You’ve seen him a million times before but you may not even know it. Here, Casey Wright gives insight into being Australia’s hardest working anonymous performer, as mascot for the big leagues and stunt double to the stars.
Stunt doubles and mascot performers occupy an interesting space in the entertainment industry. Rarely known unlike their acting colleagues, but oftentimes working more consistently, a performer like Casey Wright has had his fair share of set-time with A-listers than any Oscar-winner, but a regular movie goer or sport lover couldn’t be faulted for not knowing his name.
And that’s just the way Casey likes it. As he claims, he didn’t get into this business to become famous, but instead always wanted to make sincere contributions to an industry that he loved.
“I always loved movies growing up, and now more than ever I enjoy the creative process – I have found though that I love spending time on set and having conversations with stunt coordinators, directors and producers about that process.”
The result of his steadfast pursuit for the past decade in his field as a performer who dabbles in many areas of film and live event work, is a fascinating study of how someone can be working at the top of their field and yet walk down the street without someone knowing their name.
“I ultimately just really love helping make a film or TV production the best that it can be – it’s so fun to be on set, and to speak with everyone who’s a part of the creative process, but not to have to shoulder the marketing spin like regular actors do.”
Nothing is perhaps more obvious a high-profile but anonymous gig on Casey’s resume than his work on the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean film. In that production, Wright had to shoulder the safety responsibilities of stunt actors during a particularly tense filming sequence, while also completing stunt acting in a believable way so as to allow the audience to suspend their disbelief.
“On Pirates, roles like mine were essential to the production. During the big scenes, there were sometimes over 250 extras running around on set. That meant then when action was called, it was mayhem. It was up to the stunties to position ourselves closer to the action, and shield the extras from danger.”
Casey’s frequent mention of safety regulations reveal a key aspect of his character clear to anyone who meets him – he’s willing to sacrifice his ego for the benefit of the whole project, a clear reasoning for why he was drawn to the more anonymous but equally challenging work as a stunt and mascot performer than a screen actor.
“If you saw a sword-fight in the film, with people running closer to the swinging blades, that was myself and other stunt performers working as blockers to keep the production safe.
It was also essential to showcase the enormity of the action on screen.”
“[H]earing the call of “Action!”, and then watching a team of men on horseback drag a building through the streets does make you wonder how the hell you ended up here. I love that part of the job.”
Casey’s excitement about the filming process isn’t complete without an expression of his gratitude, as he discusses how well the stunt performers were treated.
“Dressing gowns and hand warmers when it was cold, freshly made juices when we wanted, access to food whenever we were hungry – boy, were we spoilt!”
When watching the movie on a second viewing, the impressive significance of Casey’s contributions are clear. In one scene, a giant building rumbling through the street needed people diving out of the way to create an exciting visual, and Casey was one of the few stunt performers who helped create that visual that became a cornerstone to the film’s marketing and social media campaign around the world, an impressive real-action sequence that did not rely on CGI and helped the movie attract a franchise best of critical appraisal.
For instance, one review referred to the opening sequence and how “visually interesting it was”, and that “even the brief slapstick elements [are] far more creative than they have any right to be. The first sequence, in which Jack and his crew attempt to steal a bank vault, is an absolute delight.” (Denofgeek) –
Of course, a discussion about Pirates can’t be had without mention of its leading man, Johnny Depp, for whom Casey worked beside his stunt doubles.
“…when Depp came in for his scene, it was was awesome. From the moment he stepped on set, he was Captain Jack Sparrow. Even when the scene was finished, he walked back to his trailer, chatting with the extras and stunt performers, still in character.”
Casey’s meaningful experience with A-listers is not limited however, as his role on action blockbuster disaster movie San Andreas with Oscar-nominee Paul Giamatti and movie-star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson showcases.
Paul, Casey says “was an incredibly nice guy, and willing to get in and get his hands dirty too, which is not something you see from a lot of actors of his level.”
“[My role on that movie involved] performing challenging actions in character. Stepping outside of that would break the suspension of disbelief from the audience, and once that happens, it’s hard to get back into it. If you see a boom mike in the middle of a Gladiator movie, you’re taken out of it. It’s the same thing with [San Andreas].”
Casey also had to ensure not only his safety, but the safety of another performer – not another stunt performer, but a nine year old actress, with no prior stunt training.
“We had a good chat with the young actress, explaining all the risks involved. She was 100% fine with everything – asking questions, making sure we all had her covered. I know performers that don’t ask as many questions as she did.” Casey added with a grin.
When seeing the movie, any viewer would be entertained by the marvel of the overall story. But after having spoken with Casey and rewatching the particular scenes he was involved with, the great extent of how dangerous his job is and how important his contributions are to the movie are very apparent.
The actress was suspended on wires, and thrown towards Casey, who had to catch her and then safely cradle her to the concrete floor below. Being able to rise to the challenges put in front of Casey, and executing it successfully, helped ensure the actress stayed safe, and the expensive shoot was not disrupted.
“We put safety pads on her, and rehearsed the sequence several times. Just before we shot it, I gave her a big hug and told her that I’ve got her. She looked me right in the eyes and said, “I know”.
It was incredibly intense, but we were able to get through it safely. “
And it’s details like that for why Casey’s effortless but hardworking contributions have earned him a glowing reputation within the industry, not outside of it.
“I’d rather just my colleagues know me as a great stunt actor or mascot performer.”
Casey adds with a laugh: “I compare stunts to magic . You have much more fun if you don’t think about how the rabbit got in the hat.”