Wednesday, April 01, 2009

An Interview with Brick McBurly

Love him or hate him, or maybe you’re like one of millions of people outside of Japan whom have never heard of him let alone see one of his films or TV show, Brick McBurly is not only just a real person, but he’s celebrity and a loyal member of the Samurai Archives Citadel Community. We were lucky to have a chance to sit down with the fun-loving star of the Japanese TV Show “Abarenbo Gaijin” and more than a dozen films for an interview over two sittings in bars in Tokyo and Kyoto. As always, hanging out with Brick was a wild and rollicking adventure, and thankfully we were able to get the digital MP3 recorder to work for transcription purposes after Brick accidentally dropped it into a bottle of Mexican beer, thinking it was a lime wedge. So without further ado, let’s get to the interview.

OK: How did you get into show business?

Brick: While attendin' the University of Cincinnati back in the early '90's, the Brickster found hisself in need of some spendin' money. Y'see, when I was young, we were so poor that folks used to call me Patches, so there wasn't a whole lot of money left over for me to live on after tuition, room, and board was paid. One of the coeds I was datin', Trixie, was strippin' at bachelor parties for megabucks and mentioned that some friends of hers were lookin' fer an actor who could perform under pressure. Well, I figured that all the storytellin' I was layin’ on her and my other gal pals qualified, so I went to meet these guys. Turns out it wasn’t the type of performin’ I thought it would be-they was shootin' some soft core adult films, but I couldn't dream of anythin' I was better suited for. Hell, I was still gettin' Trixie's goodies, but now I was gettin' PAID for it! That's how the Pizza Delivery Guy series of films got started (‘Our guarantee-you’ll come in 30 minutes or less’), and eventually I got into the more respectable horror genre by appearin' in low-budget vampire films, poundin' my massive stake into nubile soft girly vampire flesh.

OK: Who were your greatest influences and whose work are you a fan of?

Brick: Well, tops on the Brickster's list is Hollywood's greatest untapped natural resource, Bruce Campbell. The man can play anythin' and pull it off with aplomb-whether it's Ash from the Evil Dead series, Old Fat Elvis from Bubba Ho-tep, or his own bad self in My Name Is Bruce. Sure, he’s givin’ the same performance for every character, but he’s so good at it that it don’t matter. Then there’s Rudy Ray Moore-his Dolemite character was a HUGE role model. Man, what a snappy dresser that guy was! Kurt Russell and Roddy Piper also had a big impact on the development of the Brickster’s on-screen persona, particularly Russell’s performance as the clueless hero of Big Trouble In Little China. Stephen Hayes’ breakthrough role as the Dutch sailor who falls outta the riggin’ into the ocean in the Shogun miniseries is a must see for anyone interested in real ninjitsu. Annette Haven and Kristara Barrington starred in the first AV films I saw, and I must be their biggest fan-even though they’re both prob’ly pushin’ 50 by now, I’d still love to co-star in a film with them. On the Japanese side of things, there’s Katsu-shin, who had the role of a lifetime in the Hanzo the Razor trilogy. I love how Tsugawa Masahiko takes over every film he’s in and really makes his characters larger than life, whether he’s playin’ Tokugawa Ieyasu or Chiyo’s uncle in “Komyo Ga Tsuji”. And everyone already knows what a fan I am of Uchiyama Rina (the only reason to watch the Musashi taiga) and Oshida Reiko of the Delinquent Girl Boss series. Reiko’s in her 60’s now, but the memory of her peddlin’ down the street on a bike in her miniskirt lives on. And she’s STILL smokin’ hot. And of course, I’m a big fan of my wife Koyori’s performances. It must suck for her to always be in the Brickster’s shadow.

OK: And your favorite top five jidai-geki movies are?

