Category Archives: Stunt Performers

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Hail Mary

by Ned Dymoke

A stuntwoman turned realtor is suspicious when she finds out A-list celebs are buying from her. 2,937 words. Illustration by John Mann.


"Sorry I’m late," he said.

He walked in holding a stack of binders under his left arm and a coffee in his right hand. He looked 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3sweaty. It was air conditioned in the half-finished showroom almost to the point of catatonia yet Spader was sweating big buttery bullets.

"What’s with the stacks?" said Nicole. She shot him a disgusted look. She could smell him from where she was sitting, and she hated that he could somehow bleed into multiple senses. Nicole had the face of a Midwestern blonde beauty queen but the demeanor of a drill sergeant. She had moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis to become a stuntwoman, but had fractured her leg in multiple places falling down a flight of stairs for a movie shoot five years ago. The filmmakers hadn’t even kept the take. But she’d been left with a limp and been forced to abandon her stunt career. There had been flowers and a brief mention in the press at the time that she had been at fault. She’d since learned to swallow the memories of that whole past life of hers. She rarely thought about Hollywood the same way, and kept her head out of the industry trades. Luckily for her bank account, she had taken to selling real estate like a shark in shallow water. She sometimes wondered what she’d say if the producers of the movie ever tried to buy from her.

Nobody around the table that morning liked Spader except for Pete and even that friendship was tenuous at best, with conversations revolving mostly about the Dodgers’ team troubles. But there would be no talk of baseball today. Out of the four of them, Nicole was the most talented at actually selling.  Until this contract was over, they were stuck in this trailer from 10 to 6 every day, without fail.

"These," said Spader, "are for the meeting at 11."

"It’s 11:22, Spader," Nicole said.

"Yeah I know. I had to go and get them. And then make sure they were the right ones." Pause. "I also stopped to get coffee," said Spader, almost out of breath. The table groaned "But I think you’ll find that I did good on finding all these."

Spader was confident, and this was new.

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Falling Off Horses 3

Falling Off Horses
Part Three

by John D. Ferguson

The Hollywood stuntman is under investigation for that WWII rescue. 3,158 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

1955 – Saratoga, New York

I’m about two inches shorter than Gary Cooper but I have the same hair color, same build, same jaw line and same profile. In fight scenes I have to move like him and on horseback I need to ride like him. For the record, Coop does a lot of his own stunts but, fortunately for me, the studio isn’t about to risk their top box office draw on cliff dives, getting shot off horses or crashing into a saloon mirror. Because of such, I’ve been employed for over two decades as Coop’s stunt double.

People get confused between a stand-in and stunt double so let me explain: A stand-in is simply a man or woman who’s used by the director and the director of photography to get the lighting right for a particular scene. The person has to have some similarities to the designated actor. A stunt double is much more.

Not that I need the money. Only a handful of people in Hollywood know my family’s background or wealth. Even less care. Stunt doubles are props, called upon for one very specific need for a motion picture – to be seen and not heard. A few stars talk to me and show a genuine interest; Coop is like that. So is Randolph Scott and Duke Wayne, if he’s not too busy getting yelled at by Pappy Ford. But the majority keep me at a professional distance which is fine by me. We all have jobs to do and as long as I show up on time, sober and alert, I have no trouble on the set. It’s the perfect job for me, requiring athletic skill, paying a decent salary and providing a free lunch.

In 1955 I had the occasion to double for Coop in his latest feature, Friendly Persuasion. It wasn’t what you would call a very physical movie, being about Quakers and all, but it was good to be able to work with Coop again. There was one fight scene in which Coop gave me the majority of the falls even though, after reading the script, I was sure it was a stunt that he could handle on his own.

Tap Canutt, the son of my mentor — well, truth be told, every stuntman’s mentor, Yakima Canutt — was going to be the heavy in the scene. We went through some gags and worked with the director William Wyler to block out the scene. Coop walked off to his dressing room.

