The late Charles Bronson is a legend of cinema. Born in Lithuania, the Eastern European working man immigrated to the United States where he starred in dozens of movies from the 1950s to the 1990s. After a solid career as a minor actor in the 1950s, he became a supporting actor in big films in the 1960s taking major speaking roles in films like The Magnificient Seven, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen and Once Upon a Time in the West. He even took minor roles in television series like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Fugitive, and The Twilight Zone.
In the 1970s, Bronson began was would become the most enduring and remembered portions of his career as he transformed from a Westerns supporting star to a vigilante action star in movies like Death Wish. Thus began one of the most theoretically prosperous yet most controversial periods of his career. In the early 1980s, he signed on with Golan and Globus, also known as the Cannon Film Group, to make ultra-violent vigilante/action films for the infamous film studio.
Depending on who you ask these films represents some of the most reprehensible, sociopathic, and irresponsible action films ever made or some of the most hilarious and gleefully joyous film experiences you’ll ever enjoy. I’m of the latter opinion. Death Wish III, for example, may handle the theme of urban crime with all the sensitivity of an episode of Looney Tunes but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t one of the most gleeful film experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater. I had the opportunity to see it in 35mm at a crowded movie theater once and it made everyone laugh! These later action films are usually the films people tend to most remember Bronson for.
No matter what he was in though, Bronson was always Bronson. Bronson’s classic image and screen presence made him one of the more iconic stars of late 20th century popular cinema. Even when he was starring in less than reputable material, he always maintained a distinct presence that was unmistakably his. The world has certainly lost one of it’s most wonderful stars since his 2003 passing.
It was much to my surprise then that late last year I saw an image on Twitter of a brand new Charles Bronson movie coming out on DVD. Death Kiss ended up being a hilarious low budget homage to the latter sequels to Bronson’s Death Wish films. This wasn’t shocking. There had already been a remake of Death Wish earlier that year with Bruce Willis in the leading role. What shocked me was that the man on the cover looked EXACTLY like Charles Bronson. That man is Robert Bronzi.
Mr. Bronzi is a Hungarian entertainer and low-budget action star who was discovered several years ago and plucked into the straight-to-DVD film industry due to his uncanny resemblance to the late Charles Bronson. Since then he’s starred in several films including From Hell to the Wild West, Death Kiss, Escape from Deathblock 13, and Once Upon a Time in Deadwood. The titles are of course all spoofs on films like Escape from Alcatraz, Riot in Cell Block 11, Death Wish, and Once Upon a Time in the West.
I can’t begin to explain just how joyous and wonderful Bronzi’s films are. Watching Death Kiss for the first time made me feel like Charles Bronson never died. Suddenly I had new Cannon action films to look forward too! Excited for the upcoming release of his newest films, I reached out to Mr. Bronzi online and he was more than happy to offer some insight into his career.
GUG – Tell us a little about yourself! Where are you from?
RB – I am a performer from Hungary with a love for entertainment and film. I grew up in a small town near Budapest. As children, we played in the woods and learned how to work hard from our families. My first jobs as a boy were tending to livestock and working in coal mining. When not working I would go to the cinema to watch films. Mostly wonderful Westerns. This left a life long impression on me.
GUG – How did you get involved in entertainment? To my knowledge, you have had an extensive career as a performer before you started doing movies?
RB – I have always performed. As a musician. An acrobat and stunt performer. This led me to doing Wild West shows throughout Europe and many theme parks for tourists. Most famously Fort Bravo, Texas Hollywood in Almeria Spain. The location where so many great westerns were filmed including the epic films of Serio Leone. Often I was cast as the sheriff or lawman for live performances. Hunting bandits. Having shoot outs and involved in an occasional bar fight. Performing for crowds is a wonderful and rewarding experience. What I enjoyed most was the roping and riding horses. I have a fondness for horses and have trained as an equestrian from a young age.
GUG – When did you realize you had an uncanny resemblance to Charles Bronson?
RB – When I was a young man I was working in construction and my friend and coworker would always say. You look like him. You look like Bronson. So I grew my hair like Bronson and trimmed my mustache like him. I liked the attention.
GUG – What have you enjoyed most about shooting these movies?
RB – I have been able to work with such wonderful actors and actresses. Like Daniel Baldwin and Richard Tyson. Very professional actors with wonderful careers. They give so much good advice and it has been an honor to watch them work. Also, a pleasure to work with amazing leading ladies like Eva Hamilton and Karin Brauns. Wonderful actresses that have brought so much to the films I have been fortunate to work on.
GUG – Do you have any favorite stories from shooting the films you’d like to share?
RB – I train very hard and prepare often. I rehearse my lines for hours, sometimes days. So while filming Death Kiss I am concerned with making a good impression. Must deliver the lines properly. I think using guns and fighting is easy until I try to work a revolver with thick leather gloves the character wears in the film. I try to load the blanks and keep dropping them between takes. Luckily the director Rene was very patient.
GUG – Death Kiss seems to have gone somewhat viral given it’s a similarity to Death Wish.
RB – For this I am glad. This has given me an opportunity to play even more parts and given me much recognition.
GUG – What kind of attention has that brought to you?
RB – In Hungary, people in my village are always like, “It is Bronzi! The guy who looks like Charles Bronson.” It’s no big deal but now I have been invited to attend film festivals as a guest and asked to accompany stars of classic westerns like the beautiful Italian Actress Claudia Cardinale of Once Upon a Time in the West. At conventions, I meet many new friends who love the movies I recently made. They are so excited and this is a wonderful feeling. It even gave me a chance to work on a music video with the famous Spanish rock band Hombres G. Tremendous musicians. I am a fan. All of these opportunities are a blessing.
GUG – What kind of stories do you most like to tell?
RB – I like a story of good versus evil. I particularly like a movie where the good guy is flawed. A little rough around the edges. Maybe even bit of a bad guy himself. A guy who does bad things but for good reasons. I like these characters.
GUG – If you can, tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
RB – I cannot wait to show everyone Escape From Death Block 13. Director Gary Jones is making an exceptional film. It is so big and impressive. I think everyone will love it. It has jailhouse fighting, drama, and gunplay. Very cool and tough. It was also made in the same prison where they made The Shawshank Redemption with an impressive cast.
I also finished a horror movie called Cry Havoc. It is a sequel with an established bad guy and my character, a sort of a rogue detective has been added to the stories mythos with wild consequences. Directed by Rene Perez who made Death Kiss. I get to display some fighting skill in this one as well. Another project is the Jeff Miller produced Once Upon a time in Deadwood. A Western which again reunites us with director Rene Perez. Filmed in the United States and has that classic Western feel. Great cast and slick writing.
Looking forward to also working on something a little different. A kids wrestling comedy which I portray a real tough ex-cop by the name of the Dago in Ed McKeever’s Mat Rats. Hopefully filming soon in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
GUG – What would you dream film role be if you could make whatever movie you wanted?
RB – I love the westerns and I must say this has all been a dream role. I have made so many wonderful friends and enjoying every minute.
GUG – Final question, What are you favorite Charles Bronson films?
RB – Once Upon a Time In the West is my favorite film of all time and it stars Charles Bronson. A picture so beautiful to watch. Amazing filmmaking. I also love Mr. Majestyk. In this film, Bronson was his most daring.