NIGEL HOGGE Interview with Andrew Leavold, January 2008
Andrew: Welcome Nigel! Let's start with some background information.
Nigel: I have been in the
I guess your situation's unique as you didn't come to the
Mostly the Cirio Santiago-Roger Corman connection, Bobby Suarez of BAS Film Productions, and a few others. I worked for Eddie Romero, I worked with Joe Zucchero a lot – he was closely associated with Cirio and Bobby – and through Joe, he used to get me into the movies.
What was your first introduction to filmmaking?
The first film I ever made...(scratches ear)...it was a Ramon Revilla, Gloria Diaz production, local Tagalog movie called Balakyot. And I played a bad guy with Ken Metcalfe and Joe Zucchero, and Dick Adair, who now lives in
He was a firebrand, he had a short fuse, but he was a good guy, very friendly. We all liked him and I still like Bobby. I haven't seen him for a while now. [We all had lunch together several days later] But Bobby's career was interesting - he got mixed up with the kung fu, martial arts thing in
Tell me about acting in the One-Armed Executioner.
We filmed that out in Bulacan and
...with a swastika on the side!
Really? (laughs) And I nearly got my head taken off while they filmed that. The helicopter came right over the speedboat and it was like that (crouching), and BAS Films only had the helicopter for two hours, and we had to get it on Take One. Big Pete Cooper was in that one, sis foot six, and he was my henchman. He got killed, too, in the mud.
How did Bobby cast the film?
There was a group of guys – Don Gordon Bell, Jim Gaines – all the time I was operating a pub in Makati, so I was gainfully employed, but a lot of those guys would drink in my pub, so that's how I got to meet them and got involved. And don't forget Joe Zucchero and Ken Metcalfe, who were quite big in the movie industry at that time here, writing scripts and production management. I remember in those days there were about ten of us. It was just a lot of fun in those days. We weren't paid any money in particular, about $100 a day at the rate of exchange at that time, which of course wasn't THAT bad money in those days, and I worked 4-8 days on a movie. So there were a few bucks in the bank, you'd meet some petty girls on the set – it was always a good come-on. But I remember Henry (Strzalkowski) was one of the better actors, Joe Zucchero, Ken Metcalfe, they were good actors. I never considered myself an actor – I never was, had no training – but I was available, and I had a car. So I'd drive them to the set! And I never complained about the conditions.
It's never been duplicated in the
Because of the peso-dollar exchange rate, and because it was so easy for them to come here and make what looked like a REAL B movie – possibly C movie – and with explosions and extras and so on, it was very convenient for them. And because the exchange rate, I think it was 50 or 40 to 1 at the time. Now it's more expensive of course, I don't think they're doing that many international movies here. I don't even remember the last movie made here, I think it was 5 years ago. Of course the Vietnam War had a lot to do with it, because to film
Bobby Suarez and Cirio Santiago were the guys I was involved with. There were other producers involved, but I can't remember who they were, but it was primarily Bobby and Cirio. And primarily Cirio, because of Cirio's partnership with Roger Corman, who was making movies all over the world at that time, and I think he was doing three or four a year out of the
And stuntmen willing to risk their lives!
Correct. And one thing Cirio was good at was bombs. He had a guy who could make a huge explosion that in an American or British or European movie would probably cost $10,000 to stage – he could stage it for $500 in a morning. And I mean they were really massive. I got my hair singed on many occasions running away from such explosions. We all used to sit around the sets saying “We're crazy to risk our lives like this”, but these guys, they knew what they were doing. The Filipinos had a real flair for putting just the right amount of gasoline and kerosene and whatever else is used in these “bombs”. That's basically most of what I remember, sitting out in quarries getting bombed and shot at! They had a lot of weapons, old World War 2 weapons and trucks and stuff. It was interesting...
What's the difference between a Cirio set and a local movie set?
The food was better on a Cirio set. But not THAT much better. On a Bobby set? When Bobby made movies, guys were...I won't say scared of him...but because he was very volatile and he was a real taskmaster, people would really focus and concentrate, because he had a real forceful personality. But we all liked him and respected him. Cirio was very easy going, very relaxed. He had a crew that had done it countless times. They were both good guys, treated their people very well. Didn't PAY them anything, but looked after them.
