Last Thursday we said goodbye to a gentleman named Eric Norris. Eric was our stunt coordinator on this production and one of the best I’ve ever worked for in my career. Even thought the production had another week of filming, all of the major stunts were done and Eric was anxious to go back to his wife and three daughters, so I was left the lone stuntman on set. (Every other stunt guy had left the previous Friday.)
Little known piece of Hollywood history for you (and stick with me for a sec and this will make sense why it’s important): on July 23, 1982, Vic Morrow and two small children were killed when a helicopter fell on them during the filming of “Twilight Zone: The Movie”. As happens often in tragedies, many lawsuits sprang out of that fateful night. One of the changes that came from that night was the so-called Morrow Law which states that a stunt coordinator must be on set in any scene where an actor is doing even the most minor of stunts, even a slap to the face or a kick to the shins. You see, in that tragic case, it was unclear who was in charge of the actual stunt, whether it was effects people, the stunt coordinator or the director. Now, thanks to the Morrow Law, the stunt coordinator is the unquestioned authority and, ultimately, holds the ultimate responsibility, for the safety of the actors and the crew. (You can read more about this, if you want, in a book called “Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case” by Stephen Farber and Marc Green. It’s really a fascinating read.)
Why is this even remotely relevant to a production about a nightmare detective currently shooting in New Orleans? Well, it is personally important because there is a shot on the very last day of filming where Dylan is reluctantly forced to slug a guy in the nose. Thus, because of the Morrow Law, they need a stunt coordinator on set that day, but Mr. Norris had to get back to Los Angeles, which leaves yours truly as the ultimate power for one shining day! I, yes I, will finally have my day in the sun and they will rue the day they ever called me “stunt boy”!!!! <<EVIL LAUGH>> <<EVIL LAUGH>> <<EVIL LAUGH!!!!>>
Uh…sorry about that. Don’t know what came over me. Actually..umm… I’m the only one left and the only one that was willing to stick around for a week for a half hour’s worth of work (and no one has EVER referred to me as “stunt boy”). I think I’ve had too much beef jerky and red vines from craft services. :-)
The REAL truth of the matter is that it’ll be an honor and a privilege to try and fill some very big shoes left behind by Mr. Norris, even for a half an hour and one punch. Eric is one of the few people in this business that I’ve ever encountered where he walks on a set, any set, and everyone has a smile and kind word for. I have worked with him on several sets and this is true on every one I’ve ever been on with him. He’s handled everything from difficult actors to props gone bad to fireballs that are…a little bigger than we were told they would be (none of which were on this movie), and he’s done so with grace, tact, and an ability to keep his cool and have all parties walk away as friends that really amazes me. Eric has done some amazing things on this show that left the entire cast and crew giving him a standing ovation when he had his final scene last week. The position of a stunt coordinator is not one it’s easy to step into, even for a half an hour. The movie, the production budget and, ultimately, people’s lives are in your hands (as is, unfortunately, evidenced by the incident on Twilight Zone). It’s a lot of responsibility and I tip my hat to you for it, Mr. Norris. It’s been an honor working for you and I’ve learned a ton.
Development Exec/Stunt Guy/MWPBS (Megalomaniac When Powered By Sugar)