This was not like him; he usually stuck around to provide advice on how his character would move or react. I found out later that he had a hernia and was in great pain. Coop told me he had four operations for it in two years.

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Falling Off Horses 2

Falling Off Horses
Part Two

by John D. Ferguson

The Hollywood stuntman is recruited for a daring anti-Nazi mission. 2,791 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


1939 – Saratoga, New York

I suppose all those years of stunts and other movie risk-taking had prepared me for the biggest real-life acting role I would ever play as part of a secret mission organized by my brother Babe Wyatt and his boss Wild Bill Donovan and the British secret service MI6 in the pre-World War II days. My WWI military training also qualified me to participate.

At the time, my brother didn’t understand me or my life. He thought I was aimless and without purpose. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I knew exactly how I wanted to live and what gave meaning to my life: Hollywood and its movies. I had chased a lot of dreams and even caught a few. But I never had any doubts on how to make my way in this world.

I was just like my father, or so my mother said. Black Jack Wyatt spent the better part of his life chasing dreams and risking steady employment by learning the arts of gambling, horse trading and keeping a step or two ahead of local law enforcement. Luckily for him, these interests brought him wealth. Then marrying my mother, the daughter of a U.S. Senator, brought him respectability.

He had all the happiness in the world that one man can expect when he was shot down by one Harlan Diggs, junior on New Year’s Eve in 1913. Something to do with Mr. Diggs’ wife, a tall beautiful redhead. My father was no innocent in this affair, I’m sure, but being gunned down was not the way Black Jack Wyatt should have gone out. Babe thought otherwise. I thought our father should have fallen off the back of his beloved black stallion at full gallop.

My father had worried about Babe during the eldest son’s two disastrous semesters at Yale where he’d majored in poker, girls and pranks against the faculty. Babe was transferred to Princeton, where Black Jack hired a former Scottish guard to the Queen to get the kid through two and a half years of college. After Dad’s death, that guard became less of a babysitter and more of a friend to Babe and myself. He taught us how to ride English style, become great shots and use “our wits,” as he liked to phrase it.

It became apparent that there were things Babe did well, chief among them that he got people to move and plan and react to his orders. Soon Babe Wyatt commanded everything like it was a military campaign.

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Falling Off Horses 01

Falling Off Horses
Part One

by John D. Ferguson

A Hollywood stuntman gets his start in motion pictures. 2,030 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


1924 – Hollywood, California

Let me tell you the story of how I got to Hollywood.

My family is wealthy and, by that, I mean my elder brother, Charles “Babe” Wyatt and our mother Ellen Dryer Wyatt. They run the Wyatt Publishing enterprise. Also, there’s the horse breeding farm and ranch just west of Saratoga, New York, the mansion in Albany and the beach house in Glen Cove, Long Island. All of these residences and the publishing empire would not have been possible without my father, John “Black Jack” Wyatt. I didn’t follow in all of his footsteps but, then again, he was killed before my thirteenth birthday.

I ran away from home when World War I broke out to join the cavalry at Fort Upton. I was only sixteen but I planned to lie about my age and show off my horsemanship to those in charge. I figured they would certainly take me in once they saw how well I could ride and handle a rifle. I was filled with dreams of adventure and gallantry, helped along by reading President Teddy Roosevelt’s exploits in his days with the Rough Riders. I was told not to be ridiculous and that I still had to finish school. Who could think of school with great world events happening all around us? Clearly, my mother and Babe had their heads in the sand. Safety and security were for cowards and men of little imagination. I wanted to ride through the charging enemy, shooting a Colt .45 and swinging a gleaming saber.

My army years were uneventful, much to my great chagrin. After basic training, I was stationed at Fort Benning and spent the latter part of the Great War teaching aspiring Calvary officers how to ride. They were mostly city boys more attached to the tailoring of their uniforms then to the drills they were required to learn. I taught them to sit a horse, trot, canter and finally gallop. Soon the great horse would be replaced with a mechanized military; armored vehicles and airplanes.

