Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dick Israel

WHEN I started out as contributor for MAXIM Philippines, I was once asked if I had any suggestions on who to feature for our Male Icon section, Dick Israel was the first name at the top of my head. See, I’ve always been a big fan of of what I’ll always describe as “the classic character actor.”

The MAXIM editors then (Pierre Calasanz, now with Town & Country, Peejo Pilar, now with Men’s Health and Vlad Bunoan, also Managing Ed of Business Mirror) liked the idea. Our only problem was we don’t know where to find Dick Israel at the time. So, the idea was shelved.

Until last year when I  found the actor in, of all places, Facebook. So I proposed the idea again to new MAXIM EIC Eric Ramos who gave me the go ahead to pursue it. So I added Dick Israel as Facebook friend, left a message for him that he promptly replied to and we finally got something going. Nice guy, actially.

And although I was limited by MAXIM’S Q & A Format, I thought I managed to come up with a pretty good piece.

Well, the actor and some of our readers apparently think so, too. Reposting this slightly tweaked feature now. Let me know what you think.

Pics taken with permission from Dick Israel's Facebook page.


Do kontrabidas really have more fun? The classic character actor gives us the lowdown along with other interesting career highlights.

Your Facebook profile says your real name is Ricardo Michaca and that youre also a Mechanical Engineering major from Mapua. So how did you got into this business and whos responsible for your screen name? 

An uncle of director Francis “Jun” Posadas who was the assistant director of Maning Borlaza offered me and my three buddies supporting roles in the film I Love You Honey starring Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz under Tagalog Ilang Ilang Productions. Tony Martelino, a nephew of producer Atty. Laxa predicted I won’t make it far in this business and picked Carlo Romano instead as the most likely to succeed among the four of us. Well, I’m still here.

It was Deo Fajardo, the discoverer of Rudy Fernandez and Robin Padilla who gave me my screen name. Actually, the first screen name I used was Ariel Israel but Deo felt that Ariel was too soft for me. Since my real name is Ricardo or Richard, he told me to change it to Dick, the usual nickname for Richard. Israel was chosen because Israel was always on the news at the time because of the war between the Arabs and Israelis. It's also for instant recall, Israel being the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Have you always wanted to be an actor? Who were your favorite actors before you became an actor? Favorite movies? Directors?

I guess so because I was always exposed to Hollywood films in an early age because of my aunt who was a movie addict. Actors? I like Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando and James Dean in acting. Elia Kazan, Akira Kurosawa and Danny Zialcita are some of the directors I love. And I’m also big on satire movies.

Who gave you your first big break as a kontrabida?

My first big break as a kontrabida was given by Dr. Perez of Sampaguita Pictures in Kamay Na Gumagapang. In one of our press conferences, he told everyone “Watch out for this guy, Dick Israel, he's going to be the next Eddie Garcia.”

Who are your favorite among your fellow kontrabidas?

Lito Anzures, the guy who played the village dimwit in the original Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop Sa Balat Ng Lupa is my idol. I played the same role in the remake. Also Vic Diaz who did a lot of foreign films that was shot here is another favorite as well as Johnny Delgado.

At some point in their careers, your fellow kontrabidas were also given lead roles. Some like Eddie Garcia and to a certain extent, Max Alvarado were accepted as both heroes and villains. Others, like Paquito Diaz and Ruel Vernal, were less successful as leads. In your case, have you ever wanted to be a lead star at any point in your career? Did you ever come close to being one?

I don’t really mind kung bida ako o hindi. I actually played a lead role once in Danny Zialcita’s Escolta Mayo 13 Biyernes ng Hapon where I got nominated for best actor.

Probably the closest thing you ever came to a title role is Humanda Ka, Mayor where you played Mayor Antonio Sanchez. What was that experience like for you? Have you ever met the Mayor in person? And would you know what he thought of your portrayal in that movie was?

I met the mayor in court, hehe. He sued me, direk Carlo Caparas and the producers for paninirang-puri. Gayang -gaya ko kasi siya eh, hahaha. Yung 3/4 na tupi ng polo, dress watch at syempre yung buhok ginaya ko lahat. The case against me was dismissed by Judge Harriet Demetriou, though. She ruled that as an actor it's my right to characterize Sanchez since he was already a public figure.

You won Best Supporting Actor four times, that's quite a feat. But you're not always a kontrabida all the time, you've played sidekicks in such films like Pretty Boy Segovia with Daboy and that Epimaco Velasco biopic with FPJ, how do you find playing those kinds of roles?

As a sidekick, you are given a chance to suggest dialogues for the lead character which I do. I probably get these kinds of assignments because I make the character more real and lively with my suggestions and ad-libs although my directors are the ones who usually get the credit. So when it comes to roles like this, they always think of me because I make them look good, hahahaha!

These days, you play mostly father roles to younger stars like Diether Ocampo, Sam Milby, Bea Alonzo and Angel Locsin. What do you tell them by way of advice?

These young actors are serious in their craft. I just tell them be professionals. Always come prepared and avoid being late during tapings but I think they already know that.

You're also a big music fan. You play guitar even onscreen. In one memorable scene in Perfumed Garden, you and Michael De Mesa, playing brothers were loudly singing along to Neil Young's Helpless in the jukebox while drinking in a beerhouse. In another movie, you were wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt. Have you ever thought about pursuing a career in music?

Yeah. During my teenage days, I usually jam and sing with my barkada’s band. I still do guitar jams on the tapings in between my scenes.

You're known to be a very likeable guy on the set and is also said to be quite close to the leading actors that you worked with like Rudy Fernandez and FPJ. Were you always this friendly in real life? To what do you attribute the ease in which your co-stars become close to you and even become your friend long after the shoot is over?

I think I’m not intimidating, for one. With me, what you see is what you get. I'm also close to the crew, the little guys in the film because for me there is no discrimination. I treat them all as my equal.

You did many rape scenes as a bad guy and bed scenes especially during the bold/pene era. Can you cite some of those memorable scenes to you for whatever reason?

The most memorable for me was the rape scene with Tetchie Agbayani in Pepeng Shotgun. I was protecting her private parts from being exposed. This was way before she posed for Playboy magazine.

You're said to be quite a chick boy yourself. You mentioned you used to hang out with Director Danny Zialcita, a known ladies man himself. Ms. Tetchie Agbayani also admitted you two had something going for a brief period in a book about her written by her late manager Franklin Cabaluna. What do you think is the secret to your appeal with the ladies? Do kontrabidas really have more fun?

Wala kasi kaming hang ups at saka, lalaking-lalaki kami, haha! During the time of Tetchie, I used to drive a 550 Yamaha dirt bike and a Renegade jeep. We just usually listen to the music of the Eagles back then, particularly specially Lyin’ Eyes. You listen to the music and you'll get what I mean.

What about foreign actresses like Miss Wales Helen Morgan, the runner-up to the Miss Universe pageant held here in 1974 and Barbara Ann Kaufman? Paano mo nahuhuli ang mga kiliti nila, so to speak?

I just try to be myself. If I can say it in a song, I’ll do it. With Ms Helen Morgan, who played the lead in Isang Gabi Sa Buhay Ng Isang Babae, I sang the music of the Moody Blues. Miss Kaufman naman was driving a 650 cc motorbike when we shot Perfumed Garden. I also had one that time so we got along just fine.

So do you believe nice guys finish last?

Not really, at least based on my experience. As they always say, when you're bad, you die when you die. But if you’re good and nice, you live forever.

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