Chuck Norris comes to Perth and Sydney this month as a headline act for Supanova Comic Con & Gaming and there should be plenty to talk about.
Chuck was one of the biggest B-grade action stars of the 1980s with the output of Cannon films. He has been rediscovered for a new generation thanks to the internet craze of Chuck Norris Facts started in 2005, which are a growing collection of absurd claims that speak to Norris’ virility, toughness and onscreen exploits. Now in his eighth decade of life, the martial arts legend has lived quite a bit and audiences attending will get to hear all about the real Chuck Norris who has acted with everyone from Lee Marvin to Haley Joel Osment.
When Chuck Norris was born he drove his mum home from the hospital.
Born Carlos Ray Norris in Oklahoma in 1940, young Carlos grew up relatively introverted and non-athletic enduring his father’s binge drinking until his parents divorced when he was 16. He later told Empire Magazine in 2007 of his father: “He was negligent, abusive, exactly the kind of person I didn’t want to be. So I would spend my Saturdays at the movie theatre, escaping into another world.”
In 1958 he joined the United States Air Force and became an Air PoliceMan. While stationed in post-war Korea he learnt about martial arts and started training.
Upon discharge in 1962 he started competing in karate competitions and by the end of the decade he was Professional Middleweight Karate Champion and was named Fighter of the Year by Black Belt magazine. He was also running schools which included celebrity students like Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley and Donny Osmond and he was training with Bruce Lee. The latter led to one of his first big film roles where he fought Bruce Lee in ‘Way Of The Dragon’.
When Chuck Norris gives you the finger, he’s telling you how many seconds you have left to live.
It would take a while for Carlos to get his film career going with roles here and there but he had his own ideas of what kind of stories he wanted to do. His first few starring features were low budget affairs centred on heroes who stood for something and Carlos and the producers would rent out the theatres and take in all the receipts. “When I got into the film business, my aim was to adopt a positive persona, of a guy who fights against injustice. And it saved me, because my acting was atrocious to say the least!”, he said in the same Empire interview. These films turned sizeable profit margins and eventually Hollywood stood up and took notice.
What followed were the classic movies ‘Lone Wolf McQuade’, ‘Invasion U.S.A.’, ‘Missing in Action’ 1 & 2. These were unabashedly male fantasies with Chuck riding motorcycles that fire rockets (‘Delta Force’) and spouting lines like “I’m going to hit you with so many rights, you’ll beg for a left”. (‘Invasion U.S.A.’) Yet the boy (Carlos) whose only positive male role models growing up were seen on screen, was now the man, Chuck, trying to create that for a new generation. There was never any question he took the work seriously, when making the fantasy of Vietnam War POWs being rescued in a movie (a year before Sly Stallone did it but a little bit after Gene Hackman) he was thinking of his brother who died serving in Vietnam.
Looking back some of his output may surprise, ‘Delta Force’ is actually one half a typical Chuck Norris actioner and one half a tense thriller with ordinary airline passengers working to get the upper-hand on their terrorist captors led by Robert Forster in a nuanced performance.
‘Code of Silence’ (1985) was directed by Andrew Davis who would go on to make ‘The Fugitive’ with Harrison Ford, already showing in this film a great skill at capturing action scenes around Chicago and the authentic way that law enforcement personnel talk among themselves. Film critic Roger Ebert noted in the Chicago Sun-Times, “It may be the movie that moves Norris out of the ranks of dependable action heroes and makes him a major star.”
That was 1985 and instead by 1993 Chuck had moved to television, playing another moralistic straight-arrow lawman in ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ that racked up viewership for the next eight years and is even now estimated to play to an audience of a billion people in syndication worldwide.
Chuck Norris can dial your phone number on the microwave.
There’s a po-faced seriousness to the Chuck Norris movie persona and straightforward earnestness in the storytelling of his work that was ripe for parody and so began another stage of fame, whether it was TV late night host Conan O’Brien pulling the 'Walker, Texas Ranger' Lever on his show to play scenes out of context for laughs or the internet phenomenon that became Chuck Norris Facts.
The action star took it all with good humour and has parlayed his fame into many philanthropic interests like Kickstart Kids where he gets youth into martial arts programmes for free to give them confidence and discipline. He’s also regularly visited U.S. forces abroad, supported veteran organisations and various other causes. A devout Christian, he is not a man without his own flaws and regrets and some of his views certainly are far from progressive. Yet, he is out there making a positive difference in as many lives as he can all the time. Carlos, the introverted boy, served his country, became a karate champion, then movie star and now continues to give back while also enjoying life with his family.
Chuck Norris and Superman once fought each other on a bet. The loser had to start wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants.
Speaking of, Chuck Norris won’t be the only one at Supanova, with Superman himself confirmed to be exclusively there for Perth audiences. Brandon Routh who shot to fame as the Kryptonian in ‘Superman Returns’ now appears on the CW Network as The Atom in ‘Arrow’, ‘The Flash’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’. He will be joined by Carlos Valdes who stars as fan favourite Cisco Ramon/ Vibe on ‘The Flash’.
Chuck Norris beat 'Halo' 1, 2, and 3 on Legendary with a broken 'Guitar Hero' controller.
Additionally gamers can look forward to ‘Overwatch’ voice actors Jonny Cruz and Chris Parson, Nolan North (‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Uncharted’) and Troy Baker (‘The Last of Us’).
Comic book readers can expect to see a line-up of talent across the Sydney and Perth events including Dean Rankine (‘The Simpsons’ comics), Ben Stenbeck (‘Hellboy’), David Yardin (‘X-Factor’), Jon Sommariva (‘TMNT: Amazing Adventures’), Mark Raats (‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’), Campbell Whyte (‘Home Time’), Ashley Wood (‘Popbot’, ‘Lore’). Authors Maria Lewis, Lynette Noni, Alan Baxter and Bevan McGuiness will be present too. Also attending are film stars Richard Dreyfuss (‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’) and Kathleen Turner (‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ ‘Body Heat’). Plus Iron Fist himself Finn Jones (‘Game of Thrones’) so there should be lots for fans to discuss and explore.
Chuck Norris' calendar goes straight from 31 March to 2 April. No one fools Chuck Norris.
At these events, fans will get the chance to listen to and even meet some of this extraordinary talent.