Commando pic courtesy of Stunt Revolution
The Arrow interviews Lane Leavitt
Stunt men are often overlooked by the general public but yet they're responsible for some of the more memorable moments from our favorite films. I recently contacted one of the tops if not THE TOP stuntman in the industry LANE LEAVITT. The man has worked on: Fright Night, Commando, NOES Part 2, Cobra, Vamp, The Hidden, The Running Man, Lethal Weapon 2, Army of Darkness, T2, Blade 2, Jeepers Creepers 2, Cradle 2 the Grave and the list goes on and on! Lane has seen it all and done it all and here's the Leavitt in action!
You started out as a US motorcycle racer (you were 3 times trial champion). Your first stunt was for the Fall Guy TV Show. After that you got the bug. What was it about “stunt work” that talked to you so much?
Stunt work scared the hell out of me at first! In those early days every time you did a stunt people expected you to "sell out." Meaning if you held back you were not giving the scene your all. To sell out meant that you either got the wind knocked out of you or your were hurt but didn't tell anyone! You just shook it off in private and a lot of stuntmen back then got hooked on pain killers or became drunks or drug addicts simply to survive.
Where I found my nitch was in coming up with better looking and safer ways of doing big stunts. That's how I came up with my mission statement "revolutionizing the stunt industry"! Also the motto, bigger stunts, smaller bruises also is a favorite of mine. Now stuntwork has swung completely the other directional lot of stuntmen tend to be sissies today. If they get a little bruise and they whine. If they did that in the old days they would have never worked again. Today we see the movies done in China or Hong Kong being done in the same spirit we had back in the day in the USA. So their action films have become very popular around the world.
The profession of stunt man is somewhat of an obscure one in terms of the general public. Care to educate us? Did you have to go to stunt school to keep on working? Did you have to get a license? What process did you have to go through to become a full fledge stunt man?
There are no good stunt schools, if you are a good stuntman you work and you don't have time to run a school. Besides the amount of money you can earn in films is way better than unemployed want a be stuntmen could ever dream of paying you do teach them how to do it. So why would anyone bother to take the time? They would lose thousands of dollars!
Stuntmen tend to be all types! Some are sports champions, some just look exactly like an actor so they get the doubling job. If they cannot do something well like a high dive or flip they will just bring in a specialist for that one scene. So there is really no single path to movie stunt success, everyone finds their own nitch in the business.
A good start is often the action stunt shows at say the Universal studios tours our Disneyworld. A lot of theme parks now run stunt shows and they really do teach you a lot about the skills needed. Plus you meet a lot of people who might be able to help you in your movie career.
Of all the stunts you have performed; any close calls? If so, what stunt was it and for which film?
My next one! The hardest stunt for any stuntman is finding his next job. After finding one, then trying to keep it. Working on films is my favorite thing in any capacity.
You’ve worked within varied budget ranges. From the little guys (Vamp, Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Dead Heat, Halloween 4, I Come in peace and more) to the big guys (Terminator 2, Cliffhanger, Batman and Robin, Fight Club and more). Does the film’s budget affect the way you labor on set as a stunt man? Which types of project do you prefer working on?
For a stuntman the budget means nothing! Sometimes the smaller films are even more fun than the big ones because they will rely on great action instead of loads of visual FX and big name stars. We get paid the same on a little movie or a blockbuster, only the stars get paid more on the biggies.
You’ve gone in the trenches with the two action kings of the 80’s: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Running Man, The Last Action Hero) and Sylvester Stallone (Cobra, Cliffhanger). What can you say about both men by way of your experiences with them?
All bullshit aside, both these guys are amazing and self made men. That's really hard to find in Hollywood, most actors in this town are creations of the publicity people. Arnold and Stallone are profiles in courage and hard work, they fought their way to the top and I really respect them both. You have to look far and wide in Hollywood to find actors that are not spoiled sissies. Neither Stallone or Arnold fall into this category.
Let’s expand on Cobra where it is one of my favorite movies of all time. What stunts did you perform on that show?
Cobra was a great film and Stallone was really one his game back then. I was one of the motorcycle gangsters and Stallone exploded me and my motorcycle with a hand grenade. Both me and the bike flew through the air in the hotel scene. I also did a lot of running around with a machine gun and was shot and killed a time or two by the big guy.
Cliffhanger was also one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had. I used to be afraid of high places, after surviving that 6 month project in the Italian Alps they don't bother me anymore. I've done about 7 pictures with Arnold! He's one of my favorite actors to work with. He's killed me at least a dozen times.
With the advent of technology (CGI specifically) do you see the “stunt man” profession in danger of being extinct?
The CGI nerds think they can replace stuntmen. I say to them give it your best shot punk! Why people are flocking to the Hong Kong films like Hero and Crouching Tiger is that it's real not CGI like we see so much of in American movies now. Look at the first Matrix and then the last two. Which are better the first without much CGI budget or the last two with all the overboard CGI effects?
They you decide if real stuntmen or computer cartoons are better. Ideally visual FX and stunts need to be a team. The director who’s the very best at this is Jim Cameron. He knows how to blend the two and create the very best look and make it honest and real for the guy sitting in the theater seat. Everyone else is just playing catch up with the master, Jim Cameron.
Has technology changed the way that your work? If so how did you have to adapt?
Technology is always very, very important. Only with the best tools and the most talented people can you do something that's never been done before. I also like the line from the movie "The Right Stuff” It takes bucks to be Buck Rodgers!
Someone must decide to make an effort to put the work and spend the bucks to give the people in the seats something new and better. New is not always better however, that's why someone like a Jim Cameron is needed to drive everyone beyond what they thought they could do.
If there was ever a mis-conception about the stunt profession and the men that work within it, what would it be? Care to set the record straight?
Stuntmen are like all groups of people, they run the gambit. We have one of everything like all groups of people. We have the good the bad and the ugly. You can say the same for firemen or lawyers.
Any words of wisdom to all the aspiring stunt men out there?
Be yourself and follow your dreams.
Cobra pic courtesy of Stunt Revolution
I'd like to thank Lane for crashing through the site and for making some of my fav movie scenes come to life over the years. Keep on stunting Lane and we'll keep watching!