THE FALL GUY

Matt Anderson doing what he does best.

“I might jump an open drawbridge, or Tarzan from a vine. Cause I’m the unknown stuntman that makes Eastwood look so fine.”
- Lee Majors, “The Unknown Stuntman”

Matt Anderson began working in the world of entertainment more than twenty years ago. He appeared in a couple of television projects and was an extra in a feature film. His career was then put on hold for a few years as he served in the Gulf War as a Green Beret sniper. By 1992 he was back trying his hand at acting. Putting some of his military skills to use, he became a stuntman.

Since then he has worked on close to a hundred projects, including film and television, music videos, commercials, and video games. His resume spans acting, stunt work, stunt coordinating, second unit directing, props and most recently directing and producing.

His credits include “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” “Deep Cover,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “The Peacemaker,” “G.I. Jane,” “Strangeland,” “The Italian Job,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and many others. He is a firearms expert, a certified skydiver, a kickboxer, a sword choreographer, a scuba diver and a rappelling instructor and rigger, among other things.

Stunts by air, land or water.

Anderson’s directorial debut “The Dead Undead” is currently in post production. The vampire zombie project is said to be an action-horror film with lots and lots of fire power. Most recently, Anderson has been cast a major role in Daniel Myrick’s upcoming film “The Objective.” Filming is slated for April. Before heading to Morocco to shoot with one of the creators of “The Blair Witch Project,” Anderson took the time to chat with PollyStaffle.com. He talks about being a stuntman, his thoughts on the “Jackass” crowd, accidents on the set of films, Kevin Smith, zombie vampires and more.

THE PROFESSION

Matt Anderson making things look dangerous.

CCF: First, I just wanted you to talk a bit about what you do specifically as a stuntman and a stunt coordinator on a film. I’m sure everybody has their own idea of what you do, but could you give us an overview real quick?

MA: If I’m just working as a stunt man, my job is to simply make something look as dangerous as possible, while actually taking as little risk as possible. That’s the profession. We are basically there to take a thump instead of an actor taking it. The end of last year, I worked on “Die Hard 4.” I was just a security guard character. It was a non-descript character that gets shot and falls down a flight of stairs. You don’t really want to hire an actor to go down a flight of steps, so you hire a stunt man that can do the job. As a stunt coordinator, it is your job to know the people that can do these things. Usually, they’ve worked in the business for a longer period of time, they know how to do the stunts and know how everything is set up. But first and foremost as a stunt coordinator, your job is safety. You have to make sure you can make something look spectacular without crashing a lot of people and putting them in the hospital.

CCF: So basically as a stunt coordinator you are in charge of all the stunts on a film and you put together all the people to make them happen?

MA: Yeah. When I get a script I’ll go through it with a highlighter and highlight anything that may be stunt oriented. From the character getting punched in the face to them getting thrown out of a ten-story window, I’ll highlight them all. Then I go back through and figure out, “Okay, there is definitely no chance of an actor doing that” or “This is definitely one an actor should do, so we can see his face.” Then you get everything in between, which depends on the actor. Jason Statham does all kinds of crazy shit. His martial arts is outstanding, his physical fitness is outstanding, so he can do all that stuff. Other actors may not be able to. If you have someone that’s not a martial artist and the character needs to look like one, then you double them. As a stunt coordinator it would be my responsibility, knowing the stunt community like I do, to hopefully find the best person for that job.

CCF: And there is lots of stuff in a movie that you wouldn’t necessarily think would need a stunt man that often times does, right?

MA: Yeah. There’s little stuff. You see a fight and think, “Oh, that’s the actor.” But that’s not always the case. If it’s a guy like Jason Statham and you see them do something and you can see their face, well, yeah, of course it’s them. A lot of other actors couldn’t do the same roles. They might not have the same physical abilities. I’m not going to say any names and be quoted as saying, “This actor sucks!” It’s not that the other actor isn’t in great shape. He just may not have had X amount of training and it would take too long to teach. If you don’t have a budget where you can spend six months training someone, like they did for “The Matrix,” you just can’t do it. So you bring in a double. I’ve worked with some martial artists that are really good, but maybe they are a little older and haven’t kept their chops up, so we bring in a double to do a couple of things.

CGI & HOMEGROWN

Anderson in his valet days.

CCF: In the age of digital, is a lot of the dangerous stuff all done with computers or is there still some of that being done with stuntmen?

MA: Yeah, tons of stuff. Digital is great. There is some great stuff you can do, but I’ll bring two movies up by the same director (Kurt Wimmer)… I loved one and didn’t like the other, “Equilibrium” and “Ultraviolet.” “Equilibrium” with Christian Bale has some CGI that is just outstanding. The CGI gun fire is great. But “Ultraviolet” had a fortune CGI budget and you look at it and go, “Wow, that’s really bad CGI.”

