A B-Actor Looks Back

Is there a future in Croatian Science Fiction films?

By Steve Korver, 31-03-2004, Amsterdam Weekly


Long ago on a planet very much like this one, I spent a year or two being a B-actor in a whole slew of Asian B-movie productions. Sometimes I was lucky and got to wear a black cape, fly around and leave bite marks on the necks of exotically nubile women. Other times I was yet luckier and got to wear a white suit and deliver a bulletgram to some fat and stupid Mr. Chang. But mostly I just got beaten up rather quickly in low budget kung fu flicks for being a white trash loser. What can I say? I was just doing what I was good at.

I even had a whole career trajectory planned out: learn the trade in Bangkok and Bollywood before moving onto Hong Kong to make some decent cash, and then later onto Tokyo to make some really decent cash. Sadly I hit a bit of a brick wall in Hong Kong  – or as I came to call it: Hong Fucking Kong. Thanks to its history as a Brit colony, the place was already a garbage can overflowing with the whitest of trash. It was just too damn competitive. Sure I could make a living, but never my first million. Besides, my agent freaked me out. He was a tank-like Polish polygamist who liked to hint at his murky past by showing off his numerous inch-thick sword scars.

Abandoning my Tokyo Dreams, I returned to the West with my tail between my legs. When I ended up in Amsterdam, I was cruelly forced to abandon my B-actor Dreams almost entirely since there was no real Dutch kung fu flick tradition with which to earn a decent living. Hell, even when Jackie Chan did come to the Netherlands to make a movie, the bastard chose to film it in Rotterdam! (Though it must be said that the resulting Who Am I? is worth seeing for the klog fu scene alone. Respect.)

But happily through the kindness of both friends and strangers  – or rather, cultists who strangely respect the fact that I die on five or six different occasions in Once Upon a Time in China, Part II  – I still do get occasionally asked to re-indulge my B-movie acting fantasies by doing the voice-over of an alien here, or by being the first to discover a dismembered corpse there. I figure it helps keep me young.

I gave little thought to my B-movie past until last year when I befriended a Mexican colleague of sorts who had built up a mighty impressive list of B-movie credits in Los Angeles. He was always the bandito. So of course I had to tell him of my own Asian adventures of always being the peckerhead. And either he was impressed or just being nice, but after listening to my tales he said something that I can use to cheer me up in all my future dark moments: “Wow man, being a Canadian in Hong Kong sounds as rough as being a Mexican in Hollywood.”

You said it my greasy-haired cigar-chomping brother!

Indeed, stereotyping is a nasty universal phenomenon that is not just restricted to Hollywood films  – for example, the white boy gets pigeonholed just as bad in Bollywood as the Indian does in Hollywood (The Simpsons’ Apu Nahasapeemapetilon being a rare exception of course). For most people this is the most obvious of facts. But since I have always found stereotyping’s embrace quite sweet, I had never given it much thought. Any negative feeling I may have had about show biz was always directed towards whoever my agent was at the time. But one prejudice I held about stereotyping was that it was something generally restricted to B-flicks. So hence, I was shocked when I finally had my own personal experience that taught me of the true dangers of stereotyping, it was during the highbrow premier of a truly “A-is-for-Arty” film at the De Balie a couple of weeks ago.

Initially I went with high hopes since I still had fond memories from two years earlier spent filming with a remarkably multiculti cast for Oxygen4, an ambitious 90-minute experimental “social science fiction” video by Croatian director/artist/all-round-nice-guy Dan Oki. I even had the smug memory of playing a Canadian commander of the International Space Station. This was the sort of juicy role (we are speaking relatively here of course) that I hoped would be a step up from all the truly cheesy parts I have played in the past.

Sadly this was not to be… The film goes terribly wrong terribly quickly. It turns out that my character (who, incidentally, I created a quite moody type out of) becomes one of the first to die from a mysterious space malady  – a twist in the plot that I immediately perceived as a very dangerous precedent. Not only could I no longer save the film with my undeniable talents at being moody, but since it’s pretty much an accepted fact that it’s always the black guy who gets killed first in Hollywood science fiction films, does my character’s early death now mean that it will now always be a poor hapless Canadian who is the first to get killed in all future Croatian science fiction films? It’s something to think about. After all, only by ignoring history do we risk repeating it! Pantpantpant! Blahblahblah! Huffhuffhuff! Etc!

But now that I’ve thought about it some more, I am of two minds. One part of me is politicised and wants to start organising protests and picket lines at all future screenings of Croatian science fiction films to make sure that this scenario never occurs again and hence save future Canadians from being typecast; while the other part of me just wants to move to Zagreb and start auditioning. It might not sound as romantic as settling down in Tokyo’s Chiba City and getting all those meaty blind swordsman roles, or selling my perfect face to Manga artists, but at least there might be a market for my talents there in Zagreb.

Anyone out there know an agent with some solid Balkan connections?

3 Replies

  1. nevena bajalica Oct 14th 2009

    Stevie, your writing is great, great !!! I have been giggling through all website. It’s clever, witty, sensitive, smart …. great, great stuff !!!! You should sell it/share with the rest of the world.

    I am coming with the name of some Croatian actor agency soon.

    Thanks for this great writing !

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