Accueil > Interviews > Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

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.
liste des catégories

Stuart Smith (page 2)

In several movies, your acting style could be defined as quite expressionist. Did Godfrey Ho instruct you to act this way?

Expressionist? I think you are being much too kind! It was totally over-acting any scene you were given. Much the same as very old Hollywood movies where everything is over the top. I still remember talking with Bruce during an early film shoot in Kowloon Park about why the director insisted in us over-acting. His response was something like if you want to get paid, and employed in the future, do as requested. I think Godfrey’s most used phrase was “ I can’t see you acting .. more acting !”

What memories do you keep of Godfrey Ho? How was he on the set? Were you given any kind of script, with some real lines of dialogue to work with, or did you and the other actors more or less improvised on the set? Did you dub yourself for the English version?

I always thought of Godfrey as having an excited boyish quality. He was like a kid in a candystore, playing with cameras and trying to choreograph fight scenes with youthful exuberance.As I said, he always wanted to see “more acting” in front of camera and being on set with him was like being in a ninja version of a spaghetti western.

Scripts were pretty thin to say the least. You would normally be given a page or two of script to learn on the way to shoot which had usually been written the night before by some English teacher passing himself of as a scriptwriter. Having said that there was a lot of improv as most of the dialogue didn’t make much sense!

Godfrey asked me after I had done a couple of films for him if I would like to dub my own voice onto the film. That was really the beginning of my “dubbing daze”for which I have to thank him, as it led to almost a decade of freelance voice work. Spending long days and nights in darkened dubbing studios mightn’t be everyone’s idea of fun, but for a core group of voice artists it was a great way to make a living, and well paid by any ones standards. Often we’d work an 8 hour dayshift and then back up for a night shift, dubbing everything from the top box office Cantonese movies, to Brazilian soap operas, TVB costume dramas, and yes, ninja movies.

That’s where people like Pierre Tremblay were in his element. We were a fairly odd bunch of people, from different backgrounds. Everything was dubbed in an American or mid-Atlantic accent and we churned them out in everything from giant Golden Harvest and TVB sound studios, to hole in the wall production houses all over Hong Kong.and Kowloon. It was a very tight group of people, outsiders were treated with caution and we worked and played very hard. The often-told story of one successful “dubber” lighting his cigarettes at the club in the Peninsula Hotel with HK$100 notes springs to mind. It was the heyday of the film industry in general in Hong Kong and life was sweet.

Some of Godfrey Ho’s movies were apparently shot on the same locations, several scenes being shot on the same days for several different movies. All of the ninja films’action scenes seem to have used the same 4 or 5 locations. Could you elaborate on that? How long did it take Godfrey Ho to make “one” movie? Some special effects were, to say the least, quite crude. Was it due to economic restraints or do we simply have to blame Godfrey Ho’s ineptitude?

The joys of location shooting in Hong Kong! Initially most of the IFD/Filmark shoots seemed to be done in Kowloon Park, which was just down the road from their offices. I “died” regularly in that park for many years! I think that when the crowds watching the filming became too intrusive, plus the lack of any filming permits and the odd inquisitive policemen that patrolled the Park became too much, we moved on. Normally to some old World War 11 gun emplacements on one of the many peaks surrounding the harbour or out in the new territories. Occasionally we would shoot in the production offices or a Saikung hotel.

We all got into a van around 8AM outside the office and ended up only they knew where!

Shoots were generally 10 days to two weeks, maximum.

As for the “special effects” I think it was whatever the budget allowed, which wasn’t much I would imagine.

Ho asserted in one interview that he had “never edited footages together in his movies”, but it is blindingly obvious that he plundered footage from chinese, filipino, thailandese, etc. movies so he could edit the footage of one film into three or four. He also stated that he was not involved in the editing but evidence suggests the contrary. Do you have any infos / anecdotes about that? At what point were you aware of this “method”? The films’soundtracks also borrow heavily (and quite probably illegally) from Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, Joy Division, etc. Were you informed enough to witness a film’s creation from start to finish? Do you have any memories/anecdotes about Ho’s working methods /ethics.

It is my understanding that Godfrey was involved from start to finish. Nothing went on without his knowledge when it came to his productions. I mean if you place this in the context where it seemed that almost everything in the world seemed to be “Made in Hong Kong” and the entrepreneurial spirit was thriving in the city. When I first arrived there I met many local people who had like 2 or 3 jobs and they worked 18 hours a day. If you had a white face in an Asian movie then it was simply more marketable. So why not buy the rights to some long forgotten Asian action movie, shoot some new scenes with Western actors, try and concoct some storyline and resell it as something new.

It didn’t take too long to work this out as I mentioned earlier, however I always believed that the distribution rights to the Asian films that were intercut with the new footage were bought and paid for.Only Godfrey really knows the answer to that!

It is nice to hear that at least they put some good music on the soundtrack, though as you suggest the legality of this is somewhat in question. In these days of illegal intenet downloading however, this does seems rather tame however.

Did you see the films at the time or were they distributed strictly outside HK? What is your opinion about the finished products? Did you feel while making them that you were making “bad movies”?

I have never seen an entire film I have to admit. The films where I dubbed my own voice, obviously I saw the part I had filmed, but no more. But if the laughing of the other “dubbers” present was anything to go by, Marty Scorsese had nothing to fear! I have had friends report they has seen them on late night New York TV and on inter-island ferries in Indonesia, and no doubt everywhere in between! They were never “released” in Hong Kong to my knowledge.

While making the movies it was first and foremost a job that enabled me to live very comfortably in Hong Kong. I also got a lot of press over the years so it gave me some notoriety in the public arena. It felt very much like overacted kung fu kitsch, which I guess it has become. Were the movies “bad”. Of course they were!. IFD/Filmark aren’t exactly at the top of the film world food chain.

However just to be able to “work” doing something you got a rush from was payment in itself. If nothing else, it was a lesson in how not to act or make movies., and even from the worst on set experiences there was something to be learned.

What is the exact meaning of the final scene from “Ninja in the killing fields”, where you end up running after “magic frogs” (??)? How did Ho come up with such jarring ideas?

Drugs probably ! No, I’m just kidding. I have no idea how Godfrey came up with what he did.

We learned that he now teaches filmmaking in some private institutes. Any comments about that? Did you ever feel that he could qualify as a teacher?

Well if he is teaching about the importance of enthusiasm on set then I would say he’s qualified to do that. He probably knows a thing or two about making low-budget movies and marketing on a shoestring.!

About Ho himself : Richard Harrison described him as a rather friendly man, and he is all the more bitter to have been betrayed the way he was. Any comments about your experiences with him? Richard Harrison and Bruce Baron told us that they had been quite badly tricked by Ho and Lai, as you could read in their interviews. Did you ever have any such problems?

In all my years of working with Godfrey I never had a problem with him. He was easy going, friendly and affable. He never reneged on payments and salaries and it was always a good laugh being on set with him. He also gave me my first job in Hong Kong, so for that alone I owe him my thanks.

I can appreciate both Richard and Bruce’s comments and conclusions. I would imagine that they were both sold down the proverbial river. My situation however was entirely different being at the beginning of what I thought at the time would be a long career in film and just to be a working overacting actor was fortunate.

How were producers Tomas Tang, Joseph Lai and his sister Betty Chan, if you ever met them?

Yes, I met all the above people that you mention. More money people than creative types.

Never had a problem with any of them, thankfully!

Previous - - Next

- Page 1 -- Page 2 -- Page 3 -- Page 4 -
Retour vers les interviews