Brick: Besides my own? Well, right at the top of the list is Bohachi Bushido. It's the yardstick by which all other jidai-geki films are measured and come up short. I mean, a horde of big-boobed naked kunoichi rollin' on the ground, whippin' out shuriken from god knows where, and jumpin' up on a guy's shoulders for the old head twist-like you’d really mind dyin’ that way? All that AND Tiger Tanaka? Then there’s Samurai Resurrection. You got undead historical characters brought back to life only to get whacked by Yagyu Jubei. Monsters and samurai-it’s a tried and true winnin’ combo, the Reese’s Cup of filmdom. Not to mention Jubei ain’t the only one-eyed actor in this little drama, if you know what I mean. American Ninja-Mike Dudkoff and Steve James are some smooth pimps in the movie bringin’ it to the man as only they can. This movie proved there’s no reason a Westerner couldn’t become the master of Japanese genre films. Kunoichi-Lady Ninja had the single greatest effect in film history-electric nipple magic. I’d like to see ILM try to pull that off. And it also featured a different chick whose sekrit dreaded ninja power could only be activated by havin’ sex. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve used the ‘ninja test’ on some sloshed Brickster groupie in a bar to maximum effect. Then there’d be Sukiyaki Western-D’jango. If the Brickster can play Japanese samurai and Chinese actresses can play geisha, then why can’t the Japanese be cowboys? And the critics loved it. You didn’t see bitchin’ about ‘why don’t they cast Americans as cowboys’, and no one complained about the gaijin in the cast (Tarantino) like they did with Tom Cruise or Christopher Lambert.

OK: Why is it that the original print of Samurai Sexecutioner is missing? Do you know what happened to it?

Brick: After its initial release, the Studio didn't know what a hot property they had and used the master print as part of a giveaway at the theme park. To quote the brochure, with your ticket, you got a strip of 'original collectible 35mm film from the master print of one of our many smash hits'. Of course, bein' the Studio's token gaijin most of the films were mine, so's after that the only master copy of the film belonged to Koyori-she had videotaped it with a handheld off the big screen and was sellin' bootleg copies on Japan Yahoo auctions. So’s when the demand to release it on DVD overwhelmed the studio, her dad had to come hat in hand with his wallet out to get her copy. She ain’t only gorgeous, but brilliant too.

OK: Is this the reason that it was never released outside of Japan?

Brick: Nah. It was kinda the same thing that kept Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah from bein' released in the US for years and years-political correctness. The Studio thought it would be politically incorrect to export a film to America that showed an American behavin' like yers truly. They'd obviously never seen an epsiode of Springer. For that matter, none of my films have ever been officially released outside of Japan. I think the Studio views ‘em like Paramount does the Friday The 13th series-they love the money it brings in to produce the A films no one goes to see, but they’re embarrassed to admit that they did ‘em. It’s kinda like havin’ sex with an ugly broad.

OK: In Samurai Sexecutioner II, the prosthesis you wore to enhance the size of your manhood, was it functional? Because it sure seems like you were actually doing it with some of your female co-stars. And if so, how does Ko react to it? Can she brush it off as just acting because you, as Brick, are emotionally devoid of the people you are interacting with while your character maybe isn't?

Brick: Huh? What the hell are you talkin’ about? Well, the prosthesis was of course our tribute to Teh Man, Hanzo The Razor. No regular mortal can measure up to the legacy he set, so we had to go for artificial enhancement. And no, it wasn't functional-unless you count the effect it has on gals when you wear it to a party. Chicks are flat out mesmerized by it, like it was a spittin’ cobra or somethin’, and it’s way better than usin' a rolled up sock. Since I have no clue what the rest of your question means, why don't we ask Ko?

Koyori: Obenjo-san, all of the sexual relations in our films are simulated. It is to the credit of our special effects master, Kondo-san, that they look so real to our viewers. I will pass on your compliment to him. There is also the matter of Brick realizing that were he ever to engage in an unfortunate improper relationship on the set or away from it, my daddy knows many fine men with tattoos who would be pleased to help him find his way back to the righteous path. Yes, it is indeed fortunate that many eyes are constantly on my darling Brick to aid him in behaving correctly.

Brick: Uhhhhh…yeah, what she said. And it ain’t like I’m smart enough to employ a Brickster Kagemusha to throw private detectives off the trail or anythin’ like that, freein’ me up for a night on the town.

OK: We all saw some of the stills from Samurai Sexecutioner III. Wasn’t this supposed to have been released already? I don’t remember seeing any ads for it at the theatres.