But what about the level of professionalism on a local film set?
Cirio moved faster – six, seven, eight setups a day, and he wasn't that crazy about dialogue. He loved action. Tagalog movies – pretty unprofessional. It's not really for me to say, because I never tried to produce or direct a movie, I might have been as poor as they were. I think that with Tagalog movies, they were always a little nervous around “foreign” actors, of how to treat them and how far you could push them. Whereas Bobby and Cirio didn't give a shit. We were told to do something, we did it. Whereas the Tagalog movies were perhaps a little bit leery about asking a white actor to put his life on the lone for a scene.
In Japanese it's “gaijan”. Oh, you're thinking of Chinese, “gwaillo”, which is “foreign white devil”. But her we're called “pogi” which is “handsome”. (laughs) I was actually a fairly pretty child – hard to believe now, I'm 65 and I've been through the mill – but good memories. I can't remember any bad people involved, they were just decent people trying to make a buck. Trying to produce the best movie they could with very tight budgets – most of the budgets being $300-500,000, above or below the line, I don't know. And it brought real actors from
So Christopher Mitchum, for instance, John Phillip Law...
Phillip Law of course was a big name at one stage. When I met him in the early Eighties, he was an ex-big star. And he was a nice guy too. Chris Mitchum I worked with at one time [on Bobby's American Commandos] – I'd always admired his dad. I remember with Chris Mitchum, all he really wanted to do was play chess. So whenever the director yelled “cut!”, Chris would run over to his chess set with whoever he was playing a game with. And he told me a couple of times that he really didn't like being an actor, and he was only really doing it 'cos they were paying him to do it with the Mitchum name. Then, “Everybody on set!” He'd look at his chess set, do his scene, run back to his chess set. And he's probably thinking about his next move during the scene. He obviously wasn't fully committed. But he was a handsome guy like his dad.
Sam Jones in Driving Force, I did a scene with. I think I played a cop. I was only in one scene. And on that movie, I have no idea what was going on with the movie. I have a feeling, and I may be speaking out of turn here, that they were trying to get rid of money. I remember I had one scene in the movie, or maybe two, out in Kalamba. I was wearing a policeman's uniform, I arrested Sam Jones, gave him a ticket, warned him, and THAT took eight days to shoot. They could have done it in one day. And we all felt like there was something going on, like they were trying to spend tax dollars, because that was ridiculous. There was something going on on the set but I was uninvolved. And they paid me every day, $100 a day, and I'd sit around the set doing NOTHING.
The Australian producer of Driving Force, Tony Ginnane, also produced A Case Of Honor with Timothy Bottoms.
I had a big scene with him. I played the Russian Colonel or Major in the Intelligence, and we had a group of American Vietnam War prisoners in front of us, and I had to drive up in a jeep, get out, and they were all sitting out on the grass, an I had to lecture them - that they will be released "only if you work for the future of the USSR" or something. That was Eddie Romero's direction. Also a very slow but delightful man - wonderful, sweet, charming person. I always regretted that, if there was any movie I'd ever made where I might have got some work because of a part and the performance I'd given, maybe it was that one. Because I was OK in that. I would remember my lines for some reason. I would never remember my lines in any other movie. In that one I had quite a large speech to make for almost a minute, and I got it right! I must've been drunk (laughs). And I'm sorry A Case Of Honor never went anywhere. I have no idea what happened to it.
I guess it got lost in the shuffle...
Pity, because it was done with some care by Eddie Romero. I never knew much about the movie industry itself, I never really got involved. It was all a bit complicated for me. I was just hired on as an actor.
I was involved in a movie called Obsessed, which I thought the working title was Angel or Angela, because that was the name of the leading actress, a very pretty 18 year old American girl - I think she was American - living in the
Bobby did get an international sale on his previous film, Red Roses For A Call Girl.
I was in that! My God I've been in more movies than I thought... I played a bodyguard or a henchman, and I beat up the leading actress, threw her into a room, threw her onto a bed. I didn't rape her....But I had to guard a girl that was involved with the German mafia. Something about drug running. We shot that largely in
Recently Cirio called you in to do a war film, When Eagles Strike.
