Photos of Conan in Movies

Here's How I Learned To Become A Stuntman Then A Stunt Actor

Saturday, 14 October 2006

I saw online recently a Stunt School where you can go and get trained in a broad range of stunts, in essence it teaches you how to become a stuntman. Seems like a good idea, that would put you on the right start, it's definitely not going to make you into Jackie Chan but it will put you in the right direction with a bunch of guys also interested.

How I become a Stuntman / Stunt Actor  it was a whole different kettle of fish... see, in Australia there are no stunt schools to teach you how to become a stuntman. You don't learn how to be a stuntman you just are a nutter who does dangerous stuff for fun - then you meet the right people and next thing someone offers to pay you to do more of it, but with safety - it's a deal to good to refuse for anyone that way inclined.

Here's How To Become A Stuntman Really 

That is how to become a stuntman, that is how it works. Stuntmen go for weekends rock climbing, abseiling, white water rafting, jumping off tall buildings, advanced driving courses, etc for fun. If these are your hobbies then you will meet like minded people, sooner or later you'll meet a stunt team. If they like you and they need someone then you will likely be invited to join.

Come to think of it, it works exactly the same here in Thailand.

Be aware though in Australia and England to become a stuntman you need to go before a board of certified stunt co-ordinators and submit video evidence of your skills, the requirements are on the respective websites, you will also need a known stuntman or co-ordinator to vouch for you. Once you do this you can start working as a sort of Stunt Apprentice then as you pass certain landmarks (aquire more experience) you will be re-graded and move up the ranks. And that is how you become a stuntman (officially) in those countries. 

Anyway, back to the story, I always had in the back of my mind that I was going to be an actor and as an actor who would do my stunts for me? From the start I realised if I wanted to be an Action Actor then I would have to do my own stunts I would have to be a stuntman, as I wasn't going to get a body double. I mean which stuntman was as big as me? Besides I liked the idea of being like Jackie Chan and doing my own stunts, I believe that as an Action Hero I should be able to do my own action or I would see myself as a fake, and that is not something I could live with.

As a teenager I was quite uncoordinated, though I was very active. Not really thinking about how to become a stuntman or actor at that point, I just got involved with a lot of sports.

How I Became a Stuntman 

I ended up competing at state level for basketball, orienteering, shot put, highjump and 400 meter sprint by the time I was 17.

I tried my hand at many other sports: Skateboarding (Street), Soccer, Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Snowboarding, Lawn Bowls, American Football, Bowling, Darts, Archery, Pistol Shooting, Roller Skates, Roller Blades, Jetskis, Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Handball, Tennis, Squash, Baseball, Softball, Cricket, Waterpolo, Hockey, Badmington, Table Tennis, Swimming, Body Surfing, Boogyboards. That would have been the Australian outdoors sporting culture I suppose.

Being fit and having the ability to play any sport you are thrown into at a basic level, and having the coordination developed through playing sports all the time helped me on my way to being accepted as a stuntman. 

I would have to say that the basketball and skateboarding did the best for my co-ordination out of everything. Basketball gave me hand eye co-ordination and skateboarding gave me balance.

Then at University I was approached to join the Army Reserve unit , actually a mate who was in called me over to a recruitment stand handed me an M-60 machine gun and said "How would you like to fire it?". You know the only thought I remember going through my head at that time was this would be perfect training for Action Movies later in life.

With the infantry training we did not do any stunts as such, we just did it. A stunt is pretending to do dangerous stuff in a safe environment. In the maneuvers there was little safety except common sense. Jumping over high walls, obstacle courses, blowing things up, bayonet assaults, bayonet fighting techniques, rocket launchers, stage explosives (technically called "Whizz Bangs" by our Officers), just about everything we learned was useful as stuntman training.

So I joined and became a qualified infanty soldier in the Australian Army, which corelates to special forces training in some other countries as we have a very small army for the land mass and as such the soldiers are highly trained in jungle fighting in small units. My Army training was definitely good as stuntman training.

I also tried my hand at several martial arts just to get the basics sorted out so that I could kick and strike as if I knew what I was doing. This also helped out when I started working on the nightclub doors - at least I had an idea how to throw a punch or kick when I started. Which leads into...

