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Documentary on late action star Rudy Fernandez to open QCinema filmfest

Rudy Fernandez.

“Films are forever. And so are legends. Rudy Fernandez’s life story is the stuff of legend.”

That’s how eccentric Australian filmmaker Andrew Leavold (“The Search for Weng Weng”) describes his latest work, “The Last Pinoy Action King”, which he co-directed with frequent collaborator Daniel Palisa.

The documentary chronicles the life and times of the late action star fondly referred to as “Daboy.” It was produced by the late actor’s son, Rap Fernandez, who contacted Leavold after he posted a birthday greeting for Rudy on Facebook last March.

“Rap said, ‘If you guys are free, can you please make a movie about my Dad?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ The following month, me and Dani sat down with Rap at the Fernandez home in White Plains to plan our movie,” Leavold recalled.

Originally titled “Idol: The Rudy Fernandez Story,” Leavold said it was Palisa who came up with the “Last Pinoy Action King” part.

Actor Rap Fernandez talks about his late father for 'The Last Pinoy Action King', a documentary he produced.

“We immediately seized upon it: it was punchy, dramatic, and hinted at a melancholic yearning for a time gone by,” Leavold further shared. “And just about everyone we talked to all said the same thing—Rudy would have been the logical successor to FPJ once Da King passed on. Sadly, Rudy passed away before we could see the torch passed on.”

“The title also invokes the decline of the action film in the Philippines, a subject touched on in the film,” Palisa added.

Australian filmmaker Andrew Leavold (left) and his co-director Daniel Palisa.

Leavold is a self-styled film historian who ran a cult movie store called Trash Video in Brisbane, Australia which has an impressive collection of obscure and oddball films. His knowledge of Philippine cinema is not just limited to his longtime obsession with Weng Weng.

“I watch all kinds of Pinoy cinema. Rudy was one of my favorite action heroes, along with FPJ, Erap, Tony Ferrer, Ramon Zamora, Rey Malonzo, Bong Revilla, Jr. and many others,” he pointed out.

Asked what he found most fascinating about Daboy, who in his storied career won two FAMAS Best Actor award and was later recognized with lifetime achievement awards from the FAMAS, Film Academy of the Philippines, and the PMPC Star Awards for Movies, Leavold said there was something about the actor that “elevated his performances, a sympathy he generated for his underdog roles.”

“He was such a good actor. The more I watched his films, the more I understood that he had a certain intangible quality that endeared him to his audience. ‘Idol’ which was also the title of one of his films, is the word used often to refer to him. So when the opportunity to document Rudy’s life came along, I jumped at it. I knew that there was an extraordinary story waiting to be told.”

As Leavold and Palisa delved deeper into Daboy’s extraordinary life, they were able to weave a rich tapestry of film clips, family movies, rare photos and television appearances and interviews with the late actor’s friends and family, including widow Lorna Tolentino, sons Rap, Renz and Mark Anthony Fernandez as well as Nora Aunor, Sharon Cuneta, Robin Padilla, Phillip Salvador, Tirso Cruz III, Chanda Romero and many more.

Rap revealed that the film covered a lot of ground as it even tackled his late father’s fear of heights.

“Despite that fear, he jumped anyway. I guess that’s what set him apart, the way he faced his fears bravely,” Rap noted.

Lorna Tolentino prepares for her interview for the documentary on her late husband, 'The Last Pinoy Action King'.

“I think Rudy’s memory burns brightly in the public’s consciousness for a valid reason. He was a hero off-screen as well. In the same mold as FPJ, but with his own style. Plus, those films are classics. ‘Baby Ama,’ ‘Pretty Boy Segovia,’ ‘Somewhere,’ ‘Sandakot Na Bala’ and ‘Batuigas…Pasukuin si Waway,’ among many others,” Leavold added.

Having seen both Rudy and Weng Weng up close and personal through his last two projects, Leavold also saw some similarities between the two actors who have both earned their iconic status.

“His story and Weng Weng’s are from two completely different sides of the tracks, and yet there are definitely common threads. They are both deeply humble personalities, generous to their family and friends, respected in their communities, and committed to excellence in their professions. Both wanted their talents to be recognized. And their stories are rollercoaster rides of triumphs and tragedies,” Leavold concluded.

“The Last Pinoy Action King” will premiere at the QCinema International Film Festival on October 22.