Today I got an email from a student here in the Netherlands asking a lot of questions about me and stunts. I had a good time with the answers and thought I would share them in a blog too. So without a lot of babbling, here it is.
1. Waarom heeft u ervoor gekozen om stuntman te worden?
1. Why did you choose to become a stuntman?
I was always an athlete when I was young. I enjoy competition and sports. When I saw stunts on a movie set for the first time, I knew that I wanted to be a stuntman.
2. Heeft u hiervoor een opleiding gevolgd? Welke?
2. Have you attended a course? Which?
There are stunt schools, but the best way to learn stunts is by working with other stuntmen as an apprentice (stagier). I did go to a stunt school, Kahana’s which was located in Chatsworth, CA but it didn’t really get me any work. My mentor was Mike Vendrell, who introduced me to stunts and took me to my first movie set in 1980. Years later I pursued it on my own, which was not easy.
3. Hoe bereid u zich voor op een stunt?
3. How do you prepare for a stunt?
All stunts are different and the way to prep for them is also different. If it is a car stunt, you have to build the car, roll cage and possibly modify the suspension, motor, brakes or frame. Fire stunts require special fuels and gels to both protect the stuntman or burn in a different way. In general, training and staying in shape are the only things that a stuntman does in between movies to be able to do difficult and challenging stunts.
4. Waarin onderscheid u zich in het doen van stunts, en hoe doet u dat?
4. What do you differentiate in doing stunts, and how do you do that?
Everyone has their own styles and techniques. In my case, I just do things in a way that make the most sense while being as safe as possible. Many stuntmen, mostly on Asian countries, are a bit wreckless in my opinion. It is a badge of honor to be hurt doing stunts, similar to the old days where there were no safety guidelines. I approach every stunt with two things in mind; how do we do this to look awesome on film and how do we keep everyone safe. On my sets, everyone’s safety, not just the stunt people, is my biggest priority. I think because of this approach, I have several producers and directors that ask for me whenever they are making a movie.
5. Wat zijn uw sterkste punten tijdens het doen/maken van een stunt en hoe gebruikt u deze?
5. What are your strongest points when doing a stunt and how do you use it?
I have been doing stunts for 30+ years so I think my strongest point is my knowledge and experience. I have trained very hard and have done almost every type of stunt there is. Because of my car racing background, I think working with cars is my strongest ability.
6. Wat zijn uw zwakste punten bij het doen/maken van een stunt en hoe probeert u deze te vermijden?
6. What are your weakest points when doing a stunt and how do you try to avoid it?
As I get older, I can not do many of the stunts I used to do. Speed and agility are very important, so I know what my abilities are and when to say no to a stunt. Most of the time, I am asked to coordinate the stunts, which means I have to design and oversee all the action in a movie. I hire the stunt people and make all the budgets, choreograph and rehearse the action and sometimes direct it too. This allows me to be part of the stunts that I may not be able to perform any longer.
7. Wat is de gaafste stunt die u gemaakt/gedaan heeft?
7. What is the coolest stunt you’ve made / done?
I think most of the stunts I have done are cool in their own way. They all present a different challenge and make me always think of new ways to do them. There is one stunt I am very proud of and that was hanging on a cable under a helicopter while being chased by another helicopter. It is one of those stunts that is very unique and rare. The film was Darkman and I was doubling for the lead actor Liam Neeson. The end result is a very cool chase that was not done with computers (it was in 1989 before computers were popular or affordable).
8. Hoe komt u op ideeën voor stunts en hoe werkt u die uit?
8. How do you get ideas for stunts and how do you work out?
The ideas are from the screen writers, who come up with the basic ideas. When I get a script, I look at the action and think how it can be done and ways to make it better and safe. Many times it’s the work of myself and the director to design the stunts. I also need to see the locations where the stunts are planned to shoot. Sometimes the limit what we can do and sometimes they open up the possibilities to make them bigger and better.
9. Wat is tot dusver het leukste dat u heeft bereikt met het doen en maken van stunts en hoe heeft u dit bereikt?
9. What has so far been the best thing you have achieved with doing and making stunts and how did you achieve this?
The best thing I have done was make it in a business in the first place. Stunts were always protected by the people in it. For a long time, if you were not born into the business or friends with a stuntman or stunt coordinator, you had no chance of getting into stunts. When I started, I had no experience and knew nobody, so getting someone to let me into their “group” was almost impossible. Stunt Coordinators do not hire people from outside their small crew, so getting past this was the hardest thing I had to do. Fortunately, I found stunt people that would not only talk to me and help train me, but gave me a chance to be part of the stunt “family”. This is why today, I will never turn my back on someone that wants to break into stunts. Someone gave me a chance I I pay it forward for the next person.
10. Wat is uw ambitie voor de toekomst en waar verwacht u over 5 jaar te staan?
10. What is your ambition for the future and what do you expect to be in 5 years?
I am still doing stunts and it will always be a part of my life. Mostly I coordinate now and hire all the stunt people. I am also directing films. This is exciting to me because it gives me the ability to be more creative and instead of creating someone else’s vision, it is now my creation and vision.
11. Ook heeft u uw bedrijf “Stuntcamp”, waarom bent u hiermee begonnen?
11. Also, you have your company “Stuntcamp”, why did you start this?
Stunts are not very common in the Netherlands, opposite of what I am used to in America. In between films I needed something to do to make a living. StuntCamp gives me several things; a business that helps me make a living and feed my family, the chance to share my background and abilities with others and a place where I can hopefully someday make my own movies. For me, it’s very exciting to show people how to do a stunt and watch them do it.
12. Hoe combineert u “Stuntcamp” en het stunten in films?
12. How do you combine “Stuntcamp” and stunts in movies?
StuntCamp is a simpler version of real movie stunts. Because of the risks on a movie set, I can not train or allow a person with no special training or abilities to do some of the bigger stunts we do on a film set. The idea of StuntCamp is to pick popular stunts people see in movies and design them so anyone can do them. Safety is the number one concern. You can not start a business where people get hurt on a regular basis and succeed.
13. U blijft grenzen opzoeken door pogingen te doen wereldrecords te verbreken. Waarom?
13. You continue to seek out boundaries by breaking world records. Why?
I don’t look for world records in general. People that do this all the time are daredevils and spend most of their time hurt and in the hospital. I am not a fan of hospitals or doctors, they are great when you need them but if I have to see one, that means I will probably not be able to work for a while after that. I do enjoy looking for new boundaries and ways of doing things better, safer and more exciting. These days you have to keep pushing these boundaries if you want to continue to work.
14. Welke uitdagingen heeft u nog?
14. What challenges do you have?
My challenges are to keep working and making a better name for myself. Stunts are one of those jobs where no matter what you have done in the past doesn’t always mean a lot for your future. There is always the next stuntman out there that wants your job and wants to do it bigger and better. I do have an edge with my background, but that doesn’t always get you the job. You need to keep reinventing yourself if you want to stay on top. I have no plans to slow down and want to continue for many years to come.
15. Wat doet u het liefst buiten uw werk?
15. What do you prefer most out of your work?
I enjoy the variety of my job. Every day and every stunt is different. Even a simple car chase or fire burn will have it’s unique things to it. The idea of taking an idea from a script that could kill someone or look like it does, then perform that stunt and amaze the audience with the spectacular action without injuring anyone is a thrill that I just can’t explain.