Fernando Poe, Jr. (Born Ronald Allan Kelley Poe; August 20 1939 - December 14, 2004) was a Filipino actor, director, screenwriter, producer, singer, and attempted politician. He was dubbed The King of Philippine Cinema and more colloquially, Da King or FPJ.note In the annals of Filipino cinema he is considered the country's answer to John Wayne and Elvis Presley, though his long repitoire of action movies might very well make him a mix of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Burt Reynolds, Tom Selleck, Kurt Russell, and David Hasselhoff.
FPJ's career began in 1955 after the passing of his father, Fernando Poe, Sr. from rabies during production of ones of his movies, while the younger Poe was in junior high. Dropping out of school, he got his first acting role in Anak ng Palaris (Child of Palaris), before becoming a star in the long-running youth comedy series Lo' Waist Gang. The series was a massive success, having kickstarted the popularity of the titular pants. However it was 1961's Markado (Marked) a Swashbuckler adventure that crowned him as "Da King", as it was his first venture as an independent producer with his own studio, FPJ Productions. He spent the rest of the 60s in a series of urban dramas in the vein of A Streetcar Named Desire and more notably, a string of Filipino westerns, along with a few war movies, some of which were made with American companies. In 1968, Da King found his Queen when he married The Queen of Filipino Cinema, Susan Roces, in a ceremony with then-President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, serving as sponsors.note FPJ and Susan would remain Happily Married for the next 36 years, despite FPJ having more than one affair with a few of his female costars. FPJ would have three children with either Susan or his mistresses in this time, though he'd also adopt a daughter, Grace Poe, who would cameo in a few of his movies and successfully run for office as a senator.
The 70s served as a transitional period for FPJ. He did a few more westerns before transitioning to his bread-and-butter action movies which lasted well into the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. (He would supplement these with the occasional Screwball Comedy.) However it was his four-part 80s Fantasy Series Ang Panday (The Blacksmith) which some consider to be his greatest work. The four films swept the box office at every Metro Manila Film Festival they were shown in, winning a Best Picture Award every time along with a slew of awards.
Despite his lofty title and place in Filipino cinema as its unbeatable box-office top draw, FPJ was also well-noted for being an all-round Nice Guy and Humble Hero in Real Life, which only endeared him more to the masses. Stories of his endless generosity include him paying the bills for one of his colleagues who'd fallen on hard times, providing catering for his film crews (breaking a tradition in Filipino filmmaking and setting a new precedent), and anonymously donating massive amounts of relief goods to disaster victims, sometimes arriving way ahead of the government's own relief efforts.
Acting chops aside, FPJ also directed and produced many of his own movies under the Pen Names D'Lanor and Ronwaldo Reyesnote . A well-known story is that when his one of his own movies won an award at the FAMAS Awards (the Filipino answer to the Oscars), nobody could claim to have met or seen "Ronwaldo Reyes" until FPJ himself went on stage and said that he was in fact Ronwaldo Reyes.
In 2004, after a 49-year career on the silver screen, FPJ attempted to run for the presidency against the incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, despite a lack of political experience. After a close electoral race, FPJ lost the election by a narrow margin. FPJ himself would sadly pass away on December 14th of that year following a stroke. Many close friends believed that the shock of losing the election despite his popular support with the masses was the cause of his passing. As an even bigger Kick the Dog moment, it was revealed a few years later that Macapagal-Arroyo had in fact rigged the vote to her favor in certain provinces, thus delegitimizing her own victory.
FPJ received a true sendoff fit for a king after a nine-day wake on December 22, with estimates for mourners going as high as two million. Such numbers for a local public figure's funeral hadn't been seen since the funeral of Ninoy Aquino, Jr. in 1983 and the passing of FPJ's friend and frequent co-star Julie Vega in 1985.
Despite his passing, FPJ's legacy remains strong in his home country to this day. Reruns of his movies draw well in the TV ratings, his two daughters are well-involved in local politics, a golden statue of him was erected in Manila, and as an ultimate tribute, his 1997 blockbuster Ang Probinsyano was adapted into a a TV series with the full blessing and involvement of his estate.
Some of his major films include, but are no means limited to:
- The aforementioned Ang Panday saga, with FPJ as Flavio, The Panday, or Blacksmith, wielder of a magic balaraw, or dagger, that turns into a magic sword. Flavio is pitted against the 300-year old Dark Lord Lizardo, played by character actor Max Alvarado. An adaptation of a comic strip by Carlo J. Carapas, and considered the Filipino answer to Conan the Barbarian and The Lord of the Rings.
