words: R.A. The Rugged Man
I watched my entire life flash in front of my eyes when six-time undefeated martial arts champion Chuck Norris put me in one of his death-lock-choke-holds. As he showed mercy and let me go, I threw a kick at him, which he then easily blocked and karate-chopped me in the chest. I’m proud to say, Chuck Norris kicked my ass. I met up with the man, the myth, the legend at a tournament for his new creation, WCL: World Combat League, an association for full-contact, martial-arts fighters. Being that this is the R.A. the Rugged Man movie column, I focused on Chuck’s film career, mainly classic ’70s and ’80s shit. He’s made too many ill flicks to go through them all but here’s how it all went down.
DO YOU REMEMBER A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT YOU’RE IN CALLED “CRIME ON THE STREETS”?
No, I don’t remember that.
IT’S GREAT. YOU WERE TEACHING PEOPLE HOW TO FIGHT AT THE CHUCK NORRIS SCHOOL OF KARATE. I HAVE A COPY OF IT.
Do you really? Oh my God! When was that?
IT WAS EARLY. IT HAD TO BE BEFORE SLAUGHTER IN SAN FRANCISCO [GOLDEN HARVEST].
You know, Slaughter was really a Chinese film I did called Yellow Faced Tiger. It’s funny, I’m in it maybe six minutes total. I did it in 1972, then years later, my film career took off and I see “Chuck Norris starring in Slaughter in San Francisco” and I’m going, “What movie is that?”
IN INVASION U.S.A. [CANNON, ’85], WHEN THE WOMAN IS SNORTING COKE, RICHARD LYNCH SLAMS THE STRAW UP HER NOSE WITH BLOOD POURING OUT AND THEN HE THROWS HER OUT THE WINDOW. THAT’S LEGENDARY STUFF. WHY AREN’T MOVIE VILLAINS SADISTIC LIKE THAT ANYMORE?
I don’t know, though that was pretty brutal, R.A. [laughs]. Yeah, that was brutal. It’s gotten a lot flashier now, the high wire stuff, they use a lot of wires now. It’s not quite as down and out rough.
HOW MANY GUYS DID YOU KILL IN THAT MOVIE?
Man, a lot. In like 23 movies, I probably couldn’t even count the amount of people I killed [laughs].
IF YOU HAD A SACK TIED OVER YOUR HEAD WITH A RAT INSIDE GNAWING AWAY AT YOUR FACE, WOULD YOU REALLY EAT THE RAT?
No, I’d just bite it to death [laughs]. When we shot that scene in Missing In Action 2 [Cannon, ’85] , I said, “Where’s the fake rat?” and they didn’t bring one. They had these mountain rats for props and I go, “Wait a minute, are you expecting me to put a real rat in my mouth?” So, I put tape on the rat, hoping I could put my mouth over the tape. Well, the tape fell off. I grab the rat [and] I said “Well, kill him first,” so they kill the rat and they hand it back to me. I said, “Alright, when I put it in my mouth, put the bag over my head and start shooting.” After we finished I got the dry heaves ’cause I could still taste it in my mouth. Of course, that was my younger and foolish days [laughs].
DID YOU EVER ACCIDENTALLY HURT ANYBODY WHILE FILMING A FIGHT SCENE?
Yeah, unfortunately I knocked a guy out. We were filming The Octagon [America Cinema. ’80]. It was a four man fight scene and one of the stunt men got sick so I had to use a stand-in. I kicked the stand-in in the stomach and he went into convulsions. He was okay once we pumped air back in him.
OCTAGON IS AMAZING—WHEN YOU FIND EVERYONE DEAD IN THE HOUSE AND THE WHISPERING VOICE IN YOUR HEAD TELLS YOU THAT NINJAS MUST’VE KILLED EVERYONE.
[Laughs] Yeah, I don’t know what that voice was. That’s what the director wanted, to have that inner voice talking to me. I really loved the martial arts we did in that particular film. It was fun.
WHO WAS THE MOST INSANE VILLAIN YOU EVER FACED IN A MOVIE?
In Forced Vengeance [MGM, ’82]. The guy I had to fight was this big sumo wrestler. Do you remember him? He picked up the toilet bowl and threw it at me?
OF COURSE. THEN YOU KICKED HIM THROUGH A DOOR AND A PIECE OF GLASS FELL DOWN AND SLICED HIS NECK OPEN.
Yeah, that guy. Well, when he pulled that toilet bowl out of the wall, he tried to really hit me with it. He literally threw it at me. I had to dive out of the way just so the toilet wouldn’t hit me. The guy was nuts.
WHOSE IDEA WAS IT IN REVENGE OF THE DRAGON [FOX,’ 72] FOR BRUCE LEE TO RIP A CHUNK OUT OF YOUR CHEST HAIR?
Well, of course they didn’t really rip the hair out, but that was Bruce’s idea.
THE HAIRY CHEST IS LIKE A CHUCK NORRIS TRADE-MARK, BUT IN LATE ’80S, EARLY ’90S, FILMS LIKE THE HERO AND THE TERROR [MGM] AND THE HIT-MAN [CANNON], CHEST HAIR WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. YOU STARTED SHAVING YOUR SHIT?
I was pumping a lot of iron then. I was training with Lou Ferrigno and he said all body builders shave their chests. It accentuates the muscles. Then it got ridiculous. I got tired of doing that.
SILENT RAGE [COLUMBIA, ’82] WAS LIKE A VINTAGE ’80S SLASHER FLICK, LIKE CHUCK NORRIS MEETS FRIDAY THE 13TH.
[Laughs] People always asked me to do a sequel to Silent Rage. I said, “Well, what would I do? I shot him, I burned him, I threw him out of the window. There’s nothing else I could do to this guy. How many more ways do you want me to kill him?”
WHAT MOVIE IN YOUR CAREER DO YOU THINK YOU KILLED THE MOST PEOPLE?
Uh, probably the first Missing In Action [Cannon, ’84]. I probably killed somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 people in that one [laughs]. I’m not sure the exact number, but it was a lot.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU KICKED ME IN THE HEAD RIGHT NOW?
Well, I want you to be able to see the World Combat League tonight. I’m really passionate about creating careers for these fighters and if I kicked you in the head you wouldn’t be able to see the event tonight, so I wouldn’t do that to you, R.A.
Any time. Thanks R.A.