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Interview de Mike Abbott

Si nous aimons rire d'un certain cinéma déviant, nous sommes très loin de mépriser les hommes et les femmes qui s'y sont impliqués ou compromis. Il nous a ainsi paru enrichissant de faire raconter le nanar et son univers par les gens qui l'ont vécu de l'intérieur. La diversité des intervenants et de leurs réponses nous a rendu encore plus proches du cinéma que nous aimons : vous découvrirez, au fil des entretiens que ces différentes vedettes ont bien voulu nous accorder, des informations précieuses pour le cinéphile et le cinéphage, des anecdotes cocasses et, en esquisse, le portrait attachant de personnages souvent hauts en couleur.
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Mike Abbott

A recurrent leading villain yelling at Richard Harrison or sweating in coloured ninja costumes, shooting at Jackie Chan or shot by Chow Yun Fat, Mike Abbott has some nice stories to tell. A leading gweilo in IFD / Filmark films, as well as an extra during the golden era of the HK film industry, and till Indonesia, this super nice English brawny man shares with us his memories about a dozen years of activity in the best and the worst of Hong Kong movies.

Interview menée par John Nada

To start with, could you tell us a bit about you and your life, notably before you went to Asia? Where and when were you born? What did you do as a living?

My full name is Michael William Abbott. I was born on June 27th 1953, in Penryn, Cornwall, England. I did not attend University. From 1972 to 1975, I worked as a doorman, a swimming pool attendant, a children's entertainer, a cocktail barman, a wine waiter, a Butlins' redcoat... Then I worked as an underground labourer in the tin mines of Cornwall (1975-1980), as a barman again, and a building site labourer (1980-1983). In March 1983, I moved to South of France, in Vias-sur-Mer, where I managed a bar for a British holiday company. In October 1983, I moved to Germany, in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, to work in the kitchens of The Berchesgadener, a hotel for the American army. In July 1984, I moved to Chicago, U.S.A., and worked there in two bars (I was bartender in one and doorman in the other). From April 1985 to July 1985, I moved to Alaska and worked on board a fish processor ship. I was at sea for 4 months. For six weeks in the U.S., I hitch-hiked 7500 miles through 24 states. A great experience!
In July 21st 1985, I flew from Anchorage (Alaska) to Hong Kong. At first, in Hong Kong, I worked teaching English, as a fitness instructor, a bar manager... I also performed party-grams for an entertainment company. In May 1989, I started my own entertainment company, "Abbott Leisure", which is still in business today.

Once in Hong Kong, how did you get into the movie world?

In October 1986, while I was working as a doorman at a disco bar called "The Madhoose" (owned by a Scotsman of course), a movie agent approached me. He was impressed with the way I looked (I am 6 feet tall and 210 lbs). He asked me if I would like to work on a movie. Of course I said yes. The movie company was I.F.D. Films, with Joseph Lai being the producer and Godfrey Ho and Phillip Ko the directors. This was to be the start of my movie career and a 3 year relationship with IFD. From October 86 to October 87, I made 9 movies for IFD and 1 (and only) movie for Filmark (Tomas Tang). In these movies I was the lead villain. I had a lot of screen time and a lot of dialogue. I was usually billed second on the credits.

Unfortunately, I cannot find my filmography but I have posters and other materials with information on them. Some of the titles are as follows: "Royal Warriors" (with Richard Harrison), "Hitman the Cobra" (with Richard Harrison), "Rage of a Ninja", "Platoon the Warriors", "Goddess Mission", "Heaven's Hell, "Joy for the Living Dead", "Kill for Love", "Angel's Blood Mission". These 9 were for IFD One more, "Death Code Ninja", was for Filmark. In "Rage of a Ninja", there was one scene where I was waving my samurai sword about, and then I screamed "I AM THE ULTIMATE NINJA". Could this line have given the name to the "Ultimate Ninja" website??? It's worth looking into.

Any special memory about "Hitman the Cobra" and Richard Harrison?

Well, I remember "Hitman the Cobra" very well, because it was the second one with Richard Harrison, but I can't remember anything specific about it. I think it was maybe one of the best movies that IFD made, simply because Richard was in it. He made loads and loads, and after he went back to Italy, I carried on with "bad guy" parts, but the lads that were chosen after his leaving to be the leading good guys were just not in the same class as Richard.

How much were you paid on those films?

I was one of the better paid actors (remember I was not an extra in any of these movies). I was paid US$9 per hour. On average, I worked 10 hours a day for about 6 to 8 days per film. Total pay for each movie was then US$540-US$720. Actors like Richard would have been paid more of course.

Other Western actors such as Richard Harrison and Bruce Baron, who both did ninja films with director Godfrey Ho Ho and producer Joseph Lai, explained to us they had been tricked. Indeed, the scenes they shot have been edited any which way with some old Asian pictures and, beyond the poor quality of the result, they eventually found themselves appearing in many more movies than their respective contracts did specify. Did you experience the same problems?

I never had problems with IFD or Godfrey Ho. You mentioned Richard was cheated by them, I could tell he was not happy with them, but he was never rude about IFD. Richard was a gentleman. I never had a contract with IFD, these were my first movies so I had nothing to compare to. Richard and his friend Bruce, on the other hand, had a lot of previous experience, so had a lot to lose by being "tricked". I guess I was treated O.K. by Godfrey, he liked me and I liked him. I was well treated by the crew but I'm easy to get along with anyway. If an actor was a difficult person, he would be terminated at the end of that movie!

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