Stunt Performer Spotlight: JW Wiseman

Featured Interview With Stunt Performer: JW Wiseman

Tell about yourself and your background! *

I'm a real cowboy, a "Jack of all trades, master of none, though ofttimes better than master of one." Or as a cowboy says, "I can rope ride hammer and paint and do things with my hands most men can't." I started in stunts in 1991 when I was hired to work as a stand in on a movie. I loved watching the stunt team work and would talk to the stunt coordinators Fred Waugh and Fred Lerner, who was second unit director, all the time about it and they would let me help do things like setup boxes or lines where a gag was going to happen. I even told Mr. Lerner one day on second unit I would walk out on a pipe over the water on the docked oil rig we where on- it was over 10 stories high at dock- so he could setup his camera, he said are you sure I can wait on my stunt double to set up the shot, I was like why I'm on the pipe already and it  is huge, its like 3 foot wide. I showed him my balance while on the pipe not over the water and said see, no problem. He said ok if the height does not bother you. Later he asked if I really wanted to do an actual stunt, he said I think you can do it no problem but the producers are not going to want to pay you extra for it, what do you think? I said hell yeah I don't care if they pay me more what is it? He said, a simple crane shot on the load basket, sort of. I want to be tied under the basket to get the shot so I can't be the double so you will be henry's double on the donut ring with 3 others and we will yank it into the air off the building over there so it is a clean shot without background, it's 4 stories up, what do you think? I was like sure, if you can be strapped to the bottom and film it I can stand on the side it, the donut is always a fun ride. I was hooked after that. I became SAG eligible on the job and moved to LA in 1995. I have never made insurance because I focused on just acting for 15 years when I got here because my agent said she thought it was best to do so, I wish I would have kept trying to do acting/stunt jobs and learned more instead of not trying to get those jobs. So many I missed out on.

What inspired you to become a stunt performer?

My life as a kid was really one big stunt performance, I was a hold my beer and watch this before I knew what beer was. I have always been a daredevil and probably always will be. I started off young listening to my dad's stories of doing crazy things and wanted to try them, even though sometimes they did not work and he got hurt, I still just had to try it! Next it was seeing evil Knievel, jumping bikes over everything, and then it was watching rodeo clowns do their thing. This was all so amazing to me as a preteen and so awesome to watch I wanted try all of it. I competed in rodeos since I was 5 doing every event I could enter, and when I got older I would let a horse buck for fun if it was frisky,  I would jump down trees, creeks, anything the horse would jump. I would chase wild bulls and cows into the woods on foot during roundups where no one else would go dodging behind trees and smacking their nose like a rodeo clown until they got tired and worn out and then would chase them out with a whip. I was young and fearless in my pre teen and teen days, hell even into my 20's.I as always amazed when I got to watch tv of all the Kung Fu movies and would relentlessly try to replicate everything I saw, and then Jackie Chan showed up on my screen in 1978 and I said, that's what I want to do and be, he is doing the cool stuff and being funny and he is getting paid! I went nuts after this. I joined a martial arts school  because it said karate, turns out it was actually  a Tae-Kwon-Do school. My instructors said they put that up because people knew the word karate but not Tae-Kwon-Do and they were right I passed on going into several Tae-Kwon-Do labeled schools before going to theirs. I used to have my friends drag me across a pasture with a 3 wheeler on a piece of plywood and try to throw me off, it was our modern day horse drag.  I would jump off anything 2 stories high into things like leaves, manure, dirt, sometimes nothing, if Jackie did it I wanted to try it, I even I jumped over and dove threw anything small or narrow. I jumped building to building, I would get out of moving vehicles through the window and jump onto a trailer we were pulling and then go back.  I made bungee cords out of giant sewer line o -rings and jumped out of trees with them, I climbed trees as high and fast as I could until they started to lean and would jump to another tree to try and ride it to another or the ground. I would jump anything a dirt biker would jump with my 3 wheeler, I got my first one in 1979, and could ride it on 2 wheels for what seemed like forever.

What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a stunt behind it?

I listen and I don't lie about what my abilities are, that is honestly my greatest skill, no stunt involved. Being able to do something is not the same as not being afraid to do something. My forte is with horses and motorcycles as I was doing both long before trying stunts. This does not mean I am a trick rider, I never really tried to do some of the more detailed gags, there are many I know I could do if I worked and trained at it but I don't so I will not lie and say I can. Especially with horses as it would not be just me who could be hurt, it would be a horse that was just trying to do it's job and it may scar them and make them never want to do that particular trick again.

What is the best part about being a stunt performer?

