The truth is, I never wanted to be a Stuntman…
I wanted to be everything. A Space Explorer, discovering new planets. A Pirate, pillaging the high seas. A Superhero, battling insurmountable odds. A Cowboy, with his trusty horse and six shooter… Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movies and television shows from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s fueled my imagination as a child. Everything from The Dukes of Hazzard, and Gilligan’s Island, to Conan the Barbarian and 2001 - A Space Odyssey, showed me that anything was possible.
One day, my Kindergarten teacher gave the class an assignment. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid who, up until a moment ago, was probably playing Star Wars (and incase you’re wondering, “Jedi” was not an acceptable answer).
So, I thought about the question, I knew that there was no way I could possibly be all of the things I wanted to be… or was there? The answer I came up with, was one which I believed, would encompass all of the wonderful adventures and experiences I wanted to have, while simultaneously, not committing to any one thing… “I want to be a Movie Star.”
Time went on, school continued. I got into higher grades and consequently loaded down with more school work. Day dreams were replaced by math problems, and proper grammar. (Eventually, I couldn’t count the times me not know what next do for dream.)
So, I put my dreams on the back burner. In High School, I got into Theatre. Performing in front of people, bringing a character to life, escaping the monotony of everyday for a moment to live in someone else’s shoes.
Theatre was as close to achieving my goals as I had come. When it was time to start college, I needed to pick a Major. (a.k.a. A financially obligated equivalent to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”) This was a decision that would ultimately define the course of the rest of my life. Once again, thats a lot of pressure.
I thought back to Kindergarten, often, our first reactions to things are right, but over time we start to doubt ourselves and our abilities, and so we choose the practical over the fanciful. High School theatre had reignited my imagination to be everything. There was only one job where I knew, I could accomplish my dreams. I decided to Major in Theatre… So I could be a “Movie Star”.
Fast Forward to June 2000, I graduate with a BFA in Directing. I’m out of school, need a job, and would prefer to to start working in the industry, but with no idea as to how to achieve this feat, I start working at a local News station in Austin. A wonderful experience, where I even got to do some on camera work for a local movie review program, but it wasn’t enough.
A few years later, I’m running a handheld camera, ringside, for a local Wrestling program in FT Worth. Through some conversation with one of the other camera guys, I find out that Six Flags over Texas is hiring for their summer Stunt Show “Rangers and Outlaws”. What do you do in a stunt show? I asked my friend. He described it as “Full Contact Acting”… Well hell, I can do that, so I go to the audition.
The audition location was empty, and my heart sank. After looking around and being unable to find anyone, I place my headshot and resume on a nearby table with a note explaining my predicament, and leave expecting to never hear anything. A few days later, I get a phone call, inviting me to the callbacks for the show.
The Rangers and Outlaws Show was hard, hot, humid, smelly, dusty, sweaty, sticky, work, and the most fun I had ever had for a job at that point. A few years later, I find out one of my show buddies is in LA, and in dire need of a roommate. I wrap up my affairs, and made my way out west, and within 7 months, my buddy and I were working at Knott’s Berry Farm, in another Wild West Stunt Show.
In 2008, I made it into the “Indiana Jones: Summer of Hidden Mysteries” stunt show at Disneyland, and the WaterWorld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood. In the summer of 2008, I was making a living as a full-time performer at three different theme parks, with some of the best people I have ever known.
The WaterWorld show, to my surprise, helped to create the opportunities I had been searching for. It was a prestigious stunt show, with talented performers, and established stunt alumni, who were consistently working in the Industry. I showed up, did the work, listened to my trainers and peers, improved upon my mistakes, tried harder, practiced, and did it all over again the next day.
Eventually, I was presented with an opportunity to work on CSI: NY with Norman Howell, and get a SAG voucher. A few months later, Norm helped me out again. In late September of 2009, for my final voucher, I rode my Harley about 500 feet, with a screaming Felicity Huffman on the back, for Wally Crowder on Desperate Housewives.
Unfortunately, the scene was cut from the episode, but now, after over 10 years of trying, I finally had three vouchers in hand. The next week, I walked into the SAG office, paid my dues, and I got my SAG card.
Since joining SAG, I have worked in films, TV, and MoCap as a stunt performer, or action actor, usually as a Thug, Biker or Inmate. I have a “unique look” (so I've been told) and stand out from 99% of Hollywood performers. While I do typically play a “type” of character, and am usually limited to fewer work days because I get killed off quickly, I get to experience something amazing.
I consider it to be, the best of both worlds. Not only do I get to act while the stunt folk are eagerly waiting to play, but I get to do cool stunt gags while the actors take their turn sitting on the sidelines. Five year old me would be ecstatic.
Growing up, I never wanted to be a stuntman. My dream was, and still is, to be a “Movie Star”. I have to stay true to the little boy who couldn’t think being just of one thing, so he decided to be everything. That has been my motivation since the beginning.
After a decade in the film industry, I have found that the camaraderie within the stunt community is second to none. I have accomplished many wonderful things, and met many spectacular people and performers.
I have had mentors, and coordinators share their wisdom with me, and in return I have had the opportunity to share my knowledge to future stunt performers.
I have forged lasting friendships, and found a wonderful and accepting family amongst these unsung heroes of the silver screen.
I never wanted to be a stuntman… But, I’m glad I get to be one now.
Stunt Players Directory: https://www.stuntplayers.com/player/hawk-walts/