Mark Rayner knows life in both pro comps and Hollywood falls
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 19 July, 2015 - His life could be more interesting than the life of your average pro surfer. Sure, travel to exotic corners of the globe in pursuit of surf is fascinating, but not quite as fascinating as jumping off a car going 80 miles an hour.
The Melbourne native followed the typical pro path, slogging it out on the World Qualifying Series before digging into an industry position at Quiksilver.
He first waded into television with his own production company, producing several surfing shows including “Boardrider.” From there he fell off the deep end and into the world of stunt work doing wire work, driving and fights. He is best known for his stunt work on Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Mad Max: Fury Road.
Is Cloudbreak safer than a studio lot? - Image courtesy of Mark Rayner
If you didn’t go to Stuntman University, then just how did you become a stuntman?
I started working stunts on Baywatch and surfing was my foot in the door to the film industry. Ocean stuff was my specialty initially and then I trained and gained experienced in the rest of the business such as wire work, driving, rigging, fights, learning camera and lenses. Now I mainly work as a film Stunt Coordinator which involves breaking down the script action scenes, scout locations, hire the stunt team, train the actors and choreograph their movements and fights etc.
Share with us something people don’t know about stunt work.
We joke that it’s 10% fear and 90% boredom because it can be a long wait till your action scene is needed on set. Overall stunts are a lot safer than it used to be. And we are not dare-devils hoping it works - the action is well designed and planned in detail and high tech equipment incorporated into the scene. You want to make it exciting & look dangerous but it usually has to be repeatable in case the director wants additional takes and camera angles. It’s not fun when a stunt does hurt and knowing that you have to get back up, dust yourself off and do it again multiple times.
Ouch! On the set of 21 Jump Street - Image courtesy of Mark Rayner
Some say the WQS slog is pretty dangerous to one’s mental health, what are the similarities between surfing professionally and stunt work?
Well the competition is just as brutal for sure, there are so many talented stunt people so you just have to focus on your own approach. And like the surf events, the travel & hours can be draining. Feature films are no longer all based on a backlot in Hollywood so we travel all over the world, work for a few months on a film and then pack your bags and head off to prep the next job. I’m originally from Torquay, Australia but I now live with my family by the beach in Malibu, California - but I am rarely home, we live out of a suitcase a lot.
Which pays better?
Probably stunt work because in addition to your salary, we get paid residuals once the films are out on DVD and internet etc. Career longevity is there with stunts, there are people in the business going strong into their 70’s.
Share with us a close call you had when doing a stunt or what has been your most dangerous stunt?
We had a few really close calls on Mad Max Fury Road, all that action was filmed for real with minimal visual effects and when the vehicles are traveling at high speed in rough terrain then there is always the chance things could get ugly. Car hits are generally not fun, there is usually a bit of blood after those. And helicopter stuff always scares me, they can be so sketchy.
Not Hollywood - Image courtesy of Mark Rayner
What has been the biggest movies you’ve done stunt work for?
I’ve been very fortunate to work on films such as Batman, Star Trek, X-Men, Inception. Mad Max was massive in terms of the number of people. We filmed in Namibia - near the surf break of Skeleton Bay actually so I got to take my surfboard with me on that job which was a bonus.
At the wrap party who’s most likely to drink too much and get into a fight, the stuntman or the leading man?
Haha fortunately I’ve never seen a fight at a wrap party. It’s all high fives and and a lot of man hugs at those things.