Tony Ferrer: There’s life after X-44
- Mario E. Bautista () - January 13, 2007 - 12:00am
Sean Connery’s James Bond was born in 1963 with Dr. No. There were many local versions like Agent 69 starring the late Alberto Alonzo, Dr. Yes with Dolphy, and James Bondat with the late Chiquito. But the most successful secret agent in local films was Tony Ferrer in his Agent X-44 series.

Tony is the younger brother of Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Pictures producer Espiridion Laxa. He was introduced in the early ’60s playing support to the likes of Fernando Poe Jr., Zaldy Zshornack, Romeo Vasquez and Joseph Estrada in such war films as Mga Tigreng Tagabukid and Suicide Commandos. He was launched to solo stardom in Marcong Bagsik.

But it was not until he starred as Tony Falcon, Agent X-44 in Sabotage that he became a big box-office star. The film, directed by Eddie Garcia, became the top grosser in the 1966 Manila Film Festival.

"It’s because of Tony Falcon that I became very popular with the public," says Tony. "Let’s face it, I’m not as handsome as the other matinee idols of the ’60s, but because I’m Agent X-44, girls got attracted to me. I thought of wearing all white suits in these movies and they became my trademark."

Sabotage had a hit sequel, Sabotage 2, and was followed by more than a dozen other X-44 flicks, all with English titles and mostly written by Greg Macabenta, like Modus Operandi, The Pushers, Kidnappers, Crisis, The Corruptors, The Strategist, The Smugglers, Bank Robbers, The Professional, The Enemy, The Exit, Steel Trap, The System, The Interceptors and The Last Target. As Tony Falcon, he got to bed a lot of foreign leading ladies, led by the voluptuous blonde temptress Alicja Vassili. He was also paired with the popular sexy actresses of the time like Alona Alegre, Gina Laforteza, Rosanna Ortiz, Sofia Moran, Anna Gonzales, Trixia Gomez, Carmen Ronda and Barbara Luna.

"I did get to do other action dramas, like police stories, in films like Alat with Chanda Romero, Homicide with Tina Revilla, Magnum 44 with Eva Reyes, Dial 717 with Pinky de Leon, Mission: Get the Killers on the Loose with Gina Pareño and Jailbreak with Alma Moreno," he adds. "I also did drama films, like Living Doll and Golden Child with Snooky, then the most popular child star of the time. Later, I was also paired with another top child actor, Niño Muhlach, in Wonder Boy. I won Best Actor at the Quezon City Film Festival for Sapagkat Sila’y Aming Mga Anak, which I did with Boots Anson-Roa and Vilma Santos who was then about 11 or 12. I did martial arts films like The Black Dragon and Walang Duwag sa Kayumanggi with Lotis Key. I even got to do heavy drama with the late Rita Gomez in Lihim ng Mga Makasalanan. Some of the X-44 films were shown all over Asia and because of this, I did get to do some international movies, like Cosa Nostra Asia which I did with Chris Mitchum, the son of Robert Mitchum. I also did The System with black Hollywood actor Fred Williamson and Death Machine for New World Pictures."

It was in Golden Child that he was paired with Mutya ng Pilipinas Alice Crisostomo and they fell in love. Their union produced two kids, Mutya Crisostomo (who also did some movies in the early ’90s) and Falcon. He also has a daughter with actress Imelda Ilanan, Maricel Laxa, who won acting awards for films like Iisa Pa Lamang and Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin. Mutya is now a top executive in Unilever while Maricel (married to Anthony Pangilinan and now taking her Ph. D.) is an expert on parenting and writes a regular column for this paper. How come he has such intelligent daughters?

"Maybe they took from their mother," he laughs. "Seriously, I’m really very proud of them."

How many grandchildren does he have? "I have four with Maricel and one with Falcon. Mutya is still single. I’ve been telling her to marry soon but she’s more engrossed with her career."

What did he do after he bowed out of the movies? "I put up a real estate company with my brother, Nick Romano, and we put up low cost housing in Cavite. But I really miss showbiz so when Star Cinema contacted me and said they’ll do a remake of Agent X-44, I gave my go signal right away."

Agent X-44 now stars Vhong Navarro in the title role. How did he feel when they made it a comedy? "Well, kilala si Vhong sa comedy and I think this will now have wider appeal as even kid viewers can watch it. I have a small participation in it as the boss of Vhong at ipinamana ko sa kanya ang pagiging Agent X-44. They also made me participate in the music video at nag-comedy rin ako roon. I’ve seen some scenes from the movie and it has not only lots of action scenes but also lots of laughs. I told Vhong that if this movie would be a hit and there’s a sequel, I should also be in Part 2. I really enjoyed working again before the cameras and I hope there will be a follow-up to this."

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