Author, Stuntman Sean Kelly Talks Stunt Business

Author and Hollywood stuntman Sean Kelly dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss his book, “South of the NBA,” a fictional tale of two NBA hopefuls playing professionally for a team in Argentina in the early 1980s.

But he also spoke of his stunt career. Kelly has performed in numerous films, including “The Departed,” and gave listeners an inside look at the stunt business.

“I was a real good second in car scenes, fight scenes,” Kelly said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “But where I excelled, I think, toward the end of my career is I was able to give lines as an action actor. But if you were to ask me my most dangerous stunt, it was probably a 50-foot fall over in Prague in a movie called ‘The Shooter,’ and I had to spin on one foot 180 degrees before I dropped off. I called the wife before I did it. At 4 a.m., I was in Prague and we had two in diapers and I said, ‘I’m kind of nervous.’ And she said, ‘You just go up to the top of that building and fall off the best you can. We’ve got a mortgage to pay.’ That was one I hope I never have to do again. It was a dangerous job. You have to descend into thin air and just kind of control your body on the way down without seeing where you’re going.”

If that seems crazy, well, wait until you hear what broke Kelly’s fall.

“There are two ways to do a high fall,” Kelly explained. “You can do them into an air bag, which you may see in gymnastics and pole vaulting and things like that. But really the most remarkable thing about the stunt business are boxes. Cardboard boxes.”

Cardboard boxes?! Seriously?!

“I kid you not,” Kelly said. “Four rows of two-by-two cardboard boxes, and I went through three rows and never felt a thing. They are the most amazing things. I think the highest high fall into boxes that I remember being told to me by someone credible in the business, Andy Armstrong, was 220 feet.”

That’s insane.

“I know,” Kelly said. “Terminal velocity. But it’s great to do a fight scene. The shootouts were always fun. Car stuff is a great gig if you have the aptitude for it. Not all stunt men do, but not all car guys can do a good fight scene. So there’s a mix. It’s good to be well-rounded because then you can be used more.”

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