ALEX GREEN:IN HIS OWN WORDS (2002)

“Alex was my stunt double in The Edge. During his down time on the set, I would always see him off cracking his whip. He even gave me a whip as a present when the film wrapped. Little did I know what was in store for us. Out of nowhere came The Mask of Zorro.” – Sir Anthony Hopkins

I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a stunt man in cowboy movies! When I was seven, growing up on a 25,000 acre sheep ranch in Australia’s outback, my father took me to John Wayne’s Red River. I was mesmerized by the Park Cinema and the movies. I never stopped asking questions about how it was all done. My father explained the difference between an actor and a stunt man. Right then I knew it had to be “stunt man.”

After Red River, I lived for the Saturday matinee—three hours of heaven. I never missed Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott or John Wayne. But my real idol was Lash Larue to whom I was drawn because of his whip. Since the age of four, I rode my horse with one hand and cracked my whip with the other. (Stockmen in Australia don’t use a lasso like the American cowboys. The long whips and cattle dogs are their working tools. The whip is also protection from the many poisonous snakes.) I was also drawn to the fancy gun tricks that I saw at the Saturday matinees. I came home and would try to emulate what I saw my “sage-brush heroes” doing using my silver cap pistol.

I remember the first time that I saw Zorro. There was a serial called Zorro’s Fighting Legion, as well as early film versions with, first, Douglas Fairbanks, and then Tyrone Power. I remember going home and putting my raincoat around my shoulders and wearing black rubber boots and my mother’s flat brimmed black hat, whose flowers had to be removed to get the perfect look. They didn’t make movies in Australia when I was young, so I became a commercial artist and designer. I travelled to England, and then to Toronto before arriving in Vancouver in the early 1960s. The first film I worked on was The Trap, which starred Oliver Reed and Rita Tushingham. The producers were looking for background players and I applied for a job. After a few days on set, I was hooked by the whole process.

I took off for Hollywood shortly after that, swapping my whip-cracking lessons for stunt specialties like the high falls, fights, fire, edge weapons, horses and car work. I met many of the best stunt men, including Gil Perkins, David Sharpe, Howard Curtis, Jock Mahoney, Loren Janes, Ronnie Rondell, Buddy Joe Hooker, Billy Burton and the legendary dean of stunts, Yakima Canutt.

During this time, I met two other “legends,” David Kashner and Rodd Redwing. Kashner was then Hollywood’s leading whip expert and Redwing was the industry’s resident fancy gun handler and quick gun expert. Kashner had started with Douglas Fairbanks and had worked on several of his action films. Among his many accomplishments was teaching Spencer Tracy how to use a whip for the film Broken Lance. (Today, one of my most valued possessions is the whip that Tracy used in the film.) Kashner helped me to perfect my accuracy control for shooting in tight situations on a movie set. Rodd Redwing taught me professional western gun handling. Redwing appeared in over 100 westerns and coached over 70 major Hollywood stars.

Returning to Vancouver, I worked as stunt double for the late Bruno Gerussi on The Beachcombers, and anything else that came along, while continuing to practice my commercial art. In 1968, my passion for stunt work led me to help establish the professional organization, Stunts Canada, while using my artist’s skills to design an action logo, consisting of a galloping horse with a man doing the classic western stirrup drag. I was joined in this endeavour by John and Keith Wardlow, the late John Thomas and Alberta’s John Scott. Today, the stunt organization boasts a membership of 44 men and women.

In addition to my stunt work in movies and television, I also perform my whip and gun work in live performances for mainly European and Asian visitors in the major hotels in the city. I have over 2,500 performances to my credit. I have also competed, for eight years, in competitive “fast draw” competitions held in the United States and western Canada and have hosted two popular “how to” videos entitled Whip Cracking Made Easy and Gunplay Made Easy. I also started the “Wild West Arts Club” in 1990 with partner Mark Allen of Las Vegas. The club has more than 600 members from all nations. They can attend any of four annual international conventions to learn the skills that were used in the days of “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.”
I am now beyond my 35th year in the movie business. I would have to attribute my longevity to the training I took early in life, including the judo of my teenage years, which taught me how to fall. Thus far I have had lots of bruises and sprains and torn ligaments, but no broken bits.

