Stunt Performer Spotlight: Victor Chan
What inspired you to become a stunt person? Phil Nielsen asked us extras while filming Pushing Hands, "can anyone here can take a punch?” and I raised my hand and said, "I get beat up by my brothers all the time” - he put me on a self trigger air ram where I take a punch in the gut and go flying over a worktable landing onto the line of cooking surfaces in the kitchen of a small resnstaurnt in Chinatown. That was my intro into stunts. Phil told me that there were no Asian stunt people here in NYC and that I could really make a go of it…. This was in 1991 so I guess I am the first Asian stuntman in NYC (my claim to fame). The very next week Pete Bucossi needed an "Asian guy" for a Peter Falk movie and Phil recommended me but I never left my contact info with him (being so green). Pete then found me through my pic and resume I had submitted to One Life to Life to Live (a soap at that time) and hired me. We did this shoot out in a restaurant where I shoot a guy I was sitting with, start to run out when Peter Falk shoots me (squibbed) and while falling backwards shoot out a window behind me - all in one take. Pete added that “we only have one window” so I had to get it right. After getting that shot - I knew stunts was not just fun but very serious. I enjoyed the pressure and being in the hot seat. In the early 90’s the jobs came in slowly, 95% of the stunt rolls I got called was for a Chinese delivery guy getting killed, beat up or taking a fall off the bicycle. I thank Phil Neilson and Pete Bucossi for giving me a chance and getting me started in stunts. What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?
My greatest skill as a stunt performer is being the victim, I grew in the industry as a ground pounder, taking falls, bike falls, getting shot and taking punches. After getting my ass kicked in Donnie Brasco (I doubled the maitre d' in the Japanese restaurant scene) Michael Mason came to me and said, "You know, they alway cast me as a bad guy and I’m always beating up on somebody but you took the worse beating I ever gave anybody.” And he and the ‘boys” offered to buy me a massage or something… After they wrapped me, when I was washed up and changed and just about to leave, Johnny Depp introduced me to Al Pacino and said, “Al, this is Victor Chan, we worked him over pretty good in the bathroom.” Al looks up and down and says, “What are you talking about? He looks pretty good to me.” We all had a good laugh. What is the best part about being a stunt performer?
The best part of being a stuntman is being a part of an elite group dedicated people. The commeradre among stunt people is amazing. I also enjoy the when the adrenaline starts pumping right before “action” and that I am able to contribute a small portion in a big picture. What advice would you give other stunt people?
Stay humble, ready to help, be honest about your abilities because it reflects on the coordinator, practice your skills and have a specialty. Anything else you would like to tell the community about?
Remember those who paved the way, enjoy the moments as they go by so quickly, and keep agile to avoid injuries.