Being able to accomplish something that looks so freaking awesome and it is actually real! It is acting, just a different side of acting. Your selling an action to make it look real, which it is and is not. The best example is you got hit by a car but you knew how to be hit by a car so even though it was real it was not as real as it could have been. This is how it is the same as acting in which you are making something believable and real because it could be, but yet it is not real for you. The best example of this is pretending to be a serial killer, you do not have to be a serial killer to make that believable. If you have the skill and your performance, whether acting or stunts as both are just that,  is done well people will believe it.

Tell your all-time favorite stunt story!

My all time favorite story is a fail on my part, but it is still an awesome story!I was doing a gag on horseback where I am run through with a lance, we had shot it several times from all the angles so the actually lance stabbing me could be added in post as there is now way to actually stop a lance safely when both people are riding towards each other.The last 4 takes where all of me already holding the lance at my stomach and riding towards the other rider while he pretended to thrust, this was a 15 foot long lance and I had to make sure after I pretended to be stabbed to not let the lance end dip to the ground as it would not be good and I could be seriously hurt if it hit the ground at a gallop  while being held against my stomach and hip. I was always aware and conscience of this while flaying backwards and then slumping forward after the "impact" and while slowing the horse down so they could see the horse stop and my "death". The very last take everything went great and as I was slowing down they screamed cut which meant they got it! I was still slowing down the horse to a walk and I turned to look over my left shoulder before stopping which made the lance which was on my left hip dip down just enough that it hit the ground. I felt the pressure of the lance as it started to push against my body and I pulled up on the reins fast to stop the horse while immediately standing up in the stirrups to jump off and up like I was pole vaulting over something  so I would not be impaled and so the horse would not be hurt I was in mid air pretending to be a pole vaulter jumping off the horse when the pole snapped and I landed on my feet on the ground and all I could think of was what I screamed, Holy shit! did you get that on camera! The camera man said no I had already stopped filming and the few who saw it said are you ok as they ran towards me and I said I think so, that was freaking awesome! OWE! Oh boy, that's not good. HAHA!I was lucky, if I had lied and not been as skilled on horseback as I was and known how  to quickly dismount a horse I could have been impaled even though we were only slightly trotting to a walk. All I had was a smiley face bruise on my hip and scratches on my arm from the wood lance breaking and me trying to fling it away from my body while it was breaking. I showed everyone that bruise all day and said it was awesome I was literally catapulted in the air while looking like I was dismounting a pommel horse with a pole!

What advice would you give other stunt performers?

Don't lie when it comes to your skills, if you don't get the job so what, it means someone who is actually skilled will hopefully get it. There will be a job come up that you do have the skills for, you don't have to get every job that comes out. Unfortunately the insanity of the acting mantra has infiltrated peoples mindset in the stunt world and they believe in the fake it to make it and get the job idea. I am an actor first and a stunt performer second, so there are jobs I will not do stunt wise if it requires a certain level of skill and I am only a beginner or novice at said skill because it will make my performance look bad. It will also make me look unskilled stunt wise. I have never made insurance because I focused on just acting for 15 years because my agent said to do so, I wish I would have kept trying to do stunts and learned more.Decide for yourself where you want to be stunt skill wise, or acting/ stunt wise  if you want to  put yourself out there as a specialist in one thing stunt wise do it,  if you want to be a more general all around all stunt purpose performer do that. If you love doing stunts go for it while you are young or you may get old before you know it.The Australians and the UK have a good guide line as far as having the minimal skills to be a stunt performer, and make you pass a certain level before a working as a stunt performer.To qualify as a stunt performer you need to be qualified to a high standard in at least six different categories and sporting skills which encompass fighting, falling and water sporting disciplines, such as motorcycle racing, driving, fencing, swimming, gymnastics, trampoline, horsemanship, boxing, and martial arts. I don't see this a bad thing entirely but some Americans do because it would mean you may not get to work if you only have 1 specialty skill set. I would like to see a mix where you can hire specialists for a specific job but if it is a general stunt job, you must have at least 6 basic skills because this is a dangerous job, and no other dangerous job will hire a novice or a "I could do that" person, you have to be certified.Getting yourself hurt or someone else or especially an animal is not worth being able to say " I did that stunt, that's me." Don't say you can do something that requires a high level of skill when you only did it once, or are at a beginners level. Don't say you are an expert rider on  a motorcycle, if you have only taking the riding course, don't say you can throw knives or axes if you have only done it once or did it once at a bar. Same goes for guns, and swords and martial arts weapons but this is especially true when it comes to horses. I worked with  a guy on a show who was playing one of the lead characters as  a "MOA" actor but he is a stunt guy mainly and he has done some things, but he did  not know what the hell he was doing on horseback. I will never forget it or him and will tell every wrangler and stunt coordinator not to hire that guy for horses, I don't care if he went out and trained for 2 years after it, he can't be trusted and lies. It is sad because he is a nice guy, he is likeable and friendly and not an asshole, but while those area good qualities it does not mean you should get the job. Tell the truth, if they still want you for the job after that that means they are willing to help you if need be, it does not mean they have  time to train you on set.Being  a stunt performer does not magically give you many abilities, and it does not mean you can ride a horse "because it's not that hard." He was bucked off a horse 4 or  5 times, the last time it just ran away with him and then bucked him off so they brought another horse. I asked what happened the first time the horse bucked and he said I don't know, I think the saddle moved too much. I said might have been, check the saddle good because the wranglers gear is known for equipment failures! I knew this but he did not, I had checked mine but still had breaks twice.It was not the saddle, it was him. I watched him try and mount the horse this time on the 4th try and he was pulling the horses head yanking on the bit and yanking the saddle all while accidently hitting the horse with his feet and knees while trying to mount it that the horse was saying no way man, get off! I thought he was hurt this time for sure as the horse ran him under tree branches while bucking him off and he hit hard, somehow he was not seriously hurt, and I said are you ok? His response.... oh yes I'm used to being thrown off a horse, I'm a stuntman.......I told him, your yanking to hard on the bit and you keep hitting the horse, he said no it's fine I'll be ok. They brought a new horse because the first was so agitated and they no longer had him mount the horse by himself on camera and instead held the new horse while he got on.He ruined the horse for every other rider, even the young lady whose horse it was, she finally took the horse away and gave him another horse and as she was riding him off it bucked her off because his back was so sore and mouth hurt so bad from being yanked on he was done with humans, and this was the horse her 6 year old kid rode all the time! She was crying and said I don't know what's wrong with him he has never bucked and my 6 year old rides this horse but I can't let her ride him any more if he does things like this! I told her it was not the horse it was the rider, but she was right until he could trust a rider again she could not let her daughter ride that horse, he was going to need time and patience before trusting another rider.In 1 hour he ruined a horse that a 6 year old could ride, because he lied. He injured a horse and to keep his ego intact he kept saying there was something wrong with that horse, I can ride. A horse is a big dog and it does not care if you say you can ride, it only cares what you do to it when trying to ride. Just like a dog it will only take so much abuse before defending itself.