Brick: No, yer thinkin’ of SS II. III is still filmin. If you’d been readin’ McBurly Monogatari on (the Official Website of the Brickster, complete with a filmography, reviews of other samurai films, and purchase links for official Brickster merchandise) you’d know that we had to suspend filmin’ in December to get my New Year’s specials done. Now, as you know, B-movies in Japan usually go straight to video but the Studio wanted to establish SS II as a theatrical release. After the gala premiere, it showed fer a weekend at the Lucky Star Theater so they could market it as a ‘big screen blockbuster’.

OK: Oh, so SS II went to DVD after a one-weekend run at a theater in Kabuki-cho. Well, I haven’t even seen the disc on sale in shops. Who is distributing the DVD? As a matter of fact, I haven’t been able to find any of your SS series of films on DVD. The copy of the first film that I have was burnt on a disc for me by a friend.

Brick: Well, like I said, most of the stuff I film is direct to video or fodder for the Studio’s Samurai Action Channel on cable. And like a lot of B films, big chain stores don’t carry it and many times the specialty stores stick it in the ‘adults only’ section, which I’m sure you never venture into, Benji. Things are complicated further by the fact that unlike in the US, Japanese film companies only print up the amount of DVD’s they think they can sell. And they ALWAYS lowball my films-I think they still find it hard to believe that someone would rather watch Samurai Sexecutioner than a wuss film like Hana, or Ballad Of Narayama which spotlights a guy bonin’ a dog. I know you can get SS II at the Studio Store in the theme park, YesAsia, and other fine online retailers. The SS I boxed DVD set was produced in very limited quantities and was an instant sellout. It sometimes shows up for a King’s ransom on eBay and Yahoo Auctions. The old VHS copies that have a butchered cut show up sometimes, too. Yer lucky you knew someone with a copy of the DVD, even though ya really shouldn’t be acceptin’ stuff from video pirates. Bastards.

OK: You once said that you try to inject a little historical realism into all the jidai geki you make. Assuming you weren’t talking about injecting something into your female co-stars, how so? Would you care to elaborate on this?"

Brick: Well, for example, recently on “Abarenbo Gaijin” I was put in the situation of havin’ to disguise myself as a woman to blend in with Hideyoshi’s version of the Ooku. Now, one of the Taiko’s servin’ girls was shown bringin’ a tray of raincoats to him, but I balked at that when I saw what the prop department had done. They were your typical garden variety Trojan brand-and I refused to film the scene until they substituted Taiko-enz, which history has recorded were the only brand that Hideyoshi would use. Another example took place in Samurai Sexecutioner II, where Orugasuma Eito seduces the wife of the 47 Ronin’s leader, Oishi Kuranosuke. The script called for a straight up session, but since historically Oishi’s wife preferred it magatama style on the kitchen floor, I insisted we do it that way.
That’s not to say I’m an anal-retentive history geek like you guys on the SA. If it’s somethin’ minor that the viewers will like, such as givin’ Wakizaka Yasuharu an early version of a nuclear sub with a ninja strike force led by Stephen Seagull shot out of the torpedo tubes to deal with Korean Admiral Yi, that’s OK. Never let a small detail get in the way of a good story, except when it turns out Seagull is too fat to fit in the torpedo tube.

OK: After you are dead and long gone, what do you think your acting legacy will be? How do you want to be remembered?

Brick: Like most actors, I just want to BE remembered. Hopefully, people in future generations will still be entertained when they boot up the 3-D virtual reality interactive version of Samurai Sexecutioner. If I can provide a few laughs, a few thrills, a few shivers of delight for the ladies-I’ve done my job. If nothin’ else, I hope to still be able to do mall openin’s and memorabilia shows after I’m too old to act. Celebrity in Japan truly is fleetin’-today’s Idol is tomorrow’s Soapland employee. But as long as I’m married to the Producer’s daughter, I have confidence that my career’ll be long and productive.
More important is my legacy as a human being. That’s why I take such pains to use my celebrity to perform good works within the community-like the ‘Brick McBurly Valentine’s Day Hot Tub Party’, or the traffic safety promos I do with Hikonyan. It’s important to be a role model for the kids. I love how their little faces light up when I’m makin’ an appearance at their school and tell them that lyin’ is always wrong, unless it’s necessary to get you out of a tight spot. And that the Brickster was just helpin’ their mommy out when she wasn’t feelin’ well, and nothin’ was really goin’ on there, really. When the little ones hear that violence never solved anythin’ but that a six-iron to the groin provides a nice temporary fix from the neighborhood bully, it really means somethin’ to them comin’ from the Brickster.