CCF: Yeah, exactly.

MA: It just looks like hell. A lot of it you couldn’t have really done any other way. Like driving a motorcycle up the side of a building. Yeah, theoretically, I could tell you how we could drive somebody up the side of a building with a real motorcycle, but why would you want to?

CCF: (LOL)

MA: And not everybody can afford to do CGI well. I’ve worked on a number of lower budget movies where they tried to do CGI and when you look at it, it just looks horrible. Any time you can put an actor and show their face or you can see a guy doing a stunt, it’s going to look better. In “Blade 2” there is a scene that is real obvious when they are using live action and when they use CGI. Everybody I know, especially the martial artists, hated it. No one could stand the CGI because it was so bad and that’s a big budget film. Stunts will probably all go that way eventually. But I think the bottom line is it is still more entertaining when you know it’s a guy getting creamed down stairs than a digital effect. That’s why Youtube is making a fortune.

CCF: (LOL) Right.

MA: We all want to see somebody get crashed. We will slow down on the freeway and say, “Oh, Oh, Oh, it’s an accident. Where’s the headless body?”

CCF: (LOL)

MA: In a film when you see it’s a stuntman, it’s like, “Awwww…. Dude, that hurt. Oh, man. Did you see that? That had to hurt when he did that.” Hopefully, nine times out of ten, it doesn’t hurt. But there’s a good chance, even if he got up and walked away, “Oh yeah, that hurt.” That’s what we are paid for, so somebody else doesn’t have to get hurt.

CCF: Funny you mention the Youtube stuff because one of the things I wanted to ask you about was the whole homegrown movement with the kids and their camcorders, doing crazy things. I didn’t even think of this till you were talking about the CGI, but could part of the popularity with this stuff come from people wanting to see the real thing?

MA: My take on why it is so successful is because we are human beings. I think the vast majority of the Youtube type stuff relates directly, before any of it existed, to “Jackass.” Why was “Jackass” huge? “Jackass” was just the same guys on Youtube over and over and over again. It made Johnny Knoxville’s career. He’s gotten A-list movies where he does some good acting and then he still goes back and does it. He doesn’t need to do “Jackass 2,” but he’s just all, “I don’t care. I love doing this.” And with some people, you can take “Jackass” all the way back to “Hooper” with Burt Reynolds. You know kids watched “Hooper” and were “Oh, wow… A stuntman. Shit, that’s what I want to get paid to do. I want to do crazy shit, hang out with my buddies and get into fights. It’s going be cool.” Of course, they never showed you the part when in the bar fight somebody gets their head sliced open with a beer bottle or gets their eye poked out with a thumb. It’s all cool and you don’t get all the stories behind, “Oh yeah, I broke this here and I broke this shoulder here and I have this scar over here.” But overall, I just think it's human nature. Especially, young male testosterone-fueled human nature that makes us want to do crazy shit. Some of us just never grew up.

CCF: (LOL) And that’s something you’ve yet to do?

MA: (LOL) I refuse to grow up. Grownups are boring. I know guys that are very grown up. They’re thirty and they act like they are sixty. Ugh, well, maybe not sixty. But I know guys that are thirty that act like they are fifty. They’re very boring. I don’t want to grow up. Eventually, people grow out of it, but you know everybody still slows down on the freeway to see the accident. Youtube’s the same thing. People want to see stupid guys doing stupid shit or something that is really bad that you cringe at. You seen “Clerks 2”?

CCF: Oh yeah.

MA: The donkey show. “I’m repulsed, yet I can’t look away.” It’s the same thing. “I’m repulsed and disgusted that I want to look at a headless body, but I can’t help it.” Youtube is just a modern version of the coliseum. Everybody is all, “Oh, human nature… we’ve evolved.” Dude, you open the coliseum on a Thursday, it’ll be sold out by the weekend. Everybody will go. We’ve got UFC. It’s the same thing. We just can’t help ourselves.

CCF: That’s the thing, you hear a lot of people attacking the younger kids doing the “Jackass” stuff and say things like, “Oh we didn’t do that when I was a kid.” But I can remember as a kid jumping things with my bike and things like that. After me and my brother first saw “Star Wars,” he tied a rope on the swing set and was trying to reenact Luke Skywalker.

