TODAY.AZ / Arts & Entertainment

Damian Chapa: Everyone asks me why I did a movie about Roman Polanski

31 December 2009 [19:40] - TODAY.AZ
Exclusive interview with actor, director and the founder of the “Amadeus Pictures” Damian Chapa.
Back in the day, Damian Chapa was mostly recognized from his action oriented movies, such as Under Siege (with Steven Seagal) and Street Fighter (with Jean-Claude Van Damme). Then Chapa started directing, and soon created his own company – “Amadeus Pictures”. Today, the movie critics wouldn’t give Chapa his credit as an artist, mostly bashing the two of his latest movies – one about the world’s greatest chess player Bobby Fischer, and the second, about a famous polish director Roman Polanski. And it seems like, the above mentioned names aren’t the last ones that Chapa would like to make a movie about.

Do you remember how you first got your break in the movie business? Your first movie “Under Siege” was a Steven Seagal vehicle, with some well known stars in it, such as Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey. What was your experience like working on that film with Seagal, and the rest of the “crew” ?

I think Under Siege was a wonderful directed action film, It had all the elements of a great movie. After working with Van Damme and then working with Seagal, I realized Seagal was a much more serious man and not to mention a very courageous guy. He is a thinker unlike some action stars. I thought he was a like me in the sense that he grew up a bit on the street. You could tell Seagal was more of a real guy then the rest. He was always very warm hearted to me and people he liked. He could sense when people where real and that is an admirable quality. I think with the right director he could actually show some interesting emotions contrary to some beliefs. But one of the best things about that experience on the film was Seagal’s spaghetti, for a guy who's mother is Irish and Dad who's Jewish he cooked some damned good sauce.

Many people in fact remember you as the “guy who played Ken Masters” from the Street Fighter movie – based on a worldwide known computer fighting game. From what I know, the critics destroyed the film, and it didn’t do very good in the box-office at that time. What do you yourself think of the end result of the movie? What was it like working with two very different stars such as JC Van Damme and Raul Julia?

Raul Julia was the only reason I took that film, However when I arrived on the set and started working with Van Damme, I began to get home sick for LA and New York where I spent half my life. I was constantly asking myself, I am a serious actor, why I agreed to do this film. Then other things started crossing my mind -  I'm here in the middle of Australia filming a movie and I'm able to support my family and I am able to have fun too. Actually turned in to something of a great experience and the main reason is the people in Australia, who are some of the best I have ever met they are very kind and they reminded me of the way it used to be in USA in the sense of hospitality.

Then just when I thought things could get no better as I was sunning myself and getting paid for it, I met Kylie Minogue. She is one of the kindest and most talented people I have met. And just for that reason alone “Street Fighter” was a great experience. However I do not think it will go down in history as a masterpiece but it is one of the few films I can watch with my son Presley.

In 2007-2008 you directed and starred in such films as “Fuego”, “Mexican Gangster”, “El Padrino”…all of which are somehow involved with Mexico, feature Mexican people, culture, traditions and such. Did you decide to make those several movies only because you (as IMDB states) are of Mexican descent?

I think it is funny how ignorant people are when it comes to "Mexican" people or "Mexican American” people. We are a very diverse people, and not all one color or one stereo type. I in fact have several cultures in my blood line. My Dad is Mexican with Italian decent and my Mother is German and American Indian Cherokee. So that makes me Mexican German, Cherokee and Italian. However I am much closer to my Mexican American culture as it was something that was there for me when I was a kid. I am very passionate, intense and very family loving person. I speak some Spanish as a result of my Mexican grandmother. I am very close to my Mexican American culture as well.

According to IMDB, you are the first actor ever to portrait polish director Roman Polanski in a movie. You directed and co-wrote “Polanski Unathorized”. Why did you decide to make a movie about Polanski anyway? Is it because of the latest activity about Polanski’s name?

Everyone asks me why I did a movie about Polanski. Well the first thought to do it was when I was in Germany, and one day, I was looking at some pictures of my son Peter "foell" Chapa's pictures, he was just baby then. I was looking at his pictures and thinking how I could get some better pictures of him, then suddenly, while searching for some photographers on the internet , I ran across something like "Polanski photographs young girl", or something like that and of course with my gift of ADHD I began to completely go off course and research Polanski and the whole story. 

Then I dropped the thought of Polanski and said to myself  - no I better not even think about that one. I said to myself, come on you cant do a movie about Polanski, first off you don't have the money second the Hollywood Elite all ready have a problem with me (I did a "pro" I.R.A. Movie) so I better drop that thought. Then after I made “El Padrino”. I had some time to breath and I was watching all the controversy with Mel Gibson's film "Passion of the Christ", and I started reading all the horrible things they wrote about Gibson's film in a sense of  how "bad it is going to be". I thought to myself - how can this be?!

How can a critic and or "reporters" write something bad about something they have never seen?! This was a pure case of propaganda. Then I followed through with more research about Polanski during that time. I said to myself this is very interesting. Someone must do this film. and I am the only one who was not afraid of the elite enough to do it. It’s really that simple. I also had an experience in a coffee shop that made me have a real passion to do it the film. It was with a group of artists who where arguing about Polanski, and expressed various thoughts on him. I could only say at that point, this is time for a biopic of one of the most controversial figures of all times. I thought to myself this is not a movie this is going to be history. And making history is way more fascinating then making movies.

Lets talk about your movie “Bobby Fischer Live”. Many say that he was the best there ever was among chess masters. Extravagant, somewhat crazy, but one of the best if not the best.  How did you first come up with the idea of making a movie about Fischer? Did you bring something new or fresh to YOUR Bobby Fischer or you tried to stick to real facts as much as possible?

I was actually filming “Polanski Unauthorized” and during the filming of the movie a group of grips where sitting down playing chess during lunch, and they worked so hard for me on the set I was thinking of buying them something  to show my gratitude, and when I went online looking for chess, the name Bobby Fischer popped up everywhere, I thought to myself, I remember that name, I remember that face when i was a boy, what happened to him. And when I started to see after my research the revolutionary acts and attitude he had, I thought this will for sure be an interesting film. And some people at this point know, that I find controversy interesting.
According to the history, Fischer (especially in his later years) expressed his very negative, aggressive views on certain topics. Does your film have any of that? If yes, then don’t you think that those moments/facts can damage film’s success?

Fischer had his own thoughts on those things. He did express his thoughts on the 9/11 attacks, and other things as well. As for his hate for jews that he had, its explainable – most people don't realize that Bobby Fischer's mother was jewish, and that she abandoned him as a child, so for me that is where the core of the movie's spirit is, in the pain of abandonment and how it can cause someone to have so much pain from that. It causes hatred that is really based on hurt more then it is some diabolical plan to destroy.

I believe that Bobby actually wanted to love his own people however he felt he would abandon himself if he showed that love in a open way. Most of what Fischer did was just a scream at the world with the sounds of a wounded animal. His dad also left him so he was double abandoned. In his mind the king on the chess board was his dad and the queen was his mother and he protected her with his very life.

Bobby Fischer, Roman Polanski… any new ideas/projects you have in mind for a biopic movie, about a well known person?

Yes, I am in pre production with a film called “Brando Unauthorized”. It’s a story about the interesting life of Brando and his son Christian Brando. It for sure is going to get me a lot of controversial critics as I once again beat the Hollywood elite to the punch. I know they will try to destroy me personally and demonize me again. However I'm used to that by now. This is a war between the artist and the propagandists who are the Elite.

T. Teymur

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