Thursday, September 15, 2011

Christoph Klüppel - Back From the Jungle! part 4

Continuation from part 3.

Ninja Dixon: In Gold We Trust (1991) looks big and seem to have some money behind. Philip Chalong is doing the directing again, but there is a lot of non-Thai people involved. I heard this was a co-production between US and Thailand, with American money bringing stars like Jan-Michael Vincent and Sam Jones into the movie. Can you tell us a bit about what you know about the history of this movie?

Christoph Klüppel: Unfortunately, about the history of this movie I don’t know much at all, as I was hired as an actor and only came” into play” once the shooting started. So I was not involved in the preparation work leading up to the actual shooting of the movie. What I can remember regarding the shooting is that working on this movie was , probably partly due to the US financing, far less stressful and less exhausting than working on ”The Lost Idol”. When shooting ”IN GOLD WE TRUST” ,there hardly was any need to get up as early as 3.30 a.m. to be driven out to the set somewhere in the middle of nowhere or into the jungle, which was quite common when shooting ”THE LOST IDOL”; and , when shooting ”In Gold We Trust” it was also not as often necessary to work until late at night. As far as I recall, the shooting , at least as far as my part was concerned, was also completed in far less time than ”The Lost Idol”. So all in all, shooting ”In Gold We Trust” was – at least for me - a ”walk in the park” compared to the far tougher circumstances and work conditions I had to put up with when shooting ” The Lost Idol”.

ND: One of many reasons I love Thailand, and also watch a lot of Thai movies, is the fantastic locations. This movie has a lot of very exotic and beautiful places. Where was it shot? The cave for example, is it the same that was used in The Lost Idol?

CK: ”In Gold We Trust” was, at least for a major part, shot in areas around Saraburi and in the forested hills leading up to ”Muak Lek”, 130 km North-East from Bangkok, where also the cave was located. It was not the same cave as the one that was used in ”The Lost Idol”, though . Some further scenes ( f. ex. the scene where the safe was hidden in the cave under water) was shot in Petcharat Camp, also located in Saraburi region, just a bit off the major highway. The Saraburi area always used to be one of the most preferred shooting areas of director Khun Chalong, as it offers beautiful natural scenerie, waterfalls, forested jungle-like areas, etc. and is yet just some hundred kilometer from Bangkok. In those times film needed to be developed in the lab in Bangkok to check whether the various takes had turned out all right, and due to the proximity between the set and the capital Bangkok, it was easy to take any completed film rolls back to the lab in the city, get them developed promptly, and – in the event that any scenes shouldn’t have turned out all right - the respective scenes could easily be shot again, while we were still working in the same area. But usually this wasn’t necessary, as the camera team was quite experienced and most professional.

ND: Jan-Michael Vincent did a lot of movies around this period, and then slowed down to finally retire totally some years ago. You have some scenes with him, mostly action, but how was he to work with and did you hang out with him between takes too?

CK: Jan-Michael Vincent was quite all right to work with, but I personally don’t remember him as very sociable in his free time. I recall that he appeared to be a bit “under the influence” of some alcoholic beverages often, or even most of the time, although this did not affect his acting ability to a major extent. I guess it may have been one reason why he mostly preferred to rest in the times between his takes . That’s probably one of the reasons why I didn’t get much of a chance to hang out with him. Also, as we were working on different teams, we actually didn’t have all that many shooting days in common. While Jan-Michael was with the “good” guys, I was with the “bad” guys, led by Sam Jones ; therefore, many times Jan Michael didn’t need to be on the set during scenes I was playing with Sam Jones and the other ”bad” guys, whereas I was not always needed on the set when Jan-Michael and the “good” guys were filmed.

ND: One scene I watched over and over and over again is when you lift Vincent up, just holding his head. How did you do that scene? I tried to spot wires, but didn't seen any stuff like that. Another illusion is when you get killed by the sword at the end, a very nice effect. But how did they do it?

