A Dangerous Life

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A Dangerous Life
Directed by Robert Markowitz
Produced by Hal McElroy
Written by David Williamson
Starring Gary Busey
Rebecca Gilling
(See Cast below)
Music by Brian May
Cinematography James Bartle
Edited by Michael Honey and Tony Kavanagh
Distributed by HBO
Release date
27 November 1988
Running time
6 hours (HBO cable tv); 162 minutes (television)
Country Philippines
Language English

A Dangerous Life is a 1988 English-language Australian film about the final years of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos' rule, from the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983 to the People Power EDSA Revolution in 1986 that ousted Marcos.

The film focuses on American TV journalist Tony O'Neil (Gary Busey), who finds himself in the middle of key events that lead to the downfall of the Marcos regime. Originally airing on television as a mini-series that ran for a total of six hours, the film was edited to 162 minutes for the home video release.[1][2]

Filming of the movie took place in Manila, Philippines, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in Australia.


Fictional characters[edit]

  • Gary Busey - Tony O'Neil, an American television journalist and news correspondent who is sent to Manila to cover Ninoy Aquino's return and chooses to stay longer after finding himself in the midst of a revolution against Marcos and decides to cover it for the news.
  • Rebecca Gilling - Angie Fox, the estranged wife of Tony O'Neill. Prior to the ending, during the Malacañang Palace riot scene, she and Tony reconcile and later return to the United States.
  • James Handy - Mike Heseltine
  • Roy Alvarez - Col. "Tiger" Tecson, a fictional colonel who is the colleague of Lt. Col. Kapunan and Col. Honasan. In real life, Alvarez has a physical resemblance to Col. Gringo Honasan and due to this, he was supposed to play Honasan in the film but the producers felt he was better suited as Angie's love interest.
  • Guy Stone - Peter
  • Alexander Cortez - Raoul
  • Jaime Fabregas - Ben Balamo, a Manila newspaper company owner who makes articles on what is going on after the Aquino assassination. He befriends Tony in the film after their meeting during a press conference with Marcos on Aquino's assassination in Malacanang.
  • Dina Bonnevie - Celie Balamo, the niece of Ben Balamo whom Tony becomes attracted to and falls in love with. She later joins the New People's Army but later leaves. She is then abducted from Tony's home and killed by one of Marcos' henchmen; her corpse is then dumped in Tondo's Smokey Mountain site. After Tony finds her body, he works to find ways to reconcile with his wife Rebecca. Though uncredited in the film, her performance was highly praised by Philippine media.
  • Spanky Manikan - Ramon, Tony's Filipino cameraman, assistant, and friend
  • Grace Parr - New York Times secretary
  • Arthur Sherman - Alex, the president and chief broadcaster of the news company Tony works for.
  • Betty Mae Piccio as a computer operator

Historical figures[edit]

Production credits[edit]

Production controversy[edit]

Although the film was shot on location in the Philippines, some scenes were shot in Sri Lanka, mostly due to political and legal pressures from Juan Ponce Enrile who also appreciated the film but did not like the way he was represented (albeit as a fictional version as portrayed by Joonee Gamboa). Other reasons were that the producers had experienced similar conflicts when filming a similar film, The Year of Living Dangerously in 1981 in Manila.

Some scenes were shot in Australia. The scene of the late Butz Aquino calling from Camp Crame was shot in Sydney.


  •  Australia - ABC, one of the companies who helped in producing the film, broadcast the film in 1989 under the title, The Four-Day Revolution. The film was released on home video in the country though CIC-Taft Home Video.
  •  Canada - the movie was released on home video in Canada in 1989 through Nova Home Video.
  •  Finland - the film was once shown in Finland under the title, Vaarallista elämää.
  •  Philippines - GMA Network (then known as GMA Radio Television Arts) broadcast the film in 1989. The movie was the first major Australian production to air in the network. ABS-CBN broadcast the film on the 25th and 30th death anniversaries of Ninoy Aquino and also during the 25th and 30th anniversaries of EDSA 1986. GMA did the same on those occasions.
  •  United States - HBO broadcast the film on November 27, 1988. The film was released on home video in the country via J2 Communications.
  •  West Germany - the film was once shown in Germany under the title, Ein gefährliches Leben.


  1. ^ The New York Times - A Dangerous Life
  2. ^ Ed. Scott Murray, Australia on the Small Screen 1970-1995, Oxford Uni Press, 1996 p186

External links[edit]