My interview today is with the amazing Lauro Chartrand. He has worked on some of the biggest productions of our time including: “Rumble In The Bronx” “The Last Samurai” and Star Trek Insurrection” just to name a few. He also trained with the incomparable Fumio Demura! He got his start as a stuntman and moved into writing, directing, and producing. Read on to learn about his latest work! I hope you all enjoy this interview!
Question: I know you have worked on some the greatest film/television programs that have ever been created! What has been one of your favorite moments?
Answer: Wow! After 25 years there have been so many, but obviously a few really stand out. My first really big moment or moments because there were so many on this movie was meeting and working with Jackie Chan on “Rumble In The Bronx”! It was a dream come true! Jackie was so nice and so much fun to work with. I learned so much from him, I was just like a sponge on that show. I was initially turned away during casting as they thought I looked to young. I grew a beard and asked my friend Marc Akerstream (Stunt Coordinator) to re-submit me. So I got to goin again and Jackie did a little fight with me during the audition and said okay your hired. Talk about nervous! I mean I was just a young 24-year-old kid from the sticks trying to get some stunt gigs in the movies and here I was fighting with Jackie Chan and he casts me in his movie! I was contracted for 10 days and 55 days later I sadly finished on “Rumble In The Bronx”. It went on and on and on, but I wished that it would just keep going, so much fun! Jackie was very collaborative and attentive, he took his ideas from everyone and every where. During filming we had to park in the old Woolworth’s parkade (park garage) along Cordova street in Vancouver. It was 7 or 8 stories high. I use to park my truck at the top and at the end of the day when we wrapped I would climb up the outside of the parkade and up to my truck. Jackie watched me do this one day I guess, because he came up to me and said, I want to put that in the movie. My character will do that, but maybe you will double me for it. I was floored! Jackie Chan wants me to double him! He ended up doing it himself, but it was an honor that he used the idea and even thought of me as a double. There are many more in movies like “The Last Samurai” where we spent 5 month out of 8, shooting in New Zealand. Believe it or not “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” was an amazing experience for me because we filmed on the island of Santorini, Greece for a month. I had always wanted to go there. Shooting in the jungles of Panama with the Embera tribe on “End of the Spear” was a life changing experience. Doubling for Al Pacino in “Insomnia!” was a dream come true as well.
Question: Was there ever a moment when you thought, YES! I have made it?
Answer: I have had a few of those moments, but they were just moments as my mind immediately turns to, where can I go from here! My first one was when I worked with Chuck Norris because I watched all his movies as a kid and then I use to go train and work out on the bag and imitate his moves before I had traditional Martial Arts training. That moment was short-lived as I had a freak accident on the set of “The Hitman” the same night that Chuck asked me to stay and do a stunt. Basically he asked me, because he was a good friend of my Sensei (Karate Instructors). I was shot for real by accident when an overloaded blank gun exploded and a piece of the gun went through my stomach and into my liver. 3 surgeries and 4 months of recovery and I was back looking for stunt work. So like I said, it was a moment. I thought I had made it and then, “Bang”, I felt I hadn’t! The first time I worked for the legendary, Buddy Joe Hooker, I thought I had “made it”. I mean who do I work for from there! When I doubled Al Pacino I also thought, I made it, how can I double a better actor than this! So there have been a few moments, but I quickly look to the horizon for the next challenge.
Question: How did you find your way to becoming a stunt performer?
Answer: My Mother took me to a Chuck Norris movie when I was 8 years old. I think i was “The Octagon” or “Good Guys Wear Black“, I can’t remember. But during the movie I said to my Mother, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up!” She thought I wanted to be a movie star, I said, “No, I want to do like that guy getting thrown through the window!” She explained to me that he was a stuntman. That was it! I told everyone I met from that day on that I would be a stuntman one day, I trained in everything I could that I thought would help me attain my goal one day. I grew up on a horse, competed in steer riding at rodeo’s as a kid and eventually a little bit of bareback riding (bucking horses), motocross, street bikes, martial arts, race car driving courses, stunt driving courses. It was the horse work and martial arts that got me my first “breaks” in the business. I started out doing extra work and did a good enough job that I got noticed and was given some chances and then I was off. Being the guy that got shot and survived also got me known really fast! Not a way I would recommend, but it did work in my favor in at least some small way.