CK: As of the mentioned scene, lifting Jan-Michel Vincent up just holding his head, there were definitely no wires used; what you see is what actually happened: the director instructed me to grasp Jan-Michael by his neck and pull him out of that earth-hole, and that’s what I did. And I didn’t have to do it just only once; to poor Jan-Michael’s misfortune, we had to repeat that scene at least three times until the shot was finally approved by the director. As I recall, Jan-Michael tried to help to make the scene look more realistic by jumping off the ground at the moment of my lifting him up, but in the excitement performing this particular scene several times in a row, I probably clutched his throat a bit hard at one or the other time. Jan Michel never made a fuss about it, but his then wife later scolded me for this at a party organized at the director’s house to celebrate the completion of the shooting, rebuking me that Jan Michel’s throat had been aching for days after this particular shot. – As of the scene when I get killed by the sword, the pointed end of a custom-made wooden blade wrapped in silver foil was attached to my back under my shirt before the shot was taken, making it appear, as if the blade had pierced me from the front and was now sticking out behind. When the scene begins, I am first seen from the front, so that the previously attached blade end is not yet visible at this moment. When the Japanese soldier then “pierces” me with his sword, the sword blade telescopes, shortening to less then half of its original length with the impact on my body . “Injured to death”, and grasping the sword, thereby holding it in place, I slowly fall down, turning slightly in the process, so that the blade’s pointed end, previously attached to my back now becomes visible, creating the impression that the Japanese soldier’s blade had pierced my body from the front. In fact, everything quite simply done, but obviously realistic.

Attention: Mr Klüppel shared with me a whole bunch of excellent and very rare behind-the-scenes photos from the scene described above, and I've attached them in a separate album for you all to see. Password is "attackafant". All of them are copyrighted to Christoph Klüppel and you need his permission to use them. Respect this.

ND: You have most scenes with Sam Jones, and I have to admit I always liked that guy. Here's he's really over-the-top, giving us a larger than life-character. Can you tell me about working with him?

CK: I was definitely impressed with Sam Jones’s acting style, which, in my opinion, truly brought to life the vile “bad guy character” which he portrayed. Sam Jones was easy to work with, and, due to our common interest in weight training and fitness, we had quite a few conversations. Sam Jones had even bought some department store weight-training equipment and brought it along to the set where he tried to work-out a bit between scenes whenever there was a chance; as of myself, I preferred to work-out at the hotel where I lodged and where I had arranged for my own gym set-up in one of the hotel rooms from which bed and furniture had been removed. However, during all the period of the shooting, there was hardly much time or spare energy left to work out much.

ND: It must be hard to find a stunt-double for you, so I guess you - like in The Lost Idol - do a lot of your stunt work yourself. How did you prepare for the stunts, training, stunt co-ordinator and so on?

CK: You are right, all the stunt work, which I had to perform, I had to do by myself, same as most of the other actors, with exception of the lead actors from the US of course. There were stunt-people to take over for them whenever there was a scene with any potential danger.
As of the stunts we other actors had to perform by ourselves, there usually was no special preparation or training provided for those; however, due to the regular intense weight training regimen which I used to adhere in those times, I fortunately was in a good physical shape and quite fit, which certainly helped. As of the stunts, the director and his assistant directors simply explained what to do and how to do it, and then we just tried to perform as best as possible following their instructions. Usually this worked just fine.

ND: I noticed that also in this movie your characters name is Christoph, like in The Lost Idol. Did they found your real name perfect for the parts, or was it just something that came naturally in the dialogue during the shooting?

CK: Obviously, the director Phillip Chalong must have found my real name perfect for my parts in both movies ”The Lost Idol”and ”In Gold we Trust” , although in the movie ”In Gold WE TRUST” it is spelled ”Russian style” as ”Kristoff” , whereas my real name is spelled ”Christoph”. As I am enacting the part of a Russian mercenary, in the English version of the movie released in the US, my own voice was dubbed by someone speaking English with a Russian accent; my own strong German accent obviously didn’t fit the part.

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