Thursday, June 16, 2022

Interview with the manager of Fort Bravo-Texas Hollywood. Almost half a century dedicated to the world of cinema

Diario de Almeria

By Rubén García Felices

March 20, 2022

Rafael Molina Perales was born on June 21, 1952 in Enguera (Valencia). He is a former stuntman and owner/manager of the Fort Bravo-Texas Hollywood town since the early 1980s.

January 8th, it's two in the afternoon, I'm sitting next to Rafael Molina drinking an Aquarius (he drinks a coffee) at one of the tables in the Fort Bravo lounge while instrumental music from the West plays in the background, we talk about his long career in the world of cinema and his position as manager of this emblematic film set. My wife, María Isabel Fernández López, joins us at the table (she drinks a lemon Fanta). I carry my questions on my mobile (prepared in a PDF file) to fulfill my goal: to republish a decent and interesting interview for the readers of this newspaper. Some blank sheets of paper, a pen and my camera are waiting for me and for the answers and portraits of Rafael that I will capture. The weather is unbeatable we find ourselves immersed in a special environment where many of Almeria's spaghetti western movies have been shot. I press the pen and launch my first questions about his personal life. Rafael begins to tell us that he has lived between Tabernas, Almería and Roquetas de Mar (where he currently resides) for 33 years, that he is divorced and has 3 children: Rafael Jesús Molina, Marina Amparo Molina and Ángel Santiago Molina. And that he now shares a life as a couple with the Virgitana Mari Paz Vázquez García, 39 years old, with whom he plans to marry soon, when COVID-19 allows them to be able to reunite the whole family. Next we talk about the ins and outs of his profession. Today we are chatting with a former film specialist and the owner of one of the best film sets in Europe, who at a professional level is very demanding, very constant and highly proactive. And on a personal level he is very grateful, close and, despite being where he has arrived, he has a great simplicity. Rafael has experience, has character and likes to be punctual and adapt to the new challenges that life throws at him. After a few laughs we continue with the interview, and he personally leaves a pleasant impression on me.

-Tell me about your stage as a film specialist (stuntman).

- Since I started my film career in the mid-70's I have been constantly appearing in films and shows related to this world of the seventh art, passing on my skills and tricks of the trade to new generations of film specialists. Today I am the owner of Fort Bravo - Texas Hollywood film studio, being the action director who coordinates the fights. I worked in the action department on films like “Conan the Barbarian” (John Milius, 1982) and “The Adventures of Baron  Münchausen” ( Terry Gilliam, 1988). In “Hundra” (Matt Cimber, 1983) I played a stunt double for an actor playing a barbarian. I also worked in the western “Silla de plata” (Silver Saddle) (Lucio Fulci, 1978), preparing and reassuring the actors' horses. Likewise, for nine years I have carried out a career in which I have carried out car and motorcycle chases in various filming for television and cinema in Germany, France and Spain.

-You have been a stunt double in television series such as ‘Curro Jiménez’ (Antonio Larreta ‒creator‒, 1976-1979) or ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ (George Lucas, 1992-1996). Can you tell me which actors you have doubled in these two television series? Do you remember some risky scenes that you had to perform?

- Yes. In ‘Curro Jiménez’ I participated in five or six episodes and I was a stunt double for actors who played local caciques. I happily remember my participation in the episodes "La media luna" and "La noche de la marten", both directed by Pilar Miró, a woman with personality and professionalism who commanded respect. ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ series was a project in which I worked as a professional horseman and stuntman; As a stuntman, I was at the side of a Mexican actor to protect him from a detonation, and I also made many jumps while filming explosions.

-Around 1980, together with your partner Paco Ardura, you bought the town of Fort Bravo - Texas Hollywood. How did you live this new experience as an entrepreneur? And what was the most demanding challenge you faced?

- Life made me an entrepreneur by force. Because when you need to get ahead financially and start a new work project of such magnitude and responsibility as this one, moving paperwork without prior knowledge or money, it is very complicated. It was really difficult, but now I am proud of everything I have achieved. Our main challenge was keeping the village standing, and making it as authentic and realistic as possible.

-Name me some productions that have been shot here since you became the owner.

- For example, the aforementioned series ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’, the telefilm ‘A Dollar for the Dead’ (Gene Quintano, 1999) and the feature films ‘800 Bullets’ (Álex de la Iglesia, 2002), ‘The Daltons’ (Philippe Haim, 2003) and ‘Los Hermanos Sisters’ (Jacques Audiard, 2018), among many other productions. I must emphasize that the script for ‘800 Bullets’ was written for Fort Bravo, which was shot entirely here, since it is particularly a film inspired by the real life of a stuntman from this town.

-Regarding your employees. How do you help your staff grow professionally?

-I bring my professional experience teaching them audience tricks and basic notions when working with spectators and cameras. Among other things, I explain how to ignore the cameras and photographers while acting in an action or dance show, what is the ideal attitude to play the different characters, or how to work best with horses. And on the other hand, I prepare the boys to be true film and action specialists. I have to make them believe in their possibilities and get the best out of each one, with the aim that they can believe as specialists and that in the future they will hold the positions of team leaders or coordinators. To help them value themselves, I always try to ensure that they are surrounded by the best professionals, something that I consider essential in this profession.

-If you want to work with horses in the correct way, what should you learn?

-More than anything, you must learn to know how to best adapt to them, because each horse has its own personality and character just like people. They are very sensitive animals and, for this reason, some horses must be treated with more tact than others. The horse needs calm, honesty and trust, but true trust must be earned. Good communication (both verbal and non-verbal) with the animal is essential, otherwise the horse will walk away. There is also the attitude of the equine, which will determine the work and function that he will perform in the town. He can be a brave horse, vigorous, social or skittish, calm or sad. To give just one example: in Fort Bravo we have, in particular, a horse that knows how to play dead by throwing itself on its back,

-It is not the first time that you perform the award ceremony of an award granted by the Almería Western Film Festival (AWFF). But tell me, what did it mean for you to have delivered the "Tabernas Film Award" to Franco Nero in person, in the presence of the mayor of Tabernas, José Díaz, during the last edition of the AWFF 2021?

- A joy to give him the award, since this actor is an icon of the western. Just being next to him was truly great.

-It is rumored that after the sad death in 2007 of one of the specialists who worked here, strange events have been taking place attributed to this misfortune. In fact, the writer and former collaborator of the television program ‘Cuarto Milenio’, Alberto Cerezuela, investigated this topic some time ago. What can you tell me about "The Ghost of Fort Bravo"?

- In Fort Bravo there is not a single ghost; there are many. Before dying, some celebrities and people who have worked in the world of cinema have asked that their ashes be thrown into the town [Aldo Sambrell for one]. And this is a source of pride for me, they are also part of Fort Bravo. These "good ghosts" protect us all in bad times.

-What future projects do you have for the town?

- At the moment I am building some warehouses to store material and use it when necessary, and the houses in the mining town are being increased. I plan to put more cabins in the campground so that the actors who come here to shoot can be accommodated and that when there are no shoots, the clients who dream of spending a day in the Old West can stay.

-Once we finished the interview, my wife and I accompanied Rafael to the street to take a portrait of him and thank him for his warm welcome.

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