Press > Escape From L.A. > Exclusive Interviews > John Casino (Stunt Double: Kurt Russell)


How did you end up being a stunt man as well as Kurt Russell's stunt double?

Well, I started out when I got out of the army. I wanted to be a sheriff and I applied for the Sheriff's Department in Orange County, California and I took all my tests and I was on the list and while I was waiting I was going to college for police science and there's an
amusement park in Buena Park, California called Knott's Berry Farm. I don't know if you've ever heard of it but it's an amusement park and they have gunfighters out there who do shootouts and do little skits out the streets and I auditioned for that and got hired to do that. Then three years later Universal Studios had a stunt show called The Western Stunt Show up there and I applied for that and got hired. I did that for about five years and in between I went down to meet some of the producers on TV shows and I got hired on a TV series in 1979 and worked as a stunt man for many years. Then I met Kurt Russell in 1988 on Tango & Cash. They were looking for a stunt double for him so they called me down for an audition and Kurt picked me out and we got a long really good and I've been with him ever since 1988.

How did you and Kurt prepare for this movie and how do you work together?

Well, the way it works out is you know, we both read the script and we break it down and we figure out what we have to practice up on. The most important thing was, we had to be make sure we were in great shape so they had a big trailer that they took everywhere we went on location with a gym in it so we could work out every night. When we ever shot at the studio we had a gym at the studio we could work out and we had a person there that put us on a strict diet and gave us vitamins and fed us proper food. We just you know, really kept in shape for it, watch what we ate and rehearsed on a lot of things. We had to do motorcycles or whatever and you'd be surprised, Kurt does a lot of his own stunts. He's a very talented man.

What were the most challenging, hardest or funniest stunts to do in the movie?

Well, you know what. Most of the stuff that we did were you know, we did a lot of fights. There wasn't anything that was major, major difficult. We had to do a lot of running, a lot of jumping, a lot of you know, mostly fights. The hang gliding thing we did towards the end when we were on the hang gliders with the machine guns. Those were all on cables so we weren't working on hang gliders. We were on cables. That was pretty difficult to shoot because of timing of coming down on that wire on the hang gliders and shooting the machine guns at the same time was a little difficult but we had a good special effects team and John Carpenter is the most. Probably out of all my 40 years of working my favorite director to work with because he loves stunt men and he loves to make sure they're taken care of.

We did another scene in there that got cut out where we had to do a mudslide that was top of a mountain and they dumped 11.000 gallons of water on me and I went fly down a hill with water behind me. That was kind of difficult but they never showed it in the movie. It was fun to do and then you know, every time they do a master of me doing the big shot, we do close-ups of Kurt and we plug in little shots of him doing the same thing. It was a nice little scene but unfortunately when they edited it, it was totally different and you know, a lot of things we did with the submarine and everything, that was all green-screen. The earthquake when Kurt is reaching down to grab a hold of the submarine and the earthquake happens. That was all done on stage with a green-screen and I did most of that myself and we only had one take to do it because if we didn't do it in one take it was about five or six hours for them to set up to redo it. Very, very important to do get everything done in one take.

The surfing scene was difficult to shoot. I mean, all of that was done on a green-screen you know, with surfboards and everything and with a background and then when Kurt jumps off the surfboard back of Steve Buscemi's (Map to the Stars Eddie) car, that of course is me and I'm doing that. I'm standing in front of a jeep on the bumper and I was holding on and then at a certain time when the jeep got up to speed and the car drove by I jumped off the jeep onto the back of the car and we continue the scene and that's how we did the transition from the surfboard on to the car. It was pretty fun to do. Again, we did that in one take. That thing you were talking about where Kurt got shot in the leg and fell into the water in the sewer. You know, we did that on stage where I got shot in the leg and fell into the water. Everything was made sure. Everything was safe. The water was at the right level and everything was good. The scene where Kurt you know, rides the motorcycle in the back of the truck. I did not do the jump on that one. We had a specially guy that only does motorcycles. His name was Jimmy Roberts and he did the jump over the horse and then we did the landing with Kurt. That was all done special effects on a rig on cables and everything so that was done really safely too. Yeah, it worked out great.

Were there any accidents during the making of the movie?

Nothing at all. Nothing at all. You know, Jeff Imada was our stunt coordinator and Jeff is one the best stunt coordinator, second unit directors in the business and he won't allow anybody doing anything if it's dangerous. I mean, we rehearse and everything turned out great. Nobody got hurt. The only thing is that I can say is, it was very cold. Some of the nights we worked in the water. It was very cold but it was very safe.                

What's your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?

You know, just working with John Carpenter and Kurt. I mean, I think it was probably my fifth or sixth movie with Kurt. Just working the nights. We did a lot of night scenes and it was just you know, everyone works. John Carpenter always uses the same people. The same cinematographer, the same first assistant, second assistant directors and so it's almost like a family. The make-up people and everything. We have so much fun when we work. The entire movie was a joyous occasion. At the end of the movie we all went to John Carpenter's house and had a party and it was, it was a very, very fun situation. You know, Peter Fonda (Pipeline) and everyone showed up and we had a great time. You know, one of the most incredible things that was done on that movie. Do you remember the basketball scene. That last time when Kurt threw the ball. That was actually him. He shoot across the court and he made it and that was pretty amazing. I've worked with a lot of actors but Kurt has definitely been my favorite to work with. He's just a very genuine person. You know, he's a nice man and the way you see him on the screen is how he is. He's just a very nice man and it's always a pleasure to work with him.