Question: You have accomplished so much by moving from stunts to writing, directing and producing. Was it always your intention to get behind the scenes and create from the ground up or did you fall into it? (Pun intended!)
Answer: Well it was a combination of both, really it just evolved. As I gained more experience as a stuntman I started to get really interested in creating the stunts and eventually was asked to start coordinating. I had a slow period for a month or two once and decided to write a script and try to create my own work. Then as I got more experience as a stunt coordinator directors started asking me to help them with the action more as a director and then I started 2nd Unit Directing, which is where the director turns over some of/or a lot of the action sequences to the 2nd Unit Director. You work closely with the director to devise the action sequences and then it’s up to me to shoot them in the best way possible within the budget and time that I am given. From writing came producing in order to get my own projects noticed and financed. I got a very lucky break that jumped me from 2nd Unit Director to Director back in 2009. I was hired to 2nd Unit Direct “Born To Raise Hell” and my good friend Keoni Waxman was set to direct. He had to drop out and recommended that I direct the film. It was a success so the same Producers hired me as one of the main unit directors for the TV series “True Justice”. I recently Directed my first horror movie entitled “Blackburn”. So I definitely have a passion for all the aspects of film making but stunts and action will always be my first love, so you’ll probably see me directing more action films than Romantic Drama’s, but then you never know as things are always developing!
Question: Is there anything you hope to accomplish that you have not had the chance to yet?
Answer: That’s a tough question as I have been so fortunate and have had a dream career so far. If sadly my career ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t complain that I wish I had done this or done that. I guess the thing I hope to accomplish is to Produce and Direct some of the bigger projects I have in my slate. Of course maybe have a cameo part or stunt in them too!
Question: Were there any challenges you faced that made it difficult to succeed in film? (Injuries/rejections) that sort of thing!
Answer: Well I spoke of one major injury early, I’ve had a few others. Broken back, broken wrists, shoulder, dislocations, sprains, etc. They didn’t slow me down as long as the gunshot to my stomach, but they do add up. I’m a very focused person so I normally push through the pain and don’t let too much slow me down. On the rejection front, I ran into the same thing any highly motivated person with a little bit of talent has coming into this business. There will be people who love your energy and drive and then there are those who will be jealous and do what they can to hold you back. There we’re a couple of guys who spun a few lies and did different things to try to hold me back. These days they call them “Haters”, but oddly enough those two guys are no longer in the business. So positively wins out! Keep your eye on the ball and be nice along the way, has always been my goal.
Question: Do you have a favorite person that you have worked with, or someone who touched you, motivated you/ pushed you in the right direction?
Answer: Of course there are several! Believe me you never get where you are by yourself, we all need help and motivation along the way. Some you won’t know but I’ll mention them anyway. My Mother, who from the day I said I wanted to be a stuntman always encouraged me to chase my dreams. Never once did she say I should do this or do that instead. Others tried to tell me that I should have a back up plan or just do something else more normal, but not my Mom! Cameron Steuart, my first Sensei (Karate Instructor) who was a mentor and great motivator. If not for him, at 18 I would have lost focus on my dreams and gone down the wrong path. Fumio Demura, the Shihan (Master Instructor) of our karate organization. Another great mentor and motivator who was also a stuntman. He really helped push me over the top in terms of going after becoming a stuntman. Bruce Thomlinson, he was my construction Forman who allowed me to keep a job that I could support my family with, but at the same time, leave anytime I needed to in order to break into film industry. Melissa Stubbs, (Stuntwoman, Stunt Coordinator, 2nd Unit Director) I call her my sister, although not by blood from the same parents but blood sweat and tears from coming up in this business together and having each other’s backs. Melissa was my first training partner in the stunt business and a huge influence in motivating me and introducing me into the world if stunts. If it were not for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Jackie Chan, (Martial Artist, Stuntman, Actor) Of course not much needs to be said about this man. I had the honor of working on two of his films. “Rumble in The Bronx” is an experience I will never forget. Jackie proved and showed us that hard work, focus and dedication pays off, he never gave up on his dream of becoming a star in the American market and he did it with class. He always treats people fair and is one of the happiest and friendliest people you will ever work with if you get the chance. Another true master. Tom Cruise, (Actor, Producer) we worked together for a year on “The Last Samurai”. Tom’s work ethic, sincerity, kindness and drive impressed me so much. He’s a real guy no matter what the press every says about him. The guy has been on top forever and is one of the biggest movie stars of our time. Yet he keeps his feet on the ground and respects people. I saw Tom 10 years later on MI:4 and he came up and acted like were long-lost buddies. He asked how my kids were by name! He actually remembered their names after 10 years! He inspired me and proved to me that good things happen to good people who work hard for it and that it can last if you stay hungry. He’s another guy who truly loves his work. Keoni Waxman, (Director, Executive Producer) not only is he responsible for putting me in the Directors chair on Main unit for “Born To Raise Hell” and “True Justice”, but he has become a mentor and a brother to me. He also has an amazing work ethic, patience and is so easy to collaborate with. If I had 10 pages I couldn’t say enough about the guy.