I have doubled for many great actors, including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jack Lemmon, Omar Sharif, Christopher Plummer, Leslie Neilsen, Peter Falk, Cliff Robertson and Charles Bronson, who I was doubling for during what I consider to be the most difficult stunt I have performed. It was for the film Death Hunt, which also starred Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. I had to leap out ten feet from a 64 foot cliff, land on a tree which broke and then travel 27 feet to hit another tree. The top branches of the tree were all squibbed for bullet hits and there was a bi-plane flying overhead with a machine gun firing at me. As the squibs went off I let go and fell through the branches to the ground 50 feet below. It was quite the ride.”

My most recent (Whip/Gun) outing was for the film Freddy Got Fingered, in which Tom Green and Rip Torn play characters who are bullwhipped in a jail cell somewhere in the Middle East. Prior to that, I made 3000 Miles to Graceland, in which I played a Nevada state trooper who is blown away by Kevin Costner while doing some fancy gun spinning and fast draw. The “gun and whip” are not true stunts; however, they are part of the “Hollywood fabric.” Thanks to Mr. Redwing and Mr. Kashner, a small part of the movie magic will always be there as there is always a place somewhere for their use.

As for me, what could be better than to live out your dreams. Many people are not that lucky. They spend their lives wishing they were doing something else. I get to dress up and play. The pay is great, but it is not why I do it. I never have the repetition of nine to five. The production cuts my hair and feeds me and I use their clothes. I have craft services around all day if I want it. The special effects people watch over me like hawks to make sure it’s safe and I usually walk away. It’s simply the very best life. I’ll never retire. Eventually I’ll be playing the old, old, guy in the super market scene, the guy who is pushing a shopping cart and gets shoved into a mountain of display cans by the bad guy.

You only go through life once. You’ve got to give it your best shot. What could be better than being a cowboy in the movies?

ALEX GREEN BIOGRAPHY
ALEX GREEN – “THE LEGEND” – 1942-2010

From the time he was a little boy, Alex Green always knew that he wanted to be a stuntman. What he couldn’t foresee growing up on a remote sheep ranch in Australia, is what an impact he would have on the business of stunts in Western Canada.

After emigrating from Australia and eventually settling in Vancouver in the early 1960’s, Alex started his career in film and television as an extra on the 1966 film “The Trap”. He was so excited about finally realizing his dream of being in the movie business, he made the incredible decision to spend a year in Los Angeles learning from some of the best stunt men then working. In exchange for instruction in his fields of gun spinning and whip cracking, they began his education in the art of being a stuntman.

Alex became especially close to one of the legends of the stunt world in Los Angeles, Loren Janes. Loren was Steve McQueen’s stunt double for over 25 years, and the co-founder of the Stuntman’s Association of Motion Pictures, the first professional stunt group in the world. Alex learned from Loren that a group of close-knit, like minded stuntmen was a good way to develop the fledgling Canadian industry in a positive direction, and he decided to form his own group in Canada.

That group was founded in 1970 by Alex and he called it Stunts Canada. 42 years later, it is the second largest stunt group in the world, and the home of the most elite stunt coordinators, performers, second unit directors and action actors in the country. With a membership of close to 60, it has come a long way from the original 5 men who banded together to shape an industry in 1970.

The original core group of Stunts Canada was comprised of 3 men in addition to Alex. John and Keith Wardlow in Vancouver, and John Scott in Alberta. These men would work together for many years, and were themselves responsible for the development of the industry in Western Canada in many ways.

John and Keith Wardlow were both highly skilled stunt performers and stunt coordinators who worked on all the most influential film and television projects in British Columbia during the development of the industry and beyond. They both left the group in the early 1990’s.

John Scott is still a force to be reckoned with in Alberta, as the most established and experienced stunt coordinator, wrangler and provider of livestock and props in the province. John is a vital part of the group to this day as the only original member left. He continues to work steadily; most recently working on the CBC Television series “Heartland”, and also providing all the livestock and horses for the Calgary Stampede Parade annually, in addition to supplying numerous other film and television projects around the country.