Anything else you'd like to tell the community about?

If you want to learn something cool stunt wise go learn it and keep learning more about it. There are many specialty teachers out there, respect their skill and them, they have spent years learning what they do so don't think you know better than them when they are teaching you, and say I got this, I like doing it this way, I tried it your way but this way works much better. The easy way is not the best way sometimes, they teach you a certain way because it makes you look good and makes you look like you know what you are doing. If you have a specialty you can see when someone on camera does not know what the hell they are doing, if the character is not supposed to be an expert then that looks great, but if they are supposed to be an expert you better be able to make it look like you are. If you lie and can't do the stunt on the day you are called to do it, that coordinator will not only never hire you again but will tell every other coordinator. Coordinators are like a contractor, they hire people who can do certain skills that either need an expert or a novice, the coordinator may not be an expert at some skills so they are relying on you to be able to actually perform at the level you said you posses. Just because you are an expert at your skillset does not mean your able to do the coordinators job so don't act like it, and if you are friends with the coordinator remember it is their job to be boss  so don't get carried away with "suggestions", I forgot this once because we where all having fun all day and I went over to watch them work out fight choreo and I was like oo what about this, or that  or if they did this! I thought I was just giving suggestions but I was talking when I should have just been watching and learning. Thankfully they where my friend and just said "JW, shut up we got this" about as calmly as someone could have. Imagine them not being your friend and being just the boss, respect their job and they will respect what you do for them.Coordinators need to be less afraid about hiring someone with more skill than them for certain jobs, I understand why some don't but some just have too big of an ego and think they are an expert when they are not. The good coordinators are not afraid of hiring the best for the job but even If you are the best performer for a job, if you make them feel or they know that you will try and undermine them or talk trash in front of producers and may try and actually take their job then they will not hire you.

Please share your social media handles and how we can follow you!

Instagram -

YouTube -

Facebook -

My profiles are not movie exciting! I post architecture, animals, and lots of throwing videos of knives, hawks and axes, I don't post videos that say look at me, their just videos of me being me, like a normal crazy person.

Please include any links to stunt reels or videos you'd like to share!

I do not have almost any footage of my stunts and I have yet to put up new ones but acting and stunts are up on you tube There are resume and pictures on my webpage as well with more to come at my website

plus the normal casting sites.

I'm not on any of the stunt listings currently because I can not be vaccinated and cant work 90% of the jobs out there. I even put my SAG membership on inactive status in protest of the new rules until they remove them. I can still take any job if offered I would just have to pay any dues owed if its before a year is up.