Question: I know you are excited about your new movie Blackburn, can you tell me a little about it?
Answer: Yes, I’m very excited about “Blackburn!“! As far as Directing it’s my first horror movie. My oldest daughter loves horror movies, so that was part of the reason I wanted to do it. Also I finally got to work with the main writer, Nastasha Baron, who also Produced it and hired me. We had been writing and developing other projects for the past 7 years, so I really wanted to do this with her. I was able to cast a lot of my very talented friends in the “Blackburn” which only sweetened the deal. The first guys I went out to where Ken Kirzinger and Brad Loree. I’ve known and worked with them for 20 years. They played Jason and Mike Meyers respectively in “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween”, so I was really stoked to have them on board as a couple of our insane bad guys. I also cast Stuntwoman Maja Aro as my leading bad girl! I’ve known Maja since she first started in the business, she’s like my little sister and she did an amazing job as I knew she would! I was also able to cast Sarah Lind, Emilie Ullerup, Brandi Alexander and Lochlyn Munro all of whom I had the pleasure of Directing on the “True Justice” series. I was also able to hire a lot of the crew that I have worked with over the years. Great people who really supported me and worked very hard to make “Blackburn” a reality! It was a tough 14 day shoot, very fast! Shooting in the creepy Britannia Mines up near Squamish really excited me as it was perfect for our story. Basically a bunch of crazies led by Maja’s character, burn down the insane asylum they are in, but the ones who survive take refuge in an abandoned Gold mine under the mountain that the asylum was built on. Needless to say people in the area start to go missing and the five college students who end up trapped between a rock slide and a forest fire are no exception!
Question: Do you have any advice for someone who hopes to have a career in film?
Answer: Well of course that depends on what area of film they are passionate about getting into. And I always preference it with “Beware!” It’s like an addiction. Once you get in you can never get enough. Workaholics are drawn to this business like a moth to a flame. The hours are always long, really long, in many cases 12 hrs is a short day and 18-20 can be a tough reality. Some people like me have a dream and a passion for it from the beginning, others just stumble into it and find a passion, it’s all good, you just have to be prepared to give it your all and expect rejection. As far as stunts go, I always tell people to train in as many sports disciplines as possible, but become really good in at least one or two. Usually stunt people break into the business because of a specialty. Mine was initially Martial Arts and horse work. From there I expanded as quickly as possible. I’m fortunate in that I pick things up fast, that’s always a big help. When people ask me what makes a good stunt performer, I always say, a quick learner and some one who has a high pain threshold and is as tough as nails. I usually tell new people who you have to be willing to put in your time too. It’s kind of like college or university, you have to study and pay your dues for at least 5 years and when your out, you may or may not have a career. In the beginning there is usually a lot of volunteering on and off set, helping set up and move equipment and that sort of thing. Working as an extra to get set experience and learn etiquette, meet the right people. Working hard, helping out and showing that you are there to be part of the team, that you are there for the long haul because you love it, not just for the money. The money may come later if you make it and start working a lot. It’s a lifestyle as much as anything. Glitz and glamour, forget that, it doesn’t exist in this biz! That a facade! Lots of hard work and maybe a little moment or two of recognition if you work hard and do good work. For anyone starting out, I wish you the best!
WOW!! Well, I must say doing this interview has been a highlight of my life, Lauro is as gracious as he is talented and I can’t even begin to wrap my head around how great it is that he was willing to do this, so thank you again Lauro Chartrand! A very special thank you to my friend Actor and Musician Donald Adams