OK: You once told me, as you were getting up to use the toilet after draining a six pack of warm Shibata Premium Draft, that in your films, you aim to please. I remember replying, “I hope you aim, too, please.” ‘Aiming’ just doesn’t seem to be one of your strong spots, does it? As a matter of fact, I seem to recall you were recently apprehended by the police for showering Sean Penn from a balcony at Roppongi Hills as he was stepping onto the red carpet for the Japanese premier of his film, Milk. Was this just really a publicity stunt, as you later claimed in the press? After all, is the Japanese designer, Nigo, who was scheduled to unveil a new line of clothing called “A Bathing Brick” And what was it that you poured on Sean Penn?

Brick: That is one damn long question. Well, it was a joke between me and Sean Penn. I poured the contents of a milk carton down on him, while yellin', “Love milk?” Me and Sean Penn became friends while filmin' was rollin' for Fast Times at Ridgemont High. My cousin Stone played one of the guys in the van with Sean’s character, Jeff Spiccoli. I was allowed to visit durin' filmin' and met him on the set one day and accidentally spilled a glass of milk on him. In typical Sean Penn fashion, he slugged me. Since then, it’s become a bit of a tradition between me and him. As I was up on the balcony, I figured he’d have a hard time sluggin' me this time, but I didn’t figure on the cops comin’ up. Actually, no charges were pressed and the cops all had a good laugh about it after they realized what a photo op they stumbled on.

OK: Controversy seems to follow you as much as shrine maidens! Speaking of controversy, tell us a little bit about the trouble you got in at the end of 2008 with the Church, the Hosokawa Historical Memorial Society and the Kumamoto Chamber of Commerce? This had something to do with your Christmas film Cum All Ye Faithful, which ran only one time on the Rainbow Channel, right?

Brick: Well, yeah, I was ex-communicated for a few days because I played a bad monk, if you know what I mean, who was gettin' it on with Hosokawa Gracia, who was supposed to be all saintly and stuff. Actually, my character was gettin' it on with just about every hottie on the island of Kyushu, and one of them hotties in the film was the real life daughter of the President of the Kumamoto Chamber of Commerce. I’m still persona no grata there. But regardin' the Church, to make a long story short, I was re-communicated and forgiven, even though I’m a Buddhist and not Catholic, when I agreed to attend an autograph sin’n session at the Vatican for a bunch of my nun fans on the Pope’s behalf. Hey, Benji, you know a lot about the trouble nuns can cause for men, don'cha?

OK: Sounds like a lot of ‘nunsense’ to me. I got to ask you this, though. Was it really a coincidence that you happened to be at that McDonald’s in Japan while an AV movie was being filmed there-at least until the police shut it down?

Brick: Well, I was ‘lovin’ it’, at least while it lasted. And I never woulda had Ko's mom (former Olympic judo bronze medalist), 'Right Cross' Chiba, along fer the ride if I knew in advance what was goin' on.

OK: One review, in the Japanese monthly magazine “Bigu Sukureen Stahs” described you as the new king of ‘Poruno Jidai-Geki’. How do you feel about that title?

Brick: I’m proud as hell. After I read that article, I tried gettin’ the guys in costumin’ to make me a crown emblazoned with that on it along with a regal cloak so’s I could wander around Gion like the Burger King, surprisin’ unsuspectin’ ladies with a free helpin’ of my wares. And who among the current crop of Japanese movie stars deserves the title more’n me? It’s like Bruce Campbell says at the end of Army of Darkness’-“Hail to the King, baby”. You’d think they was makin’ every film and TV show for gay men, seein’ as how metro sexual and feminine most of the male leads are.

OK: Do you think that the poruno jidai-geki genre is in the midst of a revival or renaissance of sorts? After all, you’ve been linked to a remake of Ishii Teruo’s classic, Bohachi Bushido that starred Tamba Tetsuro as an inscrutable ronin who sure knew how to swing his katana within the Yoshiwara.