What did you do in your spare time during the making of the movie?

You know what, not too much because you work nights and we were working six days. You know, you work nights and you work 14, 15 hours. You know, by the time you get home and drive home it's probably 6, 7 o'clock in the morning and then you have to be back at work at 6 o'clock at night so all you do is go to bed, take a nap, do whatever you can, get up, take care of your bills, do whatever you have to do and then back to work again. And that you know, was three months of working nights so there's really not that much time to do anything in the spare. The hours are incredible. I mean, we work anywhere from. I think the shortest day we had was about 12 hours and you know, we go all the way into 14 hours sometimes. But they have to give us a 12 hour turnaround. They have to at least give us 12 hours to come back, yeah, especially when you work night. It's very, very difficult and then especially after working three months nights and then going back to days again it's kind of hard to get, you know, get yourself back on the time schedule. Not a lot of time for you know, hanging around much when you're working like that.  

What do you think of the movie personally?

I liked it. I thought it was great. You know, I enjoyed doing it. There were some things that you know, were a little bit kind of hokey but all in all it turned out good and like I said we had a lot of fun doing it. It's just like the surfing scene, you know.

Do you have any favorite memory or memories of working with Kurt Russell during the years?

Yeah, you know, I've done 17 movies with him. The last one I did. We just did The Hateful Eight which is a western that Quentin Tarantino directed which is coming out in December. Then we did another one called Deepwater Horizon which will come out next year. It's about the BP oil rig that blew up off the coast of the golf coast. I think one of my favorite movies with Kurt was probably Backdraft. Backdraft was a really fun movie to do and we had a great time doing it. We were in Chicago for seven months. It was a very tough experience. You know, we worked with genuine fire. Back in those days there was not that much CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) so we worked with real fire and you know, there were places where we're hanging at the end, where we're hanging from the beams and when it got to hot we would scream and they would turn on the hoses and cool us down. It's another show that you know, we did a lot of dangerous things on it but Walter Scott was our stunt coordinator and nobody got hurt. We had a great time. I don't think I've ever done a movie with Kurt that I haven't had a good time with. He's always a fun person to be around.

The thing about Kurt. There are a lot of things you know, actors aren't allowed to do as far as stunts go and you know, Kurt is very gung ho as far as doing things and he always checks with me to find out if it's something that he needs to do and I say, "You know what, this is something we don't need to do because I can do it. When we do a close-up of it, we do it with you but in the long shots, you know, let me take care of it." He always listens to me. He's always been great about that. He just gets along with everyone and you know, the thing is, he's probably the most knowledgeable man I know about the movies. He knows everything about it. He knows about directing, producing and he's a good family guy. He's just a good friend you know, he's been very good to me. He's made my career. And the thing about Kurt too. We do movies like Tango & Cash, Backdraft, Stargate, 3000 Miles to Graceland where you know, he plays kind of a crusty character and when you look at movies like Captain Ron and Overboard where he just plays this friendly character and he's very verse on different things too. It's just so much fun to work with him. I don't know if you ever saw the movie Overboard. That's pretty much how Kurt's character is in real life. He's just a very happy-go-lucky guy. So been really fortunate.

John Carpenter is another great guy. He's an awesome man. Probably one of the best directors around and just a really nice person too. John and I keep in touch all the time. I talk to him on occasions. He calls me to see how I'm doing and I call him to see how he's doing. You know, the movie we just did with Tarantino. That was a blast too. So much fun to do. Doing a western with Tarantino and Kurt Russell is pretty exciting to do.

Which stunts in your career are you the most proud of?

Probably Titanic was the most difficult. We were in Mexico doing it and I was out there for six weeks. We probably change wardrobe three or four times a night and you know, we did different falls up the side of the ship and tumbling down at the decks and everything like that in the water and it was cold but we had a lot of fun doing it. There were some injuries, nothing major but it was done really well and it was probably the most stunts we've ever had to do on a film.                    

What are you currently doing and what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Well, you know what. I'm 60 years old now so I've been doing stunts since I was nineteen so I try not to go on location too often. I like to hang out with my family. My kids are growing up and you know, I like hanging out with my family. I don't do too many recreational things anymore as far as. I used to ride motorcycles and things like that but I don't really do anything like that anymore because if I get injured I won't be able to work so I have to kind of keep in shape, eat well and just take care of myself. You know, go to a good church. I'm a very religious man and like I said, do things with my family. I know it sounds kind of boring but that's my life. That's what I like to do. I live in Georgia now. I moved out of Los Angeles years ago and wanted to have a place easier for my kids to grow up.

Thank you for your time, John. 

Photos By Robert Zuckerman/Provided By John Casino