MA: (LOL)

CCF: And he fell. He actually broke his arm. And I think… (LOL) We kind of learned a lesson there, but…

MA: You know what? Anyone that says they didn’t do that stuff as a kid, they’re full of shit. You may not have videotaped it. That’s because video tape wasn’t around. Cameras weren’t prevalent. Spielberg ran around making 8mm. I saw some of the stuff he did when he was a little kid, but most of us didn’t have the equipment. When I was a kid, I didn’t have any kind of camera. Even when video cameras were around, your mom wouldn’t let you have one, “Those things cost a fortune.” But I remember specifically jumping bikes off of ramps. We had a gravel driveway and my brother creamed himself because he wanted to hang with his big brother. He jumped on one of those old Schwinn banana bikes. My mom was watching and he just creamed everywhere. Mom was all, “You guys are never doing that again.” We were like, “Okay, mom. Sure we're not.” I’ve got scars still from skateboarding when I was a kid. I’ve got scars on my knuckles from trying to do handstands and fucking up. We just didn’t videotape it, but it’s the same shit.

INJURIES & RESPECT

Man on fire.

CCF: As far as stunts you’ve done on movies, have you ever been hurt really bad?

MA: Yeah. Not horribly so. I know a lot of guys that have been hurt way worse than me. But the first movie I did stunts on – “The Killing Box” – I completely destroyed my shoulder. I was doing an explosion and flying through the air and it wasn’t even the main stunt in the movie. I had a big stunt where I was getting blown backwards off an embankment down into the water. I really concentrated on that. So when this other segment came up, I was “I’ll do that. No problem.” I went, I flew through the air, I did my tuck and roll, but didn’t pay attention to the ground. It wasn’t a flat tuck and roll. I was on the side of a hill. So when I hit and started my roll, instead of rolling straight forward, I rolled to the side slightly. Basically it put the full force of my body on my shoulder and I heard it go “Hwwkkkkkkkkk.” It just crushed. I knew I was instantly fucked up because I got nausea. This is where the rubber meets the road for a stunt man. This happens a lot. They said, “Back to one.” So I got up, gritted my teeth, went back to one and did it again without telling anyone. I hadn’t gotten my SAG card yet and I really wanted it. That was the only important thing to me. I never went to the hospital and it is still screwed up because I never went and got it taken care of. I was afraid if I told them that I wouldn’t get to do the big stunt, maybe I wouldn’t get my card and get in the union. But screw that, this is long term. I did it three times. They called for a fourth and I had to have a guy fill in for me. They wanted me to do it again, but I couldn’t. I had to go off and throw up. I threw up, never told them shit, took a lot of Motrin and there was a guy there that was a physical therapist that helped me the best he could. When it came to do the big stunt two days later, it was fine. It hurt for months.

CCF: And since then?

MA: I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had anything major. I’ve had my head split open. I’ve had fingers broken. I’ve had little burns, but nothing big. I’ve had bumps and bruises, cuts here and there, but the shoulder was probably the worst.

CCF: Looking over your credits, you’ve been in a lot of movies and projects, like 80 or so. But with what you do, do you feel being a stunt man is sort of a thankless job?

MA: I think it used to be, but I don’t think it so much now. I think people are a lot more educated about what goes on. Back in the day, that was the whole song from “The Fall Guy” – “Unknown Stuntman.” Back then it was more of being only known by your community. The actors may or may not think your cool, but everyone else didn’t give a shit. They didn’t even give stuntmen or stunt coordinators credit. The old movies, you won’t see stunt credits. This is even as recently as the seventies and early eighties. For the longest time, you didn’t even get credit on TV shows. Half the time now, they don’t give the stunt guys credit, just the stunt coordinator. But nowadays we have stunt awards and “Jackass” came out. They’re not really stunt guys, but there have been a few movies here and there. There was “Hooper” and the “Stunt Man” back in the day. That was definitely one of the movies that got me interested in it. I don’t think it is thankless. I enjoy it. And there is a lot of crossing over now. Back in the day, you mostly either did stunts or acted. At this point, I wouldn’t say completely mainstream, because they still snub us at the Oscars, but it’s a matter of time I think.

CCF: I was wondering about that. There are awards that they do annually for stuntmen?

MA: It was annually for awhile. They took a break, but it is back this year. It’s the Taurus World Stunt Awards.

CCF: Recently on the site I did this predicting the Oscars thing and one of the things I asked was “What do you think one of the award categories the Academy Awards should add?” And there was a filmmaker that mentioned stuntmen and the name he brought up was Bob Brown – I didn’t know the name, but when I looked at his credits, oh man.

MA: Oh yeah. He has ridiculous credits. He’s like a freakish guy in the air. He’s a high diver. The stuff he can do, you know, is too good sometimes. I wouldn’t even attempt some of the stuff he’s done. And I don’t know how much of that he does now. My background didn’t come from high diving. He’d do twists, flips. He’ll come from 150-feet, going twist, twist, twist, twist and then know where he is all the time in the air and then flip over on his back and hit the bag.