Brick: You bet. Historically, whenever times get tough or society is in a state of flux, that’s when people turn to escapist films like horror or jidai-geki for entertainment. And it don’t get much more escapist than watchin’ a Westerner in a Japanese role rackin’ up the score in an historical settin’. Unless ya throw in a few monsters or aliens, all of which we’re also more’n happy to do. And let’s face it, there’s ALWAYS a market for porn. Heck, Al Gore invented the internet just so there’d be a place to host it all.

OK: When are you going to start filming Bohachi Bushido?

Brick: It can't be soon enough for my tastes-prob'ly after I’m done filmin' my new historical epic, Yasuke.

OK: Oh, I see. Tell us about this project, it sounds interesting.

Brick: As you know, Yasuke was an African brought along by the Portuguese while visitin’ Nobunaga. Oda took an interest in him and requested that the Portuguese hand over Yasuke, which they were only too happy to do since they really didn’t groove on rap. It’s really quite the upliftin’ story. Yasuke-kidnapped and forced into slavery-torn away from his posse and beeyotches-forced to wear the ridiculous lookin’ clothes of the Portuguese. Strugglin’ to keep his head high and uphold his dignity while assaulted by the taunts and abuse of Nobunaga’s redneck country samurai, who even tried to wash off his skin color. Becomin’ the REAL Afro Samurai and followin’ the way of the warrior. Carvin’ out a friendship with the Demon King, even bein’ afforded the privilege of callin’ him ‘dawg’. Standin’ by Nobunaga until the very end, not even givin’ in to the temptin’ words of the Great Emancipator, Akechi Mitsuhide. Now, there are some who said Yasuke ran like a scared rabbit when Mitsuhide attacked at Honno-ji, but he really was just battlin’ through overwhelmin’ odds to reach Nijo Castle and defend Nobunaga’s son. Course, the son got wasted too, but that wasn’t Yasuke’s fault. Heck, some tales have him swingin’ a terrible swift sword as big as a pine tree, showin’ the strength of fifty men, and scatterin’ the Akechi army like so much dust before the wind-even though they somehow managed to kill off everybody else in the Oda army. And he did it all faster than that newfangled steam hammer could, too. Since history doesn’t record what became of Yasuke after that, the script ends on a happy note with him becomin’ the founder of the Yoshiwara district in Edo years later, with his instant catchphrase, “Where my money?” The Studio loves the idea, and since all Westerners look the same and just like Elvis to them, they didn’t have the problems with me playin’ the title role like an American studio would.

OK: So, you are really playing the part of Yasuke? I guess this is conceivable since Robert Downey, Jr., who is white, played the role of an Afro-American in the recent comedy Tropical Thunder and Eddie Murphy and the Wayan brothers have played Caucasians before. Besides the makeup, are there any special challenges to playing Yasuke?

Brick: Not really. We have a lot in common. Me bein' a feared and respected foreigner just like Yasuke-me bein' somewhat of a curiosity for the Japanese to stare at just like Yasuke-me bein' a muscular stud just like Yasuke-me dancin' every bit as good as Yasuke-the list goes on and on. If it wasn't for the skin color difference and the fact that he's been dead for hundreds of years, we could be brothers. I also wear the prosthesis from Samurai Sexecutioner to give the role a little more historical authenticity, jus' like we talked about before. I’ve re-watched the Dolemite series to put me in the proper frame of mind to accurately portray this forgotten hero of Japanese history, and I've also re-watched a buncha “Good Times” episodes with Jimmie Walker. The only real problem is the dread locks--I cringe every time I look in the mirror and don’t see my trademark impeccably groomed ‘do but do see Manny Ramirez/Bobby Marley starin’ back at me.

OK: Why do you suppose that widely acclaimed Japanese samurai film connoisseurs, such as Patrick Galloway, refuse to acknowledge your work?

Brick: Patrick who? Ya mean that fashion plate in black socks and sandals that lurks around the back lot sometimes and has to be chased off by the Studio's Mall Cop? Well, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that movie reviewers dislike anythin’ that supposedly disturbs the ‘purity’ of the films they love. The disdain for the Brickster is no different than that shown for Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Add to that the fact that most of these guys can’t speak Japanese and can’t get subtitled copies of my films, and I don’t stand a chance. But who cares? The Japanese love ‘em, and they’re the ones buyin’ tickets and DVD’s. When Japanese women are lookin’ for a spicy film to heat up their day while their husbands are at work, it’s a good bet from schoolgirl to obaa that they’re usin’ their tremblin’ hands to insert the Brickster into their DVD player.

