I have a couple of fun interviews that I’m preparing for the site and this one features longtime Stallone stunt double Mark DeAlessandro! As you’ll read, Mark has been a part of ActionFest in the past, and has another staggering resume of massive action films from many of Stallone’s greatest and beyond. Mark even offered some details about a fight sequence he did for The Dark Knight Rises! You’ll also find Mark’s stunt reel embedded, which is REALLY worth a watch. Read on for more.
Ed Travis: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Our co-founder Aaron Norris keeps telling me about your stunt reel, so I re-watched it right before I called you. I think you win, man. You win the stunt reel competition!
Mark DeAlessandro: [Laughs] I might have the best reel, huh? Did you see Jack Gill’s reel? He has a good one, huh?
ET: Yeah, he has a few, actually! Great stuff. But yours is one nice, dramatically cut together package.
MD: Well thanks, I appreciate it. The reel pretty much tells you my story in some ways. From meeting Stallone in an elevator in 1984 and going from oil fields in Texas to working in Mexico where I met the Rambo crew. I then doubled Stallone on and off for the last 25 years although I didn’t do his last couple of shows. Rocky Balboa won a big stunt award in 2008 in which I got honored with the best stunt actor award.
ET: Was that a Taurus Award?
MD: Yes, and there was also an award for the Pirates of the Caribbean 3 fight which a whole group of stunt people won. But anyway, the neat thing about my story is that I ended up coming into the business as a stand in. I met Stallone in an elevator, which is a 10 minute story. But just to make it brief, I went from a stand in to a stunt double and the next scene I’m hanging off a helicopter, the next scene I’m jumping off a waterfall with 150 gallons of gas blowing up behind me! Then I moved out to LA and worked on Rocky IV, which I ended up becoming a stunt coordinator on. And that was unbelievable for your second show. My dad had boxed in the Marines and I sparred Golden Gloves when I was a kid and played high school football, so I had some fight experience. The preparation met the opportunity. But I had never thought about being a stunt guy. Then I ended up meeting a lot of other people and have doubled Kurt Russell and Dennis Quaid, and I just recently doubled Ray Liotta. Then fast forward to today and I just worked on Burn Notice today here in Florida. We just did a jackknifed 18 wheeler sequence. And I got to be one of the drivers.
They force you to do some stunt acting jobs as you get older and now I’m one of the featured mercenaries in The Dark Knight Rises that is coming out soon. I got to do some really cool hand to hand combat with 12 mercenaries. Anne Hathoway is there in her nice Catwoman outfit and Christian Bale as Batman. It is on a rooftop and the Bat Copter is there which is the bomb. It was unbelievable.
I also worked on the Pirates films over the years and just worked on the last Spiderman film with a bit part as a SWAT team member interacting with The Lizard who goes against Spiderman.
ET: I’m glad you touched on how you met Sylvester Stallone because I was planning to ask about that. Very interesting that it was a chance encounter! But how did you meet Aaron Norris and get involved with the ActionFest family?
Clicks Photography: Mark DeAlessandro takes a punch from Paul Weston at ActionFest 2010
MD: I have a friend that knew Chuck Norris from Missing In Action, around the mid-1980s. But I did Walker, Texas Ranger. Aaron and Eric brought me on as a stunt actor. A lot of it is about who you know. I did a bunch of episodes. It was great working in Texas and funny enough, I ended up living in Texas. And I get a lot of work now in Louisiana. But anyway, I worked with Aaron on Walker and with Eric, his brother. And ActionFest? They do great work raising money for KickStart Kids and providing martial arts training for kids who otherwise can’t afford it. So I came out to help them raise funds. Aaron and I have been friends since the Walker days. I also did some work with Eric Norris and Garry Brown, who were producers on Walker. And here I am now. Looking forward to the next ActionFest, this should be the best one!
ET: I agree, can’t wait for it. Now, I have just a couple more questions and I wanted to try and make them different from questions I have asked all the other stunt guys I’ve interviewed. Since we are going to post your reel along with this interview I wanted to ask about the importance of the stunt reel. Aaron always tells me that every stunt guy has a reel. How important is your reel for you getting jobs, etc?
