Have you ever watched a movie and wondered, who is in that car or jumping out of that window? Meet actor and stunt man Dean Lyons.
C: How is it going Dean?
I’m doing good. It is a little slow right now, haven’t had a gig in about three weeks. Last week went to Atlanta to hustle stunt work. I’m now making the transition from summer to winter.
C: OK, well hopefully it will pick back up for you. So could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Boone North Carolina with my wife Vicki and four-legged son Zack (black Lab). Except for a winter in Salt Lake City I’ve lived here all my life. My mother was a schoolteacher and my father owned a dry cleaners. I suppose my artistic side came from mom and my work ethic came from dad. I started working at 13 to earn enough to buy a motorcycle. I then started racing some motorcross but finances were limited. Being a small fellow and very shy I got picked on quite a bit. I was always fascinated by boxing, an ex Navy boxer took me under his wing and trained me to start. I became fairly successful as an AAU boxer. I began to use a bicycle as training because running was too slow. As racing and speed sports were my first love I realized I could race a bicycle. For the next 10 years that sport consumed me. Even now as a masters category racer I’m competing 40 times a season. When I started racing bikes I began a light landscaping company that gave me the flexibility to train and travel, that has now given the same flex for acting. In the winter I work ski patrol at one of the local resorts. Bicycle racing opened many doors for me. I have now been fortunate enough to be involved with auto racing as a driver and pit crew. I also work for TV Motos International as a motorcycle camera driver at major cycling, triathlon and running events.
C: Cool, so how did you get into acting and become a stunt man?
I keep asking myself that. I always wanted to be an actor but was just too shy to even think about doing anything in front of people. The thought of being a stunt guy was even more fascinating but I thought even more impossible. Everyone would tell me you have to live in California to do something like that, no one took me serious, that it was something really I wanted to do. Over the years I worked a few local commercials just by being in the right spot. My cousin started working some film and commercials in the Southeast so I kept bugging him with questions.
He told me that I had the look of a crew guy and they film most of the NASCAR commercials in the Charlotte area. He suggested I take a workshop at C and J Casting and suggested some agents to talk to. I got signed by an agent, landed some commercial background roles, my second was a NASCAR SAG commercial. I went to workshops and classes and spent time every day on the business, started getting auditions for other things, as soon as eligible, got my SAG card. I landed one, and have now worked several commercials as principal. All that time I was trying to learn everything I could about stunt work and who I need to meet and network with. The first real coordinator I worked with was Cal Johnson, (Homeland, Constantine). I learned more in those 2 days than I knew prior total. That is when I realized most, that a stunt guy is not a daredevil. Safety is paramount, it is very calculated risk.
C: That’s interesting to know. So what’s the most challenging stunt you had to perform?
Maybe not the most challenging technically or physically, but definitely mentally, was getting hung. It was a Revolutionary war era flashback, on ‘Sleepy Hollow’, three of us were hung together for treason. Just being on the gallows, hooded, hearing the 3,2,1 count and the floor drop out from under was a bit chilling each take. Completely safe, but looked great.
C: I bet that was difficult. So what advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a stunt man?
Work at it every day, and the same goes for acting. One thing I will always do if the opportunity presents, is take a role with a NC School of the Arts project. Workshops, classes, read everything you can. The only stunt school I have gone to is the Rick Seaman Motion Picture Stunt Driving school near Los Angeles. He is considered the master and even though I thought I was pretty good at car control it was like being a guitar player then spending three days with Jimmy Page or BB King. Even still, it is really tough to break in to film stunt driving. It is a tight group, coordinators will use who they know. That brings up the other aspect of stunt work which is the hustle. Unlike acting, where your agent is working to get you auditions, stunt performers have to hustle their own work. I regularly drive to Wilmington, Charlotte, Atlanta just to hope and get a couple minutes with a coordinator to introduce myself.
More often than not just end up at the production office dropping off my headshot/ resume. So, having said that, it is all about networking, training and researching every aspect. Basic stunt work is ground pounding and fights. Training includes learning body control and how to fall, roll, fight and react for the camera, and of course maintaining the highest level of fitness you can.
C: OK, give us your favorite 3 movies.
Wizard of Oz’, ‘Blazing Saddles’, & ‘On Any Sunday’
C: Ha, ha, I wasn’t expecting that but all great movies. So where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to be one of the stunt drivers and all-rounders that is on the high side of the list for coordinators. Someone they can count on to put the vehicle on the mark when they want it. As far as acting, it would be great to get that recurring character role on a show, a character that casting can count on. California was on my mind a few years ago then North Carolina got really busy. Now that politics has pulled the rug out from under us here, that may be another thought, although Georgia is really hot now. I do like the thrill and suspense of seeing how one open door leads to another.
C: And where can people go to find out more about you?
I use Stuntphone as my website http://www.stuntphone.com/viewprofiledetail.php?id=1541 and IMDB page is at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3060633/ also my facebook page is public https://www.facebook.com/dean.lyons.710
Thanks for talking to me, you keep breaking legs.
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