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Falls, fights, fire in a day’s work

Canyon Country resident has spent more than 30 years working stunts

Posted: March 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Kurt Bryant, owner of Jump 5150 in Valencia, joins in the fun in the dodge ball pit at Jump 5150. (Dan Watson/ The Signal)

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Kurt Bryant spends his life in front of a camera, but you won’t recognize his face.

Bryant is one of the legions of stunt professionals who risk physical safety to bring breath-taking “movie magic” action to the silver screen.

However, stunt men aren’t really thrill-seekers Bryant said.

“Actually, most stunt guys are very level-headed,” he said. “You don’t want to be too crazy because you want to be able to work tomorrow.”

He has worked more than 30 years in the stunt business.

Bryant, a Canyon Country resident since 1998, first discovered the Santa Clarita Valley in the early 1980s when he would visit Castaic Lake to jet ski.

A native of East Hartford, Conn., Bryant moved to California at age 23 to pursue a career in stunt work.

“I raced motorcycles and one day I read a letter in a motorcycle magazine about becoming a stunt man,” he said. “I thought, I want to do that, too.”

At the time, Bryant was trying to figure out his life.

“I had gone to college and had a two-year degree in engineering,” he said. “I was working for the state surveying property.”

After studying up on stunt work, Bryant packed up his car and drove to California.

Starting out

He began his career by doing extra work.

“I did that for about two years, $30 a day,” he said. “I met people, slowly, then one day a friend of mine introduced me to a guy named Lenny Geer. He was a stunt man for years. Lenny was the crotchety old ranch hand on ‘Spin and Marty.’”

Geer took Bryant under his wing and taught him the tricks of the trade.

Among the first things you learn to do as a stunt man said Bryant is to learn the correct way to fall.

“You learn how to roll, how to land,” he said.

Television

Starting out, Bryant worked in television.

Among Bryant’s television credits: “The Colbys,” “Matt Houston,” “Love Boat” and “McGruder and Loud.”

“We did a ‘Love Boat Reunion’ show where I got to go work in the Caribbean — riding jet skis,” he said. “That’s not bad work. It was a 20-day cruise.”

Features

Some of his work has been seen in “Con Air,” “The Italian Job,” a “Ghostbusters” film, “Be Cool,” “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” and a host of low-budget features.

As his career has progressed Bryant now finds himself working more as a stunt coordinator and second unit director.

His last feature credit was as co-stunt coordinator on “Transformers 3.”

Injuries

Bryant said he has never been hurt more than just a few bumps and bruises in his professional career as a stunt man.

However, he did break his back twice riding motorcycles.

Once when he was 14 and the next time when he was 50 and riding from Valencia to Las Vegas, across the desert.

“I knew I was hurt, but I still thought I might be able to make it to Vegas, which was still a day away,” he said.

Bryant drove with his injury 25 miles before he was able to get to a hospital.

The stunts

Bryant has done all the traditional stunts one associates with the profession including falls, fights and car crashes.

He also has a certain amount of “fire work.”

The one type of stunt that is not his favorite is the “high fall.”

“I let the guys who like doing that work, have it,” he said. “I’m okay not doing those falls.”

On the set of ‘Vegas’

Currently Bryant is working on the CBS television “Vegas,” which stars Dennis Quaid and shoots down the street — at Santa Clarita Studios — from his new business venture, Jump 5150, an indoor trampoline park in Valencia.

Special memories

Bryant has a few special memories of work he has done in his career.

“One time we were out in a sailboat during a hurricane,” Bryant said. “I thought, we probably shouldn’t be out here. I watched the guy running the tiller looking up at what turned out to be a monster 25- or 30-foot high wave. It missed us, thankfully.”

On one job in Pearl Harbor, the locals told the crew to watch out for tiger sharks.

“We were already in the water, and I’m thinking, ‘You’re tell us this now?’” he said. “They told us that they wouldn’t attack us, but I’m thinking, ‘How do they know that?’”

On fire

Fire stunts can leave a stunt man shivering, said Bryant.

“People ask me, isn’t it hot?” he said. “But it is actually very cold. When you do a burn down you wear layers of Nomex material soaked in a fireproof gel.”

Bryant said if it takes too long for the stunt to get underway the stunt man can be sitting there “shaking” from the cold.

“Fires are safe, but you have to treat them very carefully,” he said.

Still an engineer

A few years ago, Bryant decided he wanted to open a business that would be fun for him and two children.

He decided to open a trampoline park because “it’s people and kids having fun,” he said.

Bryant ended up designing all the trampolines himself.

“My engineering background helped me out,” he said. Owning his own business has been very eye-opening said Bryant.

“I’ve learned a lot about running your own business,” he said. “But I’m glad I did it.”

mbuttelman@signalscv.com

661-287-5590

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