GUN PLAY

CCF: What are some of the stunts that you have done or kind of specialize in?

MA: I don’t really specialize per say. I consider myself just a well-rounded stuntman. I tend to get a lot of military oriented stuff. I have military time and I know weapons very well. There is a real issue with a lot of stunt guys that just don’t know how to use weapons because that’s not their job. But we always get them handed to us because the majority of our stuff is being bad guys that run around shooting a gun, maybe yells once and gets shot, set on fire, blown up or hit by a car. So we end up needing weapons. Because I have a great deal of experience with weapons, I get a lot of that stuff. The different directors and producers that I tend to work for now, they know about that and they go, “Oh yeah, we have to get Matt. He’ll make all this stuff look amazing… on our budget.” I also tend to get a lot rigging stuff over the last few years. Stuff like cable intensive flying or getting ripped backwards. For a while I was going through a skateboard phase and I was getting a lot of skateboarding. I’ve done a little bit of all the stuff. I know how they are all done. I also know I’m not going to 300 feet and doing flips and twists. That’s not my thing. I’ve done high falls. I’ve done over one-hundred footers, but I don’t do flips and twists and I’d like a big ass bag. Somebody like Bobby, can come out and use a smaller bag because he will spot it and hit every time. I want a big bag because I can give a better performance if I don’t have to think about everything down there.

CCF: When you stunt coordinate a project, are you the guy responsible for all the firearms during filming?

MA: As far as weapons, it’s not necessarily a stunt thing, but the stunt coordinator is responsible for all the safety on the set. Generally, we are hand in hand with the special effects guys and very often the weapons guys. At the end of the day, if something goes wrong and somebody gets shot, it’s going to come back on the stunt coordinator. They had a thing on “Mission Impossible 3” where a special effects guy got blown up. The stunt coordinator and second unit director weren’t even there and they were still named in the lawsuit. It wasn’t even during filming. It was during testing. But it doesn’t matter because we are responsible for safety on the set. If you have a coordinator that knows guns and you have a big gun intensive show, that’s a good thing. It means he’s not going to create things that are unsafe. I know going in, “This is what the weapons really do, this is what Hollywood wants to see and this is what the blank firing weapons do if we get too close, so we need to be over here.” I also tend to be able to create things that are a bit more gnarlier because they’ll go, “Oh, we can’t get that close to the weapons.” But I know most of the weapons guys in the business. I know guys that I worked on “G.I. Jane” with that have gone on to do huge movies and I’ve shown up on movies I’m not even working on. I can go over and say, “Look we know what is really safe here. Let me do it or let one of my guys that I know can handle this. We’ll go in and do this.” And they usually let me and it looks a little more dangerous. But in fact since I know what tolerances are for what type of weapons and what type of load, it ends up not being too bad. It ends up not being unsafe and they go, “Oh my God that’s amazing. Wow, that’s really cool.”

CCF: You know “The Crow” and the incident with Brandon Lee, do things like that happen often with stuntmen and you just don’t hear about it?

MA: No. Especially, not nowadays. You heard about the Nicole Kidman accident, right?

CCF: No. I don’t think I did… Or maybe I did and didn’t think anything of it?

MA: They were filming and she got a little dinged up. The stunt car is a rig that has a car attached to the back of it. It came around and hit a light post. Within hours the video was up on Youtube. It wasn’t even all over all the media yet and it was already online. I heard about it because one of my buddies was working on the show. Literally, I checked the internet a couple of hours later and it was there. So, there are things that happen, but does stuff happen that often with guns? No, you pretty much hear about all of it. I can’t think of any stuntman that has been killed by a handgun in the industry. I’ve been hit with blanks. If you’re too close, I mean, they blow out two feet of flame on a machine gun. I’ve been hit in the leg and opened up, but nothing serious. Some guy just ran by and as were running his finger hit the trigger because he didn’t have that much experience with weapons. I was right next to him. It shredded a pair of pants I was wearing and it shredded my leg. It was all superficially, but it hurt.

CCF: Right.

MA: You probably won’t hear about many of the accidents. You as just Joe Schnuppy, you’re not going to hear it because we’re not celebs. Nicole Kidman went to the hospital and she was fine. I don’t even think she was dinged up. I think she was just shook up. I’m not sure about that, but there was nothing serious that went on and it was huge news. One of our guys a few years back died doing a high fall. The media mentioned it and then it was over. No one cared, unless you knew him and were friends with him. It doesn’t mean I think people were callus about it. It’s just they didn’t know him. We could have ten stunt men die tomorrow and there wouldn’t be anywhere near the media attention there has been for Anna Nicole. You know, this is just what we do for a living.

(Continued - Click to read Part II)


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