Little Sri Lanka came under the microscope of the international film community when Blood Sport 111 was filmed in the Central Province. However, all the Sri Lankan fighters who had major and minor roles in the film are totally forgotten by now. Anton Charles who played the role of ‘Chai’ and featured in the first fight with the main character in the film Alex Cardo (role played by Daniel Bernhardt) believes his name and features (the guy is 6 feet 3½ inches in height) might never have given the slightest indication that he was Sri Lankan.
Anton Charles who starred in Blood Sport 111 soon realized that continuing to pursue his martial arts career was wiser than thinking when he would land the next role in acting. This is because in Sri Lanka actors are chosen for popularity and not for their expertise
The film was shot in 1996 and the opportunities given to all the Sri Lankan martial artistes and popular actors to be in the cast was simply unforgettable. Charles was at his peak as a martial artist at that time. The film opened up a passage for him to proceed further in his pursuit of educating himself as a martial artist.
“I got the opportunity to work with fighting directors Chad State and Brad Martin. There was also J.J. Perry an Olympic silver medallist in Taekwondo. I learnt so much from them about films and how to handle the camera. But most importantly I figured out where I stood in the field of martial arts when I worked with these international super stars,” said Charles who later fought in the British Open and secured second place in the heavy weight class.
He said that according to the script in the film he dies after the first fight which lasts just a few seconds. But Charles carries special memories about the training that went into preparing for this little fight.
“Once we were training for this scene and I landed a shot which injured his (Daniel’s) hand. There were a lot of concerns all round because shooting was stopped for about 45 minutes till he recovered. This is the highlight of the entire period that I spent preparing for the film,” he reflected.
“Sometimes situations in real life are so different from that of a film,” said Charles with a wide grin across his face.
The film was released in Sri Lanka one and half years later. But he believes the showing of the film Titanic in the island’s cinema halls concurrently really spoilt the chances of Blood Sport 111 reaching a larger audience at that time.
He realized soon that continuing to pursue his martial arts career was wiser than thinking when he would land the next role in acting. “Sri Lanka is a country where actors are chosen for popularity, but in Europe film directors look for experts when they are making a film based on martial arts. I am a Sri Lankan so I knew exactly where to place my foot in the next step in life,” opined Charles who is a third dan black belt holder in karate.
He pursued his career in martial arts and fought in World United Martial Arts Association (WUMA) conducted tournaments. He also took the initiative and founded the Sri Lanka Free Style Martial Arts Association.
What’s important about Charles’ journey is that he beat the odds in making it to the cast of Blood Sports 111. The other important thing associated with the film is he didn’t get carried away by the popularity wave that this film created in the Sri Lankan film community. He rode this wave called popularity and got off soon as he noticed there was a gulf between dream and reality.