I did, I think it was three years ago, which was the last picture I did, playing Senator Barnes, I think because of my thinning locks. I got kidnapped by the Abu Saiya, the guys from
I remember meeting Ken [Metcalfe] in the late Sixties when I visited
You did voice-overs on Ferde Grofé Jr's war documentaries?
Joe and I brought that film library here and Joe operated it for six or seven years, then we sold it and shipped it back to
There are still some of those guys who are still around - Henry Strzalkowski, Nick Nicholson...
I've lost touch with a lot of them. Ken died four or five years ago of brain cancer in the States.
And Robert Marius died a few years ago.
God, I haven't thought about Robert Marius in years!
Robert hung himself. Very sad.
I didn't know Robert had stayed in the
There was a working group of us that Cirio or Bobby would just call, 'cause we were available, and we knew more or less what was expected of us. Whenever I acted in a Cirio movie, having done my scene I would turn to Cirio and go, "......?" And he'd go (hand on face) and he'd shake his head and walk away. Which is really good for my confidence. And he said, "The only reason I employ you, Nigel, is that you're cheap." Which I thought was nice...he was a great joker. But it was true! He said, "You're a friend of Joe's, THAT's why I hire you!"
I don't know too much about Dick Adair.
Delightful guy, wonderful artist, sketcher, has been living in
The impression I get is that the movie making caper was fun.
It WAS fun. It was our life, you know, and living in the
You still have a very Shakespearian voice!
Well I do a lot of commercials, voiceovers. That's my talent, 'cos they don't have to see my face. I have the kind of face they say is "weather-beaten" or "well used by life".
A perfect face for radio?
There you go! Thank you! That is exactly what I've got. But I'm good for playing bad guys in local movies, 'cos they think that's what bad guys look like.
A white goon?
Yep, I'm a white goon. And I can play it well enough that it's halfway believable. I have a Roman nose - roman all over my face!
Life now is obviously a lot different than in the Seventies and Eighties.
It's a lot more expensive to live here. Manila's more polluted, tougher I think to get by. The Filipinos have a very hard time, there's a lot of poor people. It's a more brutal city I think than it was then, simply because of economics. And not being a young man now, obviously, the party's over to a large extent. Or the rather carefree life we used to live. But then again, a lot of guys in late middle age look back and it always looks like days were better in the past. But they forget the bad times.
Tell me about "the party". What was life like off the film set?
Being in the club business at one stage, me and a partner of mine were running seven or eight restaurants, bars, nightclubs. We had a lot of ladies working for us, big hostess clubs. My whole life was night time - I worked nights until 3-5 on the morning. I would sleep most of the day, so I'm a very experienced night crawler. But those days are over, I get to bed by midnight now and get up at 8 in the morning. That's what I mean by the party being over - I can't drink, I can't smoke, I can't chase girls quite like I was once able to. It's still a party town, but I'm completely out of the social scene now. I don't go to other people's bars or restaurants or parties, I just couldn't be bothered. There are so many functions going on inside the expat community - I don't even know the expats. I think some of them remember me from the Seventies and Eighties, even into the Nineties...
Then again I spend time in
Club owner, I can play. I can play a saloon keeper, a Senator, a drug lord. I can play an uncle, an Ambassador, an elder brother, a father....a grandfather!
It was! Before Martial Law came in - I got here in '71, and Martial Law was declared at the end of '72 by Marcos - and even during the early days of Martial Law, it really was a really wild and woolly place. Most people carried guns. I almost got shot a few times, being in the bar business. When a guy didn't want to pay a bill he usually pulled a gun out instead. So I had to give away a lot of free food! 'Cos I'm a devout coward. I'd say, "It's on the house." It was a wild, wild city. But I don't think it was any more wild than a lot of other cities. I think every city has a Red Light District.
It's like those guys were living out a movie villain fantasy.
I think I did. I think I saw myself as a Hugh Hefner of the East for a while...that fantasy kept me going for a long time!
I think of
...the reality of any other place! Absolutely, I agree with that. I spent a lot of time here, way too many years beside a swimming pool. And I swam every day, I lived like a ling. Like a little Lord. And much more that I deserved! I have a business partner who says, "Nigel, for a little boy from some little English country town, you've been laid more times than you should have been." And I agree!