Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 2

continuation from yesterday...

Ninja Dixon: Your first movie was The Lost Idol, was it made in 1988 or 1990? I heard different years.

Christoph Klüppel: The shooting of The Lost Idol – in Thailand it is called “Gold III” - began in the end of 1987, and the last scenes were shot in early 1988.

ND: It has the feeling of a movie with a slightly bigger budget than usual. The cast is big, the explosions are even bigger and it has a name cast. How did you get involved in this movie?

CK: My involvement with this movie was incidental. Having moved from Austria to Bangkok (in April 1987) , just only a few months before The Lost Idol was produced, I got into a taxi one day, driven by a driver who spoke fairly good English. He expressed awe about my well-trained bodybuilder’s physique of those days and said that I should be in the movies. During our subsequent conversation he then explained that he used to live near the home of Thailand’s most famous action-movie producer Chalong Pakdivijit ( “Philip Chalong”) and that he could take me there. So I simply had him drive me to the producer’s villa, rang the door bell and said hello. Khun Chalong was home, and I was welcomed in and received in a friendly manner. At that time, Mr. Chalong was working to get ready to produce The Lost Idol; he was likewise so impressed with my physique (in those days, well-trained bodybuilder types of my height of almost 2 m height were rare over here!) that he promised to give me a part in his new movie right away at this, our very first encounter. As I had just moved to Thailand and at that time didn’t have any other employment opportunities in sight, yet, I was most grateful for the opportunity and accepted the offer.

ND: Even if Erik Estrada is top-billed, it feels almost like an ensemble cast – everyone is important, even the bad guys. I read somewhere that Estrada was forced to take this job in Thailand because of money trouble in the US and that he had to take a job outside the actors union. How was it working with him?

CK: As far as I am concerned, working with Erik Estrada was quite easy and pleasant; I always got along with him quite well. I remember Eric Estrada as being of an easygoing personality, and I never observed any unpleasant issues, such as an exaggerated star-demeanor, with him. In fact, I recall that I was quite impressed with his professionalism. However, I didn’t have very much personal contact with him, as he had been provided with a driver, and, together with the other US actors, had been accommodated at a more luxurious hotel than the rest of the cast. So after his work was done, he was usually promptly driven back to his hotel to rest. On off days, he was taken on excursions, and so we didn’t have much opportunity to get better acquainted.

ND: Two of Thailand biggest movie stars are in it to, Sorapong Chatree and Krung Srivilai. When you did this movie, where you familiar with their stardom?

CK: Back then, I was already somewhat familiar with the stardom of Sorapong Chatree, who until now remains one of the most popular actors in Thailand and is meanwhile also producing movies on his own. And, I personally also believe that he is good and down-to earth person, despite his well-deserved stardom. In all his movies Sorapong plays a hero and a person of high moral integrity, and that has endeared him to the Thai public. And to me, he appears to be that type of person in real life as well; during my 25 years in Thailand , I have never heard of him being involved in any scandals, and there never were any rumours about even the very least misconduct on his part, even though public figures of his standing are generally subject to increased public scrutiny and media attention. As far as I know, Sorapong Chatree lives an exemplary life-style and until now contributes a lot to society.

As of Krung Srivilai, I can’t not say all that much; as far as I know, he generally plays bad guys in the majority of his movies, and at the time of getting to know him during the shooting of “The Lost Idol” I didn’t perceive him to be a particularly popular movie star.

ND: It seems just the actors were westerners, but it has a Thai crew. How was the communication with the other cast and the crew? Did you speak and understand Thai at this point?

CK: The Lost Idol has both a Thai cast (in order to be able to successfully market the movie in Thailand, where names like Erik Estrada, James Phillips or Myra Jason wouldn’t ring a bell) , and a Western cast with some well-known Western actors ( to be able to successfully market the movie in the US (where nobody would know the likes of Sorapong Chatree or Krung Srivilai). At the time of shooting “The Lost Idol” I had been in Thailand for about eight months and already understood a bit Thai, basically just enough to have an idea what was being talked about and to manage to make myself understood. This facilitated my communication with the Thai crew, but, as of Khun Chalong and his assistants, they spoke good English anyway, which was essential for them to communicate with the US actors. For me personally, there were no major issues regarding communication, neither with the Thai crew nor any of the Western or Thai cast.

ND: You are obviously a very physical guy, so I guess the action wasn’t any problem for you here, but that helicopter scene look quite dangerous. Was it you, or did they actually find a stuntman that had your physique?

CK: That helicopter stunt was performed by me in person. There certainly wasn’t any stuntman that had my physique and, even though the scene looked dangerous, I was yet confident in my capability to successfully manage to perform it. For safety, I was hooked up to the ski of an old army-helicopter with a hidden steel cable, and when the helicopter took off, I had to cling on to one its skis during take-off, clutching a straw-dummy in a Vietnamese uniform with my legs to make it appear, as if an enemy “soldier” was clinging on to my legs to pull me off the helicopter. I had been instructed to kick that dummy off, when the helicopter was flying over a certain tree, which I did; however, my kick caused the dummy’s head to fly off in one direction and the rest of the dummy’s body in another; when you carefully watch the scene in slow motion, you can still notice both parts falling separately to the ground. However, as this event was recorded in a very long shot, the scene fortunately didn’t have to be retaken, although back then I even volunteered to do it again. After I had kicked off the dummy, the helicopter flew a wide round to prepare again for landing, and during this time, my arm- muscles got so exhausted that it became quite hard for me to keep hanging on. So I also brought my legs up and wrapped them around the helicopter’s ski during its flight in order to take strain off my tiring arms and to enable me to hang on for a bit longer; after all I didn’t have much confidence that the attached safety cable would actually hold my weight of 120 kg, if I would indeed let go. But in the end, everything went well, and the helicopter brought me safely back to the ground before I ran out of strength and couldn’t cling on any longer. Such events were typical when shooting movies in those days; technique wasn’t very advanced yet and very little of the “dangerous” action was performed by stuntmen, but the movies lived from the initiative, courage and dedication of the actors who had to perform most, if not all their action stunts by themselves without much technical assistance.

ND: With Erik Estrada and James Phillips in the cast, plus you, The Lost Idol was probably aimed at an international audience. How did this affect you? Did you get a chance to travel around doing press for the movie?

CK: The Lost Idol was intended both for the Thai audience and an international audience, mainly in the US. However, I fortunately didn’t have to travel to abroad to help promoting the movie. And I was quite glad about that, as I certainly wouldn’t have been eager to travel anywhere; I was, and I still am happy for each and every day that I have the privilege to be here in Thailand, and even nowadays, I hardly ever leave the country, unless it is unavoidable.

However, as of promoting “The Lost Idol” locally, I remember that shortly before The Lost Idol had its premiere in the cinemas, I myself and some of the Thai actors were asked to attend a televised Thai boxing competition in one of Bangkok’s boxing stadiums; each of the actors had been given a golden necklace by the producer to donate it to the winner of each of the various boxing matches which is customary habit over here, and in this case it was aimed at promoting “The Lost Idol”, which is called “GOLD III” here in Thailand.

Read part 3 tomorrow...

Part 3, published tomorrow Wednesday, will deal with his role in Mission Hunter together with martial arts legend Panna Rittikrai!

(all photos from the movies belongs to Dr Christoph Klüppel)

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