MD: Since I’m making the move to more stunt coordinating and second unit directing… I’ve done a lot more of that in the last 5-7 years. I did a TV show called The Gates which was a vampire and werewolf series. It went sideways because they put it up against True Blood but it was number 1 on Fox for its time slot, they just got a little confident and went against True Blood. But anyway, the reel helps you get stunt coordinating jobs and day jobs, too. The reel is sort of like a live resume. You knew a lot of things to ask me about just from watching my reel, right?
ET: Very true!
MD: But really, my story is a Rocky story. Ironically they used to call me Rocky in High School and I hated the name. I’d say “I don’t look like that guy, I don’t talk like him”. And then I am doubling Stallone on 25 or 26 shows! It has really helped my career. I’m really happy to do this for the rest of my life. If you can move up into the stunt coordinating and second unit directing you can do this until you are 75!
Clicks Photography: Mark DeAlessandro repels down the side of The Carolina at ActionFest 2010
ET: One last question about your reel. There are a lot of stunts from Demolition Man in there! Was that one of the most important movies on your resume? Did it make a big difference in your career?
MD: Well, when you make a reel it is hard because there are so many shows, so many stunts. Like Cliffhanger. That is probably one of the most versatile experiences of my career. I had to learn to rock climb, there was a scene with an 18 wheeler being driven, there were fights, there was high work, you had to deal with the elements. And you just go for it. I also had a little law enforcement role at the beginning. Then the Pirates films were phenomenal. Titanic was incredible, being there with tons of water pouring over me. Even though we shot in Mexico it was cold! So no one show is the best show, for me, but lots of people point out Cliffhanger and say “Wow”. And as I was putting together my reel I thought “Oh my gosh, I’m never going to get past 1993!” [Both laugh] And now I feel like I have to go through it and add some Batman footage and Spiderman footage. And this isn’t a popularity thing but I had a reel within just a few years of my career starting. And now I’m thinking about all the stuff I need to add to the reel like Get Carter, which I coordinated, and The Gates!
So no, I can’t single out just one film that was a favorite. I mean come on, you had the last Rocky Balboa with Rocky making a comeback, which was great. And now I’m working with Ray Liotta on The Ice Man which is about a hit man that killed over 200 people. And Liotta is his partner. I’m Italian, man, so working with the guy from Goodfellas? Come on! But Batman was pretty much up there because I’ve always been a huge Batman fan. Being around Anne Hathaway and Christian Bale was great.
But a lot of people that come up to talk to me say “Oh my gosh, you did Rocky”. And that is neat since my story kind of is a Rocky story. Going from a chance encounter to within a month doubling the number one action star? I think that is a pretty good story for the book about my life.
ET: Hey, if you write a book, I’ll read it.
MD: Maybe you can be my ghost writer?!
ET: I’d love it!
MD: I also want to say that my faith in Christ has helped me a lot. I’ve been through some near death experiences and that has been a key to holding it all together. I find a lot of principles of what is behind Hollywood are vanity, pride, power. Lots of shows are about vulgarity and sex scenes. But a lot of stunt guys do have a faith; if you are going to be a stunt man you have to have faith in something. Some have faith in themselves. But I have a faith in Christ and stand on the scripture that says “we can do far greater things through Christ who strengthens us”.
I don’t call it religious, I call it having a relationship with your maker. That is a big part of my story. But it is all about having a relationship. That has been a big plus for me; not being embarrassed about who I am. I know a lot of people say “that is not for me”, but I’m not trying to push anything on anyone. I just want to shine the light. A job like this can be exciting but it can take you to dark places with a lot of back biting. But with most of the good shows you have good people on them, because the bad people just don’t last long. Sooner or later the phonies are exposed.
So in the end, I don’t want to talk about my career without talking about being a Christian. Not a religious one, but one in a relationship with Christ. It is a huge part of who I am.
ET: Well thanks so much for sharing all of that, Mark.
MD: I guess that just about covers everything, huh?
ET: Again, thanks so much!
What’d you all think of Mark’s story? I can’t believe he met Stallone in an elevator! A true chance encounter that resulted in a 25+ year partnership!
And I’m Out.