After getting mustered out of the army, I spent most of the next two years getting reacquainted with the ranch in Saratoga. where I repaired stables and fences, took care of the horses and maintained the grounds. It was generally grunt work but I loved every minute and after a hard day of work I’d go to bed happy. My brother, however, felt I was wasting my time and feared that my restlessness and lack of ambition would lead me to a life as a dilettante.

So when I turned twenty-three, Babe threw me into the Wyatt publishing world where I was a total disaster. After only four months, Babe called me up to his office in midtown Manhattan where I also found my mother. My brother looked cheerful but my mother had that look of pity and sympathy planted on her face. Babe leaned back in his chair and said, “Maybe I jumped the gun, Caleb. Maybe this is my fault. And maybe you’re not born to this business the way I am.”

Babe picked up a folded slip of paper and handed it to me. “That’s a telephone number I want you to call. I spoke to Joe Kennedy. He’s producing Western motion pictures out in Hollywood and I told him that I had a younger brother who was just about the best handler of horses I ever saw. It turns out they can use a few hands on this new film they’re starting. Interested?”

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Day Of The Dead

Day Of The Dead

by John Kane

Television executives know what it is to work for horrible bosses. Then there’s Niles. 2,261 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The electronic display on his alarm clock read 4:13 a.m. when Peter Hallerman awoke in his heavily mortgaged home in Encino Hills. The emptiness in his stomach, the kind you get when someone breaks up with you or the doctor gives you bad news, made trying to go back to sleep futile. Careful not to wake his wife, Peter grabbed his grey terrycloth Polo robe and walked downstairs to the dining room.

He pulled a deck of cards out of a drawer in the dining room table and began to play solitaire. The ritualistic quality of the game, red on black, black on red, one match leading to another, lulled him into a contented stupor. His father had always told him that playing cards was a great way to relax. “And remember,” his dad, thirty one years a bus driver in New Jersey used to tell him, “it’s not the hand you’re dealt. It’s the way you play it. You make your own luck.”

Peter paused, not sure which pile to pick. And then it occurred to him: what did it matter? He let the card drop to the table. He would be at GPTV in four hours. That was all that really mattered.

GPTV was the brainchild of Auguste Gaumont, a French billionaire who had moved into broadcasting when he bought a second rate cable channel and decided to turn it into an American television network. Like Steve Ross and Sumner Redstone, Auguste had made his original fortune in another business. That business was urinals, which accounted for his company’s name, Gaumont Pissoirs. Naming the network GPTV seemed a way around that, and the marketing department went further, dubbing GPTV “the sixth network.” That backfired when many people in the industry began to call it “the sixth sense,” implying that GPTV was dead as a business only it didn’t know it yet.

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The Big Get 2B

The Big Get

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

A P.I. is asked to investigate the reigning box office champ for an endorsement deal. 2,412 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


McNulty didn’t look anything like what he was. And what he was was one of the best private eyes in Hollywood. Sure, others in the profession preferred confidential investigator, but McNulty liked the slangy old school designation. It had a nice earthy ring to it.

McNulty gave Musso & Frank’s the once over. It was still the same: comfortable, discrete and out-of-the-way. Which is why McNulty always chose it whenever a prospective client wished to retain his services. As always, McNulty arrived thirty minutes early to secure the back corner booth before regulars and tourists streamed in for lunch amid the dark hardwood paneling, white linen tablecloths, worn red leather booths and polished mahogany bar where many of the town’s biggest celebs, current and long gone, were known to knock back a few.

“The usual,” McNulty told the red-jacketed waiter who looked as old as the Hollywood sign.

“Glen Livet, neat,” the waiter said with a slight bow. “Coming right up.”

McNulty leaned back and closed his eyes. For a few moments, he imagined Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade, elbows on the bar and shot glasses in their fists, swapping lies about their latest investigations. Funny thing, though: in his mind’s eye, they both looked like Humphrey Bogart because he’d played their characters in classic films.

“Mister McNulty? I’m—“

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