Brent Huff is mostly unfamiliar to Azerbaijani readers. To some, he is just another American actor, to others, he’s some sort of a cult favorite, who had a taste of the “golden era” of b-grade action films in the late 80’s. Huff is also a director, and a pretty successful one, to say the least. He won awards for his movies, and according to himself, doesn’t plan to stop. How did a basketball player turned into one of the top male models of the 80’s? How did a model became an action hero, with an M-60 hanged on his chest? How did an actor became a director? In an exclusive interview, Brent Huff answers those questions, remembers his work with Hollywood legend Richard Harris, and also tells the difference between Mark Dacascos and Michael Madsen.
Mr. Huff, according to your biography, you were an athlete in the University. Then you became a model, and reportedly became one of the better known models of the 80’s. How did a basketball player turned into a model? Something you wanted to try doing yourself, or just because of the money?
I was a theater major at the University of Missouri but also played basketball. It was sort of an odd combination. As soon as I left college I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting career. I was discovered walking down the street by a modeling agent. I had no ambition or desire to be a model but I was paid 250 dollars to model with a bunch of pretty girls for two hours. What’s not to love? In the late 70’s, 250 dollars was a lot of money for me. I soon signed with the Ford Model Agency in New York City then quickly moved to Milan, Italy.
You started appearing in the movies (according to IMDB) back in 1976, and yet were still modeling in the 80’s. Did you combine the two?
Modeling was quite by accident. I always considered myself an actor first. I am currently directing a documentary about models entitled, “A Taste of Beauty”. By the way, my first role as an actor was in the movie “Coach” where I played a…basketball player.
It seems like the name Brent Huff became known, after you appeared alongside martial arts expert Sho Kosugi in “9 Deaths of a Ninja” in 1985. Please, tell us how was it like working with Kosugi? How did you like the movie overall, looking back at it now?
First of all, I loved working with Sho Kosugi. He was a complete gentleman and a lot of fun to work with. He showed me a few martial arts moves so I would at least “look” like I knew what I was doing. Looking back, the movie itself is pretty cheesy. The music and costumes really date the film. The director of photography was Roy Wagner who went on to have a great career in Hollywood.
There was this boom in the late 80’s in the Philippines, with the Vietnam war related action movies, and you fell right into it, making films such as “Cop Game”, “Strike Commando 2”, “Born to Fight”. How did you end up in Philippines, share some of your memories on working on those action films please.
There was a real movie boom in the Philippines in the 80’s. I acted in 5 films in the Philippines. The first film I shot in Manila was “The Peril’s of Gwendoline” which went on to be sort of a cult classic. The first film I shot with Bruno Mattei was “Strike Commando 2”. I was fortunate enough to work with the great Richard Harris, and I learned a lot about acting from him. I remember one scene in which his character betrays me. I thought I should be very emotional in the scene. After all, I was working with a legend. After the scene, I was very happy because I thought I really did well. I mean, I had tears streaming down my face. Richard walks up to me and whispers in my ear away from Bruno and says, “Cut it in half, mate”. It’s when I really learned, less is more.
The conditions in the Philippines were very tough, because we were deep in the jungle. The humidity was overwhelming. I was the only American actor in the film, and the crew was either Italian or Philippino. We were like a big family staying in a little village called Los Banos. Bruno and I really worked well together and he ended up hiring me for two more films shot in the Philippines, “Born to Fight” and “Cop Game”.
“Strike Commando 2” and “Born to Fight” also starred Mary Stavin, the former “Miss World”. Mary was a real trooper and never complained about the conditions or all the stunts she performed herself. “Cop Game” starred Candice Daly, who was my girlfriend at the time. Candice fell in love with Manila and the people. All three of the Bruno Mattei films were no stop action. I was jumping out of helicopters, throwing grenades and shooting M-16’s or M-60’s. You can’t believe how much ammunition we used. It really was incredible. There was also a lot of hand to hand combat. I was in the best shape of my life not only because of all the physical action but I was eating nothing but fruit and fish.
I did have one scene in “Strike Commando 2” were I fought a bad guy in a stagnant swimming pool. Later that night I got a fever of 106 degrees. They rushed me to a hospital in the jungle. I remember lizards crawling on the wall in my room and the sheets were torn. A rock band was right outside my window and they played, “La Bamba” all night long. I woke up the next day with an IV in my arm. The Philippino doctor looked at me and asked if I was married. I said no and 10 minutes later he brought in both of his daughters. He said they were single and available. I have to give a lot of credit to the Italian stunt men who made me look good. Every stunt was carefully choreographed to perfection. Bruno put together a top notch production team. It was really a great time of my life because we all got along so well and really respected what each of us did. The Philippines is a beautiful place and the people were amazing. I would love to go back.
You started working as a director back in 1994, and up to today stay busy more with directing, rather than acting. How, or should I ask, why did you decided to direct more, instead of acting?
My first directing job was a film that I also wrote entitled “We the People”. I had never thought of directing before but I didn’t like the scripts I was being sent as an actor. I was in Spain acting in the film with James Brolin, and I told him I wanted to direct and star in the film. He asked to read the script. Two hours later, James called me and said, “We have a problem. I am going to produce this film and play the lead”. I laughed, “That’s no problem, I’ll play the bad guy”. It was a great experience, and James Brolin and I are friends to this day. He starred in the last film I directed, called “Last Will”. As far as acting goes, I was just in the Emmy winning television show “Mad Men”. I also appear as a fighter pilot in the upcoming feature “Kill Speed”.
In 2009 you directed “Serbian Scars” with Michael Madsen and Marc Dacascos. The movie seemed to do fine, please tell how was it like working in Serbia, along with Madsen and Dacascos?
Loved Belgrade. I was just thinking last night how fortunate I have been to get to travel to so many places and meet such great people. Mark and Michael were both great to work with in very different ways. As far as acting approach goes, Mark is VERY disciplined, while Michael is unpredictable. Mark is very calm under pressure, probably due to his martial arts training while Michael is more mercurial. Michael would do things in a scene that no one could predict.
You have enjoyed quite a success as a director – your films “Helpless” and “Cat City” won awards, and have been shown on numerous film Festivals. So, asking you this – what, at this time, is the “perfect to direct” movie for Brent Huff?
I am currently directing a documentary on fashion models entitled, “A Taste of Beauty”. I find the subject matter very interesting probably because of my past in the business. The shelf life for a model is only about 8 years. What happens to the models when they age? Plastic surgery? Some former models have gone on to have great acting careers or successful business careers while other have had very tragic lives. The documentary is a hard hitting piece with no punches pulled.
According to your official website, you also teach acting at the Performers Academy in Laguna Beach, California. Now, with this in mind, what other business are you in right now, besides film, and do you have any other plans to do something else, if you are done with movies? In other words, the future of Brent Huff….
I do enjoy teaching but writing, directing and acting is where my passion is. I always want to improve. I want to make great films. I carefully study films, and plan on having a career in the movie business forever….where ever that takes me.