The next step in my becoming a stuntman was completely unintentional. I got a job picking up glasses in the most popular pub in Newcastle, Australia, my home town. Besides picking up empty glasses we also had to break up fights. This lead to becoming a full time bouncer, which because of the easy money and (small time) rock star lifestyle became my unchosen career for the next 10 years. Working weekends getting good money then going to the gym and the beach all week - perfect, just like Arnold in "Pumping Iron" (except in reality Arnold was busy with many business ventures behind the scenes).

During this period of my life I learned to fight. I had to. Australia was pretty rough back then with punch ups all night, every night. It did not help that I often worked at the 'trouble' spots as they paid more.

We worked with many top bands as a security guards sometimes going out with the band afterwards, it was a nice side benefit to the job.

We also raced cars around the streets at night in deserted areas, which is how I learned to drive basically. This has given me decent driving skills, and a couple of near misses, not sure if it qualifies me as a stunt driver but I do have the experience, and it is more than the "Advanced Driving Course" required to get your Stunt License in Australia.

Soon after I moved to Sydney to work with the Sydney Dance Company I was approached by Andy "Animal" Harpas to become a professional wrestler - as this was my dream  since I was 16 I instantly signed up.

Now I had to unlearn all my fighting skills and relearn a whole new branch of fighting - stage fighting.

Show fighting, or stage fighting, is an adaption of a real fight, done specifically with the audience in mind rather than trying to beat your opponent. You exaggerate your movements so the audience can see what you are doing. It is no use going into a kickboxing stance and throwing short jabs - no one can see what you are doing, even if it is effective.

Instead the way I explain stage fighting to beginners is to hold one arm back as far as it goes, turn your head look at your hand as you make a fist then turn back to your opponent and scream as you swing the punch in a huge arc at his head. This way everyone knows what is happening , where the punch is coming from and it it connects it is going to cause a lot of damage - you are in effect telling a mini story with your movements. It is called telegraphing the move.

Then each movement has to integrate into a greater whole. Just as a book or movie has a twist or a turn, climaxes and anti-climaxes so should a good fight scene. Each opponent should look like he can win and the lead should change between them a few times to enhance the suspense. Stage fighting gives you a ton to think about on the move.

So back to how to become a stuntman....

9 years of professional wrestling, taking bumps (break falls) jumping out of rings, getting thrown out of rings, taking leaping dives to concrete floors, you get pretty good at not hurting yourself. In fact it turns out that knowing how to breakfall is one of the most important, basic techniques that any stuntman requires.

My First Movie Stunt 

So 9 years and 5 Australian Wrestling Titles later I did my first official movie stunt in the Manthing movie.

Seeing as I had some experience and that there was no official stuntman who could wear the Manthing suit and do the stunt for me, I was given approval for this film by the Australian Stunt Board to do my own stunts.

So for my first "stunt" the stunt coordinator and his team were there for me to practise running though a fake wall into fake furnicture. At the instant I hit the desk and went through it the stuntman behind the desk was to be pulled backwards into the rear wall - this was accomplished by 5 stuntmen holding a rope tied to him and jumping off a truck roof.

After the first run the Stunt Coordinator asked if everything was alright.  I said "Yeah, easy" he asked if I was hurt as the table was pretty solid. I replied "Nah, it's easy, its like cardboard - in wrestling your opponent will grab the nearest table and hit you with it, if it doesn't break he hits you harder, if it still doesn't break then he'll pick you up and throw you through the table, and if that doesn't work you throw HIM through it."

The stunt coordinator looked at me blankly for a moment then laughed, I was accepted into the stuntman circle. 

So now I am in Thailand working movies as a stuntman and a stunt actor, when I first got here we had to do some basic drills for the French Movie Treasured Island once I did everything they wanted me to do (falls, diving rolls, etc) I told them that I had been doing this for 9 years already and I did not need to do it anymore as at over 300 lbs the training, with insufficient padding, and falls do hurt and by doing them continually when I had the ability was just chancing injury before the shoot.

Now I am accepted as a stuntman by the foreigners, and by the Thai stunt teams here who are always about on set.

And that is how I became a stuntman / stunt actor.

What is the difference I hear you ask? A stunt actor is a stuntman who gets paid the same but because the producer is on a tight budget (they always say that) he gets one of the stuntmen to also do an acting role - so there you go. You also get credit as an actor, and if you dig your heels in you can get your pay put up somewhat - but not always (in the West you will).

So how do you become a stuntman? It's up to you.

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