THAT CLIMACTIC FIGHT SCENE in this summer’s big popcorn action flick? Even money says David Boushey taught its brawling badasses how to throw down theatrically. Boushey, 67, has been schooling wannabe stunt performers in the art of opening cans of whoop-ass for more than 35 years. Today, his Seattle-based International Stunt School—where students learn to fall, drive, and burn alive—is one of the best in the business, and along the way, he’s supervised and performed stunts in everything from Blue Velvet to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. But how’s this for a twist ending? These days the longtime tough guy prefers a good love story.
"YOU’VE GOT TO LEARN TO THROW A PUNCH LIKE BOUSHEY." People still say that.
EVERYBODY THINKS FIRE IS SO DIFFICULT. It’s one of the easiest stunts in the world to do. But, god, the preparation is a pain in the butt. You put that flame retardant on and you feel like you’ve been slimed.
“THERE’S THIS GUY UP IN THE NORTHWEST, and you ought to see the choreography he puts together.” I remember The Washington Post and The New York Times saying that. That’s what really launched me, because then everybody wanted a piece of me.
I COULD SEE THE WHOLE FIGHT IN MY HEAD, and I would run it like a movie. And then all I had to do was put it on paper and see if I could get the actors to come up with what I envisioned.
WHAT WE DO, IT’S ALL SMOKE AND MIRRORS. You let the camera see what you want it to see, and then you hide from the camera what you don’t want it to see.
PEOPLE WOULD, AT TIMES, THINK MY FIGHTS WERE A LITTLE TOO DANGEROUS. My fights were never dangerous. I wouldn’t have had a career for very long if I was killing or maiming every actor who worked with me.
IT’S CALLED TAKING CALCULATED RISKS. The definition of a stuntman is “he who comes to work the next day.” You don’t want to be a daredevil, because those are the guys who end up in the hospital with both of their legs broken.
SOME PEOPLE SAY, "WHY IS YOUR STUNT SCHOOL IN SEATTLE? WHY ISN’T IT IN HOLLYWOOD?” Because I don’t want to be in Hollywood.
THERE’S NO DOUBT THAT CGI HAS REPLACED A LOT OF OUR STUNTS. But you know what? They’ve usually been the stunts that you didn’t want to do because they were so goddamn dangerous.
WIRE WORK IS THE FLAVOR OF THE MONTH NOW. Everybody’s flying. Everybody’s Peter Pan these days.
STUNTMENT, YOU’LL NOTICE, are never acknowledged at the Academy Awards. That’s really chicken shit.
THE REACTION SELLS THE PUNCH. The other guy has to throw a good punch, but it’s all in the way you react. When you get hit, your head goes first, then your shoulders, then your hips, then your whole body falls down.
IMMOBILIZE YOU? I don’t think I could. But you don’t want to find out. I hit hard.
YOU HAVE TO BE WILLING TO TAKE THE PUNCH. After all, they’re paying you to take the hit. Collect your money and let the coordinator know you got nailed so he’ll feel sorry for you.
‘ART’ IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD IN FILM. You don’t want to talk about being artistic. They’re not interested in art. They’re interested in the bottom line.
I CAN’T STAND ACTION FILMS ANYMORE. I love a good story. And as I’m getting older, I like a good romantic story, with people actually falling in love—but not corny.
I’VE REPLICATED SO MUCH VIOLENCE THAT I GET A LITTLE TIRED OF IT NOW. A director would say, “I want you to cut this woman’s throat right here,” and before, I’d do that in a heartbeat. Now, it’s like, “Here I go again, another bloodletting.”
I ALWAYS THOUGHT, I’LL NEVER QUIT. I’LL DROP DEAD ON THE STAGE. But as you get older, there’s more of the world you want to see and things you want to do personally. I’ll just fade into the sunset and say I gave it a good go, you know?
AT THIS AGE, I’m not afraid of hardly anything.
Stuntman David Boushey demonstrates how to throw a realistic punch, plus relates a near-death experience while doing a stunt in the sea.