April 1989, Chuck Norris is shooting one movie after the other, after his Missing in Action series of witch I joined #1 and 3, he returned to Manila to go for more action. As before Maria Metcalfe was taking care of the casting and it was crowded at Filmore Ave when I arrived. There were a lot of Filipino people I worked with before and about a dozen western looking guys who passed the pre selections already. We were about to be casted by Chuck Norris and his brother Aaron who was doing the production of this new film with the working title Operation Stranglehold later: Deltaforce 2, The Columbian Connection.
They both entered the room and it was pleasant to notice that Aaron recognized me at first glimpse (it had been exactly two years since I fixed the shoulder of his 1st cameraman Joao Fernandes on the MIA 3 set, when we shook hands last time.) I was lined up somewhere in the middle but he came to me first to shake hands, with a big smile while he said: “You got a job...!” Several other guys were selected as well and paperwork/contracts were to be signed in Maria's office. She had asked me before if I was willing to play an aggressive Skinhead. Rather naive I asked her if I had to shave my scull, she smiled at me and said: “That would be more convincing, Berto...!” I didn't feel much for it, but hé it didn't want to miss the fun.. It was about my turn to sign the contract when Joao Fernandes himself walked in and we hugged each other. He was obviously glad to see me and asked me what part I was going to play. He smiled when I told him Maria wanted me bald and he noticed my grin.. “I got something better for you”, he said and he entered the Metcalfe's office. Within minutes he showed up again and said: “You are a Delta soldier..”. Well, that made a difference, instead of 3 or 4 shooting days I was going to do so for a couple of weeks...
We, the Delta soldiers arrived in this plane.
There was a lot of work to do, no shootings yet but rehearsals. We had to practice fighting routines without hitting each other, we had to learn to always remember the camera angle that films the illusion each hit has an impact. Fighting sounds would be added later. Believe me, this way of fighting is as intense as a real fight, you have to swing your head backwards like you were hit on the chin or get the full load in the stomach. It needs a lot of reactions and fast moves. The location for this training was Luneta park, a favorite place to Tai chi practitioners and other martial artists. I think we counted some 2 dozen guys all together. Chuck and Rick Prieto were our instructors while we practiced for hours sweating it out at 35C. Fighting and jumping and tumbling, all of it. Oh, I loved it..!
But these moves we made were not really the normal daily routines for most of us. I still did my workouts those days but believe me I felt all muscles for the next couple of days.. so imagine the untrained guys.
I had some T-shirts printed with my own design.
Cota's (Billy) private jet in which he arrives in San Carlos.
All these efforts were done to go after one guy: Billy Drago, who kept some hostages we had to free. A major action scene would be our descend (abseilen) from 3 Sikorsky helicopters, a mass fighting operation.
I was excited. The production had some problems though to get their hands on the 3 choppers, due to an earlier helicopter accident in '87 on the Missing in Action set, the government wasn't eager to get them available. It had consequences for our group, half of the guys were dismissed, about a dozen were left over, I was still one of them. I felt lucky.....It took about a week when it became clear there wouldn't be any chopper available at all.. another 4 or 5 guys were fired. The rest of us continued to do the fighting routines and several shots were taken while we were doing our 'thing' camouflaged in war colors, ready for the big event. Some of the action was taped on video so it could be watched instandly. I was pleasantly surprised when Chuck invited some of us to his hotel room to watch the edited results, he wanted our comments and opinions. It was my 3rd movie with Chuck and I had the chance to get to know him a little better. He really was a nice guy, no big star attitude and always willing to answer a question. And how many can say they sat next to Chuck Norris on his bed...:-) He pointed us the things that could be done better or differently. We couldn't do the chopper scenes yet but we continued shooting the story beyond that action. (that's why some of the boys who were killed in the accident still show up later). It turned out to be impossible to get any Sikorsky so an alternative was found in a small French Dauphine, not big enough to board all of us.... I was disappointed to the bones when I learned I couldn't join the chopper scenes, so I was on leave for a couple of days.
May 16, I'm home, news on the radio tells about a helicopter accident on the Chuck Norris' movie set, killing 5 from the 8 inside. Imagine how I felt that moment when I realize I just lost 5 colleagues, 4 of them close friends and how close my escape comes in to it. It could have been me involved in that terrible accident near Tagaytay, Laguna. The pilot, not used to flying this kind of heli's, also experienced an unwilling plane that didn't had a full check up and had been grounded for several years... he couldn't control the chopper and wasn't able to avoid the tail rotor to hit a mountain...
This incident meant more to me than I thought, I freaked out and wanted to quit that dangerous life. Not much later I got a letter from my dad, telling me he suffered a major surgery and was in poor health. I went home....
|Geoff Brewer||....||dedicatee: in memory of|
|Gadi Danzig||....||dedicatee: in memory of|
|Mike Graham||....||dedicatee: in memory of|
|Jojo Imperiale||....||dedicatee: in memory of|
|Don Marshall||....||dedicatee: in memory of|
The full Movie