I remember going, as a young boy, to the one movie theater in Wilson, Okla., where, for a dime, I could spend all Saturday afternoon watching the double features and the serials. (Am I dating myself?) I loved Westerns (especially John Wayne) and action movies. With a nickel bag of popcorn on my lap, I could escape and dream of being one of those Western or action heroes.
A few decades later, as most probably know, my dream became a reality. Because of my martial arts background and career, I was able to become an action-movie star in more than 20 major motion pictures, followed by 203 episodes of the television series "Walker, Texas Ranger."
Even to this day, my media room is where I like to go to relax and forget the pressures of everyday life by watching a good Western or action film. That's why films, especially action films, still are doing incredibly well at the box office, even in these trying economic times.
I'm grateful that action figures -- particularly martial artists -- continue to influence and entertain on the big screen. Long gone are the days when Bruce Lee and I "fought to the death" in the Roman Colosseum in "Return of the Dragon." But present and coming is a new group of actors who will keep the action arena alive and well.
So let me ask you this: Who really are the men and women who are going to keep the action arena alive and well? Who are the people who make action scenes so spectacular? Before I answer that, let me ask you another question: Would you risk your life to make someone else look good on the screen? That is what stuntmen and stuntwomen do. I can't even imagine how boring an action film would be if we didn't have the stuntmen doubling the action stars during dangerous scenes. Yet often their skillful and courageous work goes unrewarded.
Well, action fans, have no fear! Actionfest is here! Actionfest is the first and only film festival in the world to showcase only action films and those responsible for creating them (the actors, directors, producers, stuntmen, stunt coordinators and fight choreographers). Finally a film festival to honor the people who put the action in action films!
Opening the four-day celebration will be the world premiere of director Neil Marshall's epic masterpiece, "Centurion." That is one reason Actionfest's head of programming, Tom Quinn, passionately stated: "It's not every day you get to put together a lineup of nothing but great action movies, and I relished the opportunity. These films are such a blast, and I'm pleased to say we've received nothing but support from all of the filmmakers and distributors we've approached. There is no question that Actionfest is going to tear the house up this year."
I will be showing at Actionfest a scene from "Delta Force 2" in which I threw a drug dealer out of a plane without a parachute and then jumped out of the plane with a chute. After falling several thousand feet, I grabbed him in midair and pulled my chute, and we landed hard but safely. To explain how dangerous that stunt was, imagine falling at 140 miles per hour as your rescuer (me) is diving at 200 miles per hour to catch you. Then I must flare out at the right moment to slow my descending speed so that I am falling at the same speed you're falling so I can catch you. If I misjudge the timing, I could hit you at 60 miles per hour. And if that happened, neither of us would survive. Do you think an actor would want to try that? In my humble opinion, no actor is that crazy, including me. Of course, that's what stuntmen do. The stuntmen in this story were Kinnie Gibson, doubling me, and Jeff Habberstad, doubling the drug dealer. As I said, you can see that action footage and more at Actionfest.
I personally would like to thank Carolina Cinemas founder/Magnolia Pictures co-founder Bill Banowsky and my brother and famed action director and producer, Aaron Norris, for creating this incredible event. My wife, Gena, and I are also very grateful that Actionfest has announced KickStart Kids is its charity of choice and that it plans to use the event to help raise funds and awareness for our foundation.
Many don't know, but Aaron was teaching martial arts at a studio in Virginia Beach, Va., when I was offered the starring role in "Good Guys Wear Black," back in 1978. I called Aaron and told him I needed him as my stunt coordinator on the film, which he agreed to do. After that film, Aaron continued to stunt coordinate and second-unit direct my films, such as "A Force of One," "The Octagon" and "Lone Wolf McQuade," until we did "Braddock: Missing in Action III," which I asked Aaron to direct. He did such an incredible job directing that I asked him to direct six more of my films. After a couple of seasons of the "Walker, Texas Ranger" series, when I desperately needed some help, I asked Aaron to come on as my co-executive producer. He did, and the show started running more smoothly, generating even higher ratings and becoming less stressful for me. Aaron has been my right arm in my film and TV career. Without him, I'm not sure whether I would have had the success I've been blessed with.
We all are so very grateful to Asheville, N.C., for hosting the festival at the beautiful Carolina Asheville theater from April 15 to April 18. For more details on the four days of scheduled events and information about how to buy tickets, go to actionfest.com. Hope to see you there!