Dick Israel, best known for kontrabida roles, passes away


Actor Dick Israel passed away due to natural causes Tuesday night, according to a Facebook post by his friend, actress Vivian Velez. He was 68 years old.

“Remembering his wonderful and gentle soul will forever remain in our hearts. A good heart has stopped beating, a good soul ascended to heaven. RIP Dick Israel,” Velez posted. The actress later told DZMM that the actor had been found dead in his house after being seen earlier vomiting blood.

His remains will lie in state starting 8PM on Wednesday at the St. Peter Memorial Chapel on Araneta Avenue in Quezon City.

Just last July, Israel was rendered homeless by a fire that gutted his house in Caloocan City. Friends, fans and colleagues in the industry promptly came to his aid and helped him and his family back on their feet.

A prolific actor for most of his career spanning more than four decades, Israel won two best supporting actor awards — one from the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1988 for “Patrolman” and another from the FAMAS for “Kanto Boy 2: Anak ni Totoy Guapo”.

Born Richard Michaca in Porac, Pampanga, Israel said in a 2009 interview with this writer for the now defunct Maxim men’s magazine that he took up Mechanical Engineering at FEATI University. His stage name was given to him by talent manager Deo Fajardo who would go on to discover action legends Rudy Fernandez and Robin Padilla.

He first appeared in a bit role in the film “I Love You, Honey” headlined by the then popular love team of Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz. But it wasn’t until he was cast by Sampaguita Pictures star-builder Dr. Jose Perez as a villain in the film “Kamay na Gumagapang” that his stock as a character actor playing mostly kontrabida roles rose.

“In one of our press conferences, [Dr. Perez] told everyone ‘Watch out for this guy, Dick Israel, he’s going to be the next Eddie Garcia’,” he further recalled.

While he also got to play a lead role in the Danny Zialcita-directed “Escolta: May 13; Biyernes ng Hapon!” in 1976 where he earned a FAMAS nomination for Best Actor in 1976, Israel was mostly identified with villain roles, although he also played a good number of screen sidekicks during the latter part of his career.

“As a sidekick, you are given a chance to suggest dialogues for the lead character which I do. I probably get these kinds of assignments because I make the character more real and lively with my suggestions and ad-libs although my directors are the ones who usually get the credit. So when it comes to roles like this, they always think of me because I make them look good,” he noted.

Among Israel’s most memorable films was “Isang Gabi sa Buhay ng Isang Babae” in 1975 where he played one of the tormentors of 1974 Miss Universe runner-up Helen Morgan from Wales in her only movie in the Philippines.

Other memorable roles include the concerned medium that was later possessed by the devil, Rudy Fernandez’s ill-fated friend in Danny Zialcita’s “Pretty Boy Segovia,” the village idiot in Celso Ad. Castillo’s remake of his own “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa” and a very spot-on impression of convicted Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez in Carlo J. Caparas’ “Humanda Ka, Mayor: Bahala na ang Diyos.”

“I met the mayor in court. He sued me, direk Carlo Caparas and the producers for paninirang-puri. Gayang -gaya ko kasi siya eh. Yung 3/4 na tupi ng polo, dress watch at syempre yung buhok ginaya ko lahat. The case against me was dismissed by Judge Harriet Demetriou, though. She ruled that as an actor it’s my right to characterize Sanchez since he was already a public figure,” Israel shared in the same interview.

In 2010, the actor suffered a stroke that left half of his body paralyzed and his speech impaired. Although he never fully recovered, Israel managed to resume his work as an actor and delivered sterling performances in two Chito Roño films.

In the compelling election drama “Badil,” Israel played a respected and feared figure in a small town who ensures election results for a price. In “Boy Golden,” he played a seemingly frail but still very much powerful elderly crime boss.

At the tail-end of the Maxim interview, Israel was asked if he believed in the adage, “Nice guys finish last.”

“Not really, at least based on my experience. As they always say, when you’re bad, you die when you die. But if you’re good and nice, you will live forever.”

Dick Israel is likely going to live forever in the memories of those who not only knew him personally but also to those who will fondly remember his distinguished body of work.—Source: Edwin P. Sallan, InterAksyon.com

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