parts of script ( in Thai) necessary, which would have been a bit difficult for me to do without being able to read Thai. At the same time, remuneration became rather less than in earlier days, so that it wasn’t really worth my while to try and make the effort to continue working in the movie industry, which I actually never felt to be my real calling.
Another reason was that my career in the local fitness industry had meanwhile started to materialize and consolidate; throughout the years, I held several fitness management positions in various renowned local fitness clubs, next to running an own gym-equipment manufacturing business. And, as a foreigner living in Thailand with the intention to reside here for good, my continuous stay and long-term visa was dependant on the possession of a work-permit. A very important document over here, required even for things as simple as opening a bank-account etc. For all these reasons, I valued continuous job security with its privileges such as work permit, proper long-term visa and a regular income etc. as more desirable than the occasional work as an actor with all the inherent risks for my long term plan to live, work and reside here for good. To successfully keep up a management employment and also to pursue acting work with its irregular schedules, often requiring up-country stays of days or even weeks at a time was simply something hard to combine with each other.
Sometimes one simply must decide what’s most important in one’s life, and in mine, this was definitely not acting.
That was Mr Christoph Klüppel, ladies and gentlemen! Me, Ninja Dixon, is very grateful for this opportunity to interview Mr Klüppel about his movie career in Thailand, his past and what’s happening right now. I put together what I believe is his complete filmography (not counting TV and advertising), and feel free to use this and the interview as a resource and reference in the world of Thai action cinema, with a note were you took quotes and information.
The Lost Idol (1988)
Mission Hunter (1989)
In Gold We Trust (1990)
Satanic Crystals (1992)
Devil's War (1993)
Mission Hunter 2 (1995)
Sing Siam (1996)
You can find his official page here, were he also has a lot of cool photos from his fine career. And yes, what about Satanic Crystals? Even after watching the movie (for the first time) Mr Klüppel had no specific memories from the shooting... so just watch it yourself instead and love it!
Thanks and I hope you all enjoyed this!