Now, as to Pat personally, while he’s got a serious case of HUA when it comes to my films, I think he’s a great guy. His books have tipped me off to a lot of classics I might have otherwise missed, and unlike some critics he gives B movies the same respect he shows A movies. And he sends me photos of Reiko-chan, so he’s O-tay by me. Benji, don’t he have a new book comin’ out in a coupla weeks? I’d buy it, but I’m sure I’ll be gettin’ a complimentary copy in the mail any day now.

OK: You’ll have to wait for that book from Pat. Publication’s been delayed and I don’t think he’ll be sending you anything after what you just said about his fashion sense. What would your 'dream project' be, if you had an unlimited budget and complete creative control?

Brick: Well, that would be a full length (yuk, yuk) production of the unabridged Tale of Genji with me in the title role. I mean, when smooth-talkin' cultured and educated womanizin' horn dogs are brought up, my name is always first out of the gate with the ladies of Japan. It's a natural!

Even though it wouldn't be an historical epic, I'd also like to get the starrin' role in the film adaptation of Lian Hearn's Tales Of The Otori. I'm talkin' of course, about the role of the naughty warlord Iida Sadamu. Now, of course, there'd have to be a few minor adjustments made to the script to accommodate the Brickster. Fer example, Kaede would have to turn on Takeo and put his head on a spike outside Iida's castle. Nobody would ever believe a hot babe like Kaede would prefer a wuss like Takeo over the roguish charm of Iida as performed by me. One'a those SMAP guys would be perfect for the role of Takeo, and nobody'd miss him when he got offed. We could then end the film with a rousin' pillow fight between Iida and Kaede. I think it'd be the perfect vehicle to introduce the Brickster to Western filmgoers.

Hey Benji, I gots a question for you if you feel up to it. Whatever happened to that Lt. Boomer guy and Mr. Dorka? They were two of my fav’rites on the SA.

OK: You mean Msr. Iaidoka, and Domer, right? Domer supposedly got in trouble with his wife when she walked in on him stripped down to his boxers and wearing 3D glasses while watching some of your movies with a big bowl of popcorn. As for Iaidoka, I don’t know. Well, anyway, Brick, it’s been a real pleasure. Good luck with the films and we’ll see you on the small screen.

Brick: You bet. Thanks. By the way, can you spot me 1,000 yen? I’m feelin' thirsty and need another cold one after talkin' with you.

OK: You’ve got to be kidding, right?

Brick: About bein' thirsty? Never, big guy. Come on, Benji, you ‘kin add it to my tab of bar bills that you’ve been coverin' for me.

Due to the rumors that started to swirl earlier this week about noted historian and author Anthony J. Bryant having a cameo role in the upcoming bio-epic Yasuke, I felt it was necessary to call up Brick and ask a follow-on question about this, as Mr. Bryant is being a little coy.

OK: We've heard recently that historian and SA member Anthony Bryant has been offered a walk-on role in Yasuke. There seems to be some confusion in fandom over what part he's actually going to be playing. Can you shed any light on this matter?

Brick: Well, A.J. was originally slated to play the role of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki-but he was cast sight unseen. When he showed up on the set, the gal who's our castin' director got one look at his legs and decided he'd be perfect for the role of Shiz-he-ka, the evil shirabyōshi dancer. Imagine my surprise! Looks like it was a good career mood for Lord Effin'ham, since the Brickster hears he's slated to be part of the next round of "Dancing With The Stars" on American TV.


  1. I've been a Brick fan for years now. Great interview, but I have a question about the new Yasuke project that Brick is starring in.

    I'm in Japan on business trip and had a sleepless night due to jet lag. I was watching a late night TV program that is about upcoming movies and pop culture hot trends. They were talking about the Yasuke film and reported that historian Anthony Bryant has a cameo role as Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki.

    Is this true? Is this the same Anthony Bryant who wrote a book on Sekigahara?

  2. Tony adressed this issue over at the Samurai Archives forum, and it turns out these rumors are completely unfounded. I don't know how things like this get started-people with too much time on their hands, I suppose.
    He's actually been cast in 'Yasuke' as an evil shirabyôshi dancer.