‘The Green Ghost’ pays homage to martial arts films of the past and Texas border culture

Charlie Clark – the namesake of a well-known chain of auto dealers along the border – stars as the unlikely hero of the film, in theaters Friday. 

By Kristen CabreraApril 28, 2022 11:27 am, ,

The promotional materials note: “It’s Green Ghost, not Gringo” – but who’s the Green Ghost, you may ask? He’s the unlikely hero of the movie “Green Ghost and The Masters of The Stone,” in theaters Friday. 

And for those who live along the border, it stars a somewhat familiar face: Charlie Clark – the namesake of a locally well-known chain of auto dealerships. So how does a car salesman go on to star in his own movie? Clark spoke to the Texas Standard about that, starring alongside Danny Trejo and the homage to martial arts movies of the 70s. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Tell me a little bit about your role not just in the movie, but in getting it made. I mean, with a title like “Green Ghost and The Masters of The Stone,” it sounds like you’re the Indiana Jones of the Borderlands. 

Charlie Clark: Well, the Green Ghost, obviously, is a pun on gringo, of course. And Green Ghost was inspired back in the day when I didn’t have much budget to advertise. I created an alter ego for myself since I grew up with my Mexican nanny, who this film was inspired by and dedicated to. I grew up watching Spanish TV shows like “El Chapulín Colorado” and “El Chavo del Ocho” and El Santo, a very famous luchador. And so I thought, how cool if I made up a character that my alter ego could be that would be making fun of being the stereotypical gringo superhero.

Since this is a bilingual movie and clearly also bicultural, say a little bit more about that decision, because it seems to suggest that you have a very specific audience in mind here.

Yes, I did. Like I was saying earlier, it’s dedicated to my Mexican nanny, who really helped take care of me like half of my lifetime. And I got to spend half of my life in the Mexican neighborhood. So in a broader sense, it’s also dedicated to my Mexican American family and Mexican family because I am on the border. And like you said, all my businesses are up and down the border from the Rio Grande Valley up to El Paso and Laredo. And all of my clientele are fundamentally Mexican American or Mexican clients, and they’ve adopted me into their families, is how I feel. So I wanted to make my environment more fun, more inviting. So, yes, that’s why it is dedicated to the Mexican people and the Mexican American people.

It doesn’t get much more fun than a spandex luchador costume. Tell us a little bit about the character and how this film takes off. 

Well, the movie’s about family and not necessarily the family you were born into, but sort of the family you create over time, the ones who truly take care of you and love you. And that’s where the Green Ghost comes in. He ends up getting thrown into this situation he had no idea he was a part of or connected to in some mystical way. But the Green Ghost is not the Green Ghost without teamwork and without the connection with the team and working precisely as a team. That’s the only way that there’s a defense against the true apocalypse in the Green Ghost movie.

A very famous actor has joined in this film, Danny Trejo. Tell us about approaching him and working with him.

Well, it was wonderful to work with Danny Trejo. I woke up one night at 2 or 3 in the morning going, you know, I need to get this movie out of my system. If I don’t, I’m going to regret it. And I met Robert Rodriguez’s brother, David. So Robert Rodriguez, as you well know, director, producer, Troublemaker Studios and all the huge films. So I said, ‘Really, you’re Robert’s brother? I’ve always wanted to meet Machete,’ and he ended up calling Edward James Olmos’ son Michael, and he wanted to direct the film. Well, having those roots in Latino Hollywood, you could say, they really attracted some wonderful talent and started with Danny Trejo. So the other actors who heard, well, who’s attached? ‘Well, Danny Trejo’s attached.’ So then Kuno Becker came along and then Renée Victor came along. And Renée Victor has been in so many things. She’s so talented and she’s from San Antonio, speaks perfect Spanish and English and was wonderful to work with. She came out in “Snowpiercer” recently, “Love” on Netflix. And what I found very fascinating, which I didn’t intend for this to happen, but when we hired and cast her – she was the voice of the grandmother in “Coco.” So the chancla lady with the sandal was in my real life. I have my nana in my commercials saying, ‘If you don’t do what you promise, Nana pow pow.’ So the parallel was unbelievable. What a cosmic connection that was.

Is your nana still around? 

Yes, she is 99 years old.

Has she seen the movie? 

Well, she’s seen part of it. What I’m going to do as soon as we do this premiere, this Friday, is I’m going to set up a big TV and and lay down next to her and watch it with her. And it’s amazing that I’m going to get to watch it with her. It just makes me very emotional.

There are multiple really well-choreographed and fun fight scenes in this movie, sort of reminiscent of the martial arts movies of the 70s. Tell us about this nod to the martial arts films of the past. 

I’m glad that you picked up on that, because I’ve always been a fan. One of my inspirations for the film was Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow. And I think the martial arts, done in a way where you don’t have a bunch of blood, you know, can make it fun for the whole family to enjoy.

Did you grow up with those films when when you were young? 

Yeah. I mean, of course I grew up watching Bruce Lee. I absolutely love martial arts films. So, yes, there’s the tip of the hat there to the martial arts. And of course, the idea behind it was to be able to try to hone and harness the power of the stone in the movie, and the martial arts would help you do that. And so the whole thing was they didn’t really know what they had, and they were trying to figure out how to use it in the most effective way. And the better you were and the more disciplined you were at martial arts – it was kind of like the dark side in the light side of the force. We had to practice so much, and I wanted to do my own fights. I mean, I had a stuntman who helped me several times, don’t get me wrong. He did some of my fights for me and he did the big falls. But I really wanted to do my own fights. And so the assistant director was like, Charlie, you don’t get it right, I’m throwing them in. He was standing there with the costume with his arms folded.

If this car thing doesn’t work out, you could go to Hollywood now, right? 

Well, you know, I consider myself a businessman. I consider this to be an accomplishment. And obviously, it’s also branding. So whether or not I’m an actor successfully or not, I hope you find my acting entertaining. And I did train with one of the best. So we’ll see where we go from here.

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