06th Jun2018

Interview: Acting legend Mel Novak

by Philip Rogers

Mel Novak is an action star who is best known for his performance as Stick the Assassin in Bruce Lee’s final film Game of Death (1978). Having starred in more than 60 feature films, he has given no indication that he is slowing down and following on for the success of Syndicate Smasher (2017) Mel has several new projects which are due for release soon. I got a chance to ask Mel as few questions about how he got into acting, doing his own fight scenes, stunts and whether there are any characters he like an opportunity to portray on screen again…

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How did you first get into acting originally?

I had initially acted in some plays in school and a couple in local theatres. In LA, I got a job with an insurance company as a bodily injury claims adjuster. It was there that I met a gal that set up a meeting with me and her cousin that was a modelling agent. I worked as a model for several years in runway shows and magazine ads, while working as an adjuster. The agent had me go to an acting school.

In a career spanning nearly 50 years you have often typecast as the hard man or the villain in films. Do you enjoy portraying these types of characters?

Yes, as usually those characters are the most compelling roles and have the best lines and action sequences.

As well as portraying the hard man, you are known for doing your own fight scenes and stunts. Were there any moments during your career when you thought I really should have used a stuntman double?

Yes, while shooting The Ultimate Warrior (1975) with Yul Brenner, in my death scene, they covered me with peanut butter and sunflower seeds and then put 40 live rats on me. I told their trainer, “if one of them bites me, I’ll bite you and a human’s bite is worse than a rat’s bite.” I had to hold my breath for a minute and a half as I was supposed to be dead. I could have used a stunt double at that point. After we shot the scene, Yul said to me, “Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!”

You continue to feature in action films which includes a role as the hitman Milan in Syndicate Smasher. Can you tell us what we can expect from the film?

It’s a homage to the classic action flicks of the 80’s with some humour sprinkled in. It’s The A-Team (1983-1987) meets The Expendables (2010).

What first attracted you to the film?

It was a great chance to work with my friend and colleague, the fabulous Laurene Landon again as well as the brilliant Thomas J. Churchill, who directed me in Check Point.

You lead a group of mercenaries in the film which includes David Prak, Jon Miguel and Olya Lvova. What was it like working with them on the set of the film?

It was great working with them. David, Jon and Olya were a joy to work with.

What were your favourite scenes to film in Syndicate Smasher?

I loved the beginning. I thought it was a great opening scene and set the whole tone for the film. I also enjoyed the ending. Without giving any spoilers, I thought it was a fantastic climax with a great payoff.

With over 60 credits to your name on IMDB do you have a favourite character which you would like to portray again, either as a continuation in a sequel or differently?

Stick the Assassin from Bruce Lee’s final film Game of Death (1978). I loved that character. He’s a multi-faceted person, which is great to portray as an actor.

What would you consider to be some of the highlights in your career?

In addition to the films and the actors I’ve mentioned before, working with Steve McQueen in Tom Horn (1980), Rosie O’Donnell and Dan Aykroyd in Gary Marshall’s Exit to Eden (1994), Christopher Lee and Chuck Norris in An Eye For An Eye (1981), Sybil Danning and Colleen Camp in Cat in the Cage (1978), and more recently, Mel Gibson and Gary Sinise in Steve McQueen: American Icon (2017).

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

I have Tales of Frankenstein coming out soon. It’s a classic throwback to the Universal and Hammer Horror films. A sci-fi thriller from the popular Nemesis franchise called Nemesis 5: The New Model directed and produced by talented filmmaker Dustin Ferguson and executive produced by Albert Pyun. This film also stars the sweet Dawna Lee Heising, who I had the wonderful opportunity of working with on Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015). I also have an action film Fight or Die (2016) with Aki Aleong and Robert Axelrod. I reunite with Dustin, Dawna, Aki and Laurene in Robowoman (2018), which is shooting right now. I also recorded a film noir type episode of John Alsedek’s three-time Peabody nominated Suspense Show on XM Satellite Radio with the lovely up and coming actress Vida Ghaffari, who I had the pleasure of working with in Holy Terror (2017). I just shot the anthology thriller An Hour to Kill from filmmaker Aaron K. Carter. I have some other projects as well and in negotiations for more, but I’m not at liberty to reveal anything about them just yet.

Outside of acting you are an ordained minister and do a lot of work on skid row and prison ministry. Can you tell us a bit about when you chose to become a minister and the work you do?

I was asked to be a celebrity guest speaker at the Fred Jordan Mission on skid row.
Seeing all those people suffering that day, the lord put it in my heart to become a minister and help feed the hungry physically and spiritually, get people get off the streets and get their lives in order, so they are independent. I counsel them and try to give them hope. I also minister them on healing their addictions.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into acting?

Get a good agent, manager and study your craft as much as possible.

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