The Inside Story

Apr 7 - Playing With Fire


Taran Howell’s a mild-mannered man of action.

Real action. Falling off buildings, sword fighting, getting hit by cars, that sort of stuff. I hate to think what his ACC levy looks like.

I met him in the hallway just as he found out he wasn’t going to be set on fire that day. He was gutted. Perturbed by his reaction, I queried his maiming wish and he filled me in on his stunty status, and that he’s a ‘fire virgin’. It’s a stunty’s mission in life to put himself in as many precarious, existence-threatening situations as possible. And for Taran, being incinerated is next on the list.

And this list is scarily long. He’s been risking life and limb for over ten years now. He started in 1999 with Xena and Hercules, and since then he’s done just about everything our parents and teachers have gone to great pains to tell us not to do. He’s thrown himself from a moving train. He’s done kungfu in full-body lycra. And he’s been hit by a car, many times.

Yes, said vehicle of doom hurtles towards him at 80kph and slams on the brakes. If it collides with Taran at 10kph, he bounces off the windscreen and goes splat on the road. If it hits him at 30kph, he rolls over the car…and then has a cup of tea. Why is this man not road kill?

Taran tells me it’s all about rehearsal. It takes a whole day to do one ‘car hit’ stunt. First the car hits him at 5kph…a love tap. Then 10kph, the 15, and on it goes until Taran can manage the 30kph collision with ease. But it’s all down to that driver, and when he brakes. A hell of a lot of responsibility!

Still, when I asked Taran how often he’s ended up in hospital, he said it was pretty rare. Yes, he got his teeth kicked in a couple of months ago and had to have his jaw wired, but that’s the exception, not the rule. Because of the safety precautions, and extensive rehearsal, stunt work is a lot less risky than it seems. Taran joked that in one season of rugby he had more injuries than in ten years of stunt work.

So kids. Don’t be a u-tube ‘jack ass’. Train up and get paid to play with fire and fast-moving vehicles. Your local A&E department will thank you for it.

Watch the video here.

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All Blog entries were written and compiled by Edwin McRae - check out his website here.