- The Kapag Puno Na Ang Salop (When The Measure is Full) trilogy, where he portrays a Country Mouse Cowboy Cop pitted against a corrupt judge played by his frequent costar Eddie Garcia.
- The Ang Probinsyano duology, which would later be adapted into a successful TV series.
- The Isang Bala Ka Lang! (One Bullet Is Enough For You!) duology, where he plays a Retired Badass Cowboy Cop. The first film won him a FAMAS Best Actor Award.
- Uiimpisahan Mo, Tatapusin Ko! (You Start, I'll Finish!), where he plays another Country Mouse Cowboy Cop looking for his kidnapped bride-to-be in Manila. The film bagged him another FAMAS Best Actor Award.
- Ang Padrino (The Patron), with him as an urban philanthropist. It won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay at the 1985 FAMAS Awards. Also notable for including Filipino radio legend Rey Langit as a Professional Killer hired to kill FPJ's character.
- Muslim Magnum .357, where he plays a Muslim cop transfered to Manila to fight against The Syndicate, headed by the corrupt Police Captain Ramos, played by again by Eddie Garcia. This won him his fifth and final Best Actor Award and a spot in the FAMAS Hall of Fame.
- Alamat ng 7 Kilabot (Legend Of The Dreaded Seven), an All-Star Western starring himself and his fellow action stars in a Filipinized version of The Magnificent Seven (1960).
- Pakners (Partners), his last movie, an action-comedy with billiards legend Efren "Bata" Reyes.
- Aguila (Eagle) a three-hour historical Epic Movie directed by Eddie Romero, Quentin Tarantino's favorite Filipino director.
Tropes that apply to his works are:
- Berserk Button:
- If you're a goon in his films and you decide to harm his friends and family (especially the Tagalong Kid), then God help you. The obligatory No-Holds-Barred Beatdown is the least of your worries.
- In Real Life, insulting the bit players or the film crew. The fact that the stunt crew became a part of his Production Posse surely must mean the amount of respect and dedication they had with each other.
- Bottomless Magazines: A frequent occurrence in his action movies and westerns.
- Directed by Cast Member: As D'Lanor or Ronwaldo Reyes.
- Digital Destruction: The ABS-CBN broadcasts of restored FPJ movies on the Sunday "Ang Hari FPJ" block. While the quality of the restorations themselves are good (and necessary, given the deteriorated quality of the film stock on some of the movies), the network cuts the movies down by half to fit a 70-minute timeslot to make space for the commercials. Even worse, they do a poor job of censoring them by jump-cutting to black and white or using pixelated blocks to any time someone gets shot and blood gets spilled on-screen. Elsewhere, for some films, they didn't even bother trying to clean them up.
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: FPJ movies are rare in Philippine home media, and the very lax video piracy laws there ensure that a lot of FPJ movies are readily available on YouTube.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: His characters are capable of hitting a bullseye target several times in a row and shooting blades off knives.
- Implacable Man: His Cowboy Cop characters played this to John Matrix-level degrees.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: His patented "Machine-Gun Punches".
- Old Shame: 1964's Romantic Comedy Los Palikeros (The Playboys) was this for him, because it portrayed him as freewheeling playboy, at least according to Joseph Estrada. This was the only one of FPJ's movies that was a certified Box Office Bomb.
- Playing Against Type:
- He plays The Heavy in 1956's Kamay ni Cain (Hand of Cain) and a Serial Killer in 1957's Bicol Express.
- His character in Alyas 1-2-3 (Alias 1-2-3) is a reformed safecracker.
- His character in 1988's Gawa Na Ang Bala Na Papatay Sa Iyo (The Bullet That Will Kill You Has Already Been Made) is no Cowboy Cop, but an ex-con seeking revenge for his daughter and brother's deaths.
- Production Posse: His crew at FPJ Productions. Usually, he would have himself as producer (or director if needed), have character actors Paquito Diaz, his brother Romy, Max Alvarado, or martial arts expert Zandro Zamora as The Dragon, either Eddie Garcia or Subas Hererro as the Man Behind the Man, the ever-ubiquitous Thunder Stuntmen as the expendable Mook Army, comedian Denicio Padillia as Plucky Comic Relief, either Enrani V. Cuneco or Jaime Fabregas as a composer (the latter having the occasional cameo), Fred Navarro on story and screenplay, and Ver P. Reyes on cinematography.
- Title Drop: Fond of these in his movies.