A few questions with Bob Wall…
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I would be interviewing someone who terrified me as a child. Bob Wall‘s O’Hara, the original western bad guy, who paved the way for many more to follow in his footsteps. Interesting to note ‘O’Hara’ is spelt differently on IMDb and Wikipedia, but my Irish blood forces me to write it this way.
His epic, bottle-shattering treacherous showdown with Lee in Enter The Dragon under the watchful eye of Han will be forever ingrained on my mind as one of the defining scenes of the movie. O’Hara, the man not afraid to throw the rule book away to beat his opponent at any cost.
Of course I just had to ask Bob about his time working on Enter the Dragon and also to share his memories of Bruce Lee not only as a martial artist but as a person. I feel incredibly humbled for this interview, as a lifelong Bruce Lee fan I am so grateful for this opportunity and when I look back in years to come at the interview it will be my defining moment in this crazy writing journey that has brought about so many blessings. I have put Bob’s last comment in quotes as I feel it reflects this interview perfectly.
As a thank you for this interview I have made a donation to KickStart Kids – an award winning in-school character development program that uses karate to teach life-changing values to middle school and high school students. Kickstart Kids was founded in 1990 by martial artist, actor, and philanthropist Chuck Norris with the help of President George H.W. Bush.
Vikki: You’ve probably been asked so many questions over the years about your work on Enter the Dragon. While making this pioneering martial arts film did you feel it was going to sweep the world as it did?
Bob: We had an excellent cast on Enter The Dragon who all wanted it to be a great movie and like me they all admired and liked Bruce. I’d known and trained with Bruce for over ten years and felt the script and budget ($850,000) were good enough to give the film bones. Add to that all the actors wanted to do their best for Bruce, so I thought we had magic in a bottle, but Enter The Dragon’s worldwide success, becoming the highest grossing martial art film of all time was exciting and exceeded my estimations! I loved Bruce as a man and a martial artist and felt it was great that he became the superstar he deserved to be, but was just like everyone. I’m deeply sad that he did not live to see it and reap the benefits. The great, late Fred Weintraub, Linda Lee and Bruce were key to the films greatness and I was proud of John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Jim Kelly, Bolo, Shih Kien and Lalo Schifrin for their outstanding performances .
Vikki: The “bad guy” roles that you played were just so well acted, especially O’Hara, the perfect antagonist. Did you discuss with Bruce about further roles in his films which were non-martial arts based?
Bob: Yes Bruce and I discussed what would likely become his next film with Carlo Ponti, but it would have been martial art related.
Vikki: I have touched upon this with my interview with actor Philippe Joly – do you feel that there is a misrepresentation of western actors in the East and likewise East to West and possibly an unfair limitation of roles?
Bob: No I don’t think there has been a misrepresentation of western or eastern actors, producers and directors pick who they believe can do the job.
Vikki: Have you worked with anyone as driven as Bruce Lee since? When you look back at your time with him – what do you remember the most?
Bob: Yes! Chuck Norris and the late great Steve McQueen were equally driven, but Bruce, Chuck and Steve were all great. It was an honor to know them. What I remember the most about the great Bruce Lee is how much fun he was to be around, brilliant, kind, funny, talented, goal oriented, hard working, challenging and just a great human being. I am so glad to have known him and spent so much time with him!
What I remember the most about the great Bruce Lee is how much fun he was to be around, brilliant, kind, funny, talented, goal oriented, hard working, challenging and just a great human being.
Vikki: As an accomplished martial artist and actor, what are you most proud of when you look back at your career?
Bob: I was proud of the great chain of martial art studios Chuck Norris and I created. Proud of what a great partner Chuck was, proud that we were the first to focus on teaching children and women, proud to have achieved becoming a World Pro champion. I am very proud of the immense great men and women, students of ours that became amazing black belts and good humans.
Proud that I have the greatest wife Lillian, still married and in love after 50 years of marriage with two fabulous daughters Shana and Kara!
Proud of the terrific students I had the privilege to teach martial arts to including Elvis, Steve McQueen, Freddie Prinze, Bryan Keith, Johnny Desmond, Jack Palance, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Priscilla Presley, my great wife Lillian, my daughters Shana & Kara and many others I was privileged to share with!
Arrival of Colt – The Way of the Dragon