His bravado is unmistakable, as he stares fearlessly at the action hero ready to beat him to a pulp.
Irksome and annoying, his taunts and jeers seem to get everyone’s goat, from the incensed audience calling him names to the enraged protagonist waxing poetic with his response.
Surely, even if that name doesn’t ring a bell, his face would surely get in your nerves. Dick Israel is the consummate film villain people despise, and this, maybe quite horrid to some, speaks volumes about his thespic merits.
“I feel elated,” he said in an interview four years ago on ANC’s Storyline. “Yun ang trabaho ko, pagalitin sila. So pagnagagalit sila, nagiging successful ako.”
His method, he says, is fueled by his passion for Hollywood films, most especially those of Jack Nicholson, the icon he emulates. This even goes to the point of even mimicking Jack’s onscreen mannerisms.
“Merong ugali si Jack Nicholson, nilalaro yung dila niya,” he said as he displays his famous play of the tongue on the insides of the mouth—one mannerism he uncouthly exhibits as he confronts that hero or a damsel in distress he is about to assault.
Another Hollywood actor he admires is John Lithgow, the famous character actor who electrifies climactic scenes with his striking villainous stare. What is his key takeaway from John?
“Sabi niya mas mahirap ang role ng character actor kasi karamihan ng scriptwriter, ang mga beautiful lines binibigay sa bida, eh. Kaya kung kontrabida ka, kailangan nag-i-input ka para lumutang ka,” Dick said.
This he took to heart, and in every moment a script comes up short of actually having lines for him, he suggests what he can say onscreen.
To respond to the line, “Sino ka?”, Dick said he suggested, “Hindi ako sinuka. Iniri ako, pinanganak ako,” recalling that moment with a boisterous laugh.
Love for acting
As such, Dick enthused his love for his craft. “Being an actor kailangan lahat kaya mo eh, kahit comedian, serious actor, kailangan kaya mo eh. Parang if you love someone, you risk it all no matter what may come,” he said
His passion was what drove him to further excel at his “job” of being a notorious villain, filmdom’s “Best Rapist” who won Best Supporting Actor at the 1988 Metro Manila Film Festival for Patrolman, which starred Baldo Marro, and the FAMAS Awards for Kanto Boy 2: Ang Anak Ni Totoy Guapo, wherein Ian Veneracion played the lead.
His filmography is extensive, appearing in 219 films from 1970 to 2013 opposite the entire showbiz constellation. From the entire action royalty of Fernando Poe, Ramon Revilla, Joseph Estrada, Robin Padilla, Phillip Salvador, and Rudy Fernandez to the kilig team-ups of Vilma and Bobot, Sharon and Robin, Toni and Sam.
He was the prolific professional actor working on 3 to 5 films in his prime, from action flicks to fantasy and romantic-comedy movies.
And, just before the film Dalaw was released in the 2010 MMFF, wherein he shared acting credits with lead stars Kris Aquino and Diether Ocampo, he suffered a massive stroke that left parts of his body paralyzed, and his speech impaired.
This led to his inability to accept film projects, his only source of income as he went through the painstaking struggle with his failing health.
In one shining moment in this struggle, Dick still impressed critics with his portrayal as the ill-fated Boy Bungal in Chito Rono’s 2013 gangster flick Boy Golden, a multi-awarded MMFF entry. But since then, the job and the craft he truly treasured, cherished and loved had become a mere memory.
And, in the Caloocan house he lived in, this great actor everyone loved to hate still yearned and dreamed of one day being adorned by klieg lights once more and hear production crews setting up while the director shouting invectives at the poor bit players as he laughed.
But all came to a gripping tragedy just last Saturday as a fire brought down his remaining fortress and further crumbled his aging, ailing body,
A man not at all reminiscent of that tough, egotistical villain who made lives miserable for the biggest cinematic draws, Dick now needs our pardon, compassion, and our support to just survive another day in his dire situation.
And, he the quintessential anti-hero now needs heroes in all of us to save the day.