Alex and many other Stunts Canada senior members who have grown up with the industry had the opportunity to work with and learn from the best stunt coordinators in the world; people like Yakima Canutt, Loren Janes, Conrad Palmisano, Gary Combs, David Sharpe, Gil Perkins, Vic and Andy Armstrong, Walter Scott and Buddy Joe Hooker. Like Alex, many other members then took what they had learned, and combined it with their own styles of stunting and coordinating. The industry, and Stunts Canada, developed in a very unique way because of this. One of the things that Stunts Canada and it’s members has done over the years is prove to industry decision makers and studio executives that Canadian stuntmen were not only able to provide the skills necessary to get the jobs done, but do it with exceptional talent, skill, safety and creativity.

Alex was talented in many areas, but one of his standout skills was his prowess with the bullwhip. He started on the whip when he was a young boy, and became internationally recognized as a bull whip instructor. Undoubtedly, his career highlight came when he was hired to instruct Sir Anthony Hopkins in the use of the whip, on the set of “The Mask of Zorro”. Not only did his skill with the whip prompt the director to make the whip a more central part of the story, it also solidified what would be a long personal and professional relationship between Alex and Hopkins. They would go on to work together on many more films, and become close friends.

History and tradition were very important to Alex. Equally as important however, was the development and nurturing of young talent, which is why Stunts Canada has been able to keep at the forefront of the industry for over 40 years. Alex was known as a patient teacher and eager mentor, always willing to help out a fellow stunt man, give lessons on the whip or gun, and do anything it took to get the stunt done right. Said Alex “You know when we were young (and most of us still are), we had this hunger to master things…regardless of physical or emotional consequences. We have managed to hang on to that view of life as challenge!! When asked, I think we say yes to a challenge and then start figuring out how to do it. We don’t think negatively at all. We do it to master it. The accomplishment is trying and succeeding.”

Alex was honoured by the Union of B.C. Performers in 2009 with the Sam Payne Award, which honours the individual that best represents humanity, artistic integrity and the development of new talent in the film and television business.

Lee Marvin called Alex “the oldest 6 year old in the world” when they were working together on “Death Race”. He was passionate about being a stuntman from the day he started, until his last day on set. His enthusiasm was contagious, and inspired many throughout the years.

The group, led always by Alex’s vision, has become stronger and more focused. Stunts Canada members are the best of the best in the areas of 2nd unit directing, action acting, stunt coordinating, stunt performing and rigging. Our members have been winners and nominees of many major awards, including the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Taurus World Stunt Awards, the Gemini Awards, the Genie Awards, the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, the Saturn Awards, the Satellite Awards and the Leo Awards.

Stunts Canada is also actively involved in the community, as Alex was, raising money for various charities, including Alex’s beloved Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and generally making it a priority to continue the traditions that Alex had in mind when he started Stunts Canada: giving back to the community in meaningful ways, treating each other with respect, always making safety a priority, and above all, taking care of each other.
Alex passed away on July 20, 2010, of cancer. Stunts Canada held a 40th anniversary party in his honour that same year, and raised over $10,000 to donate to the Canucks Place Children’s Hospice.

He is missed every day, and remembered each time anybody steps into the Stunts Canada office on The Bridge Studios lot that he was so proud of. The Legend lives on in his films, his pictures, his memories, and the legacy that he has left in the form of Stunts Canada and its members.

Videos

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Career Highlights

  • Technical Advisor/Western Whip and Gun Coach: Feature Films
    Alex was the foremost motion picture technical advisor & coach for western fancy gun handling (fast draw) & bullwhip for over three decades (internationally recognized).

    His credits included: “Buffalo Bill & the Indians”, “Shadow of the Hawk”, “Klondike Fever”, “Unforgiven”, “Gunsmoke”, “White Chicks”, “Catwoman”, “Romeo & Juliet”, “Mask of Zorro”, “Shanghai Noon” , “X-Files”, “Bordertown”, “Call of the Wild”, “Davy Crockett”, “Friday the 13th”, “Hawkeye”, “The Immortal”, “Lonesome Dove”, “The Journey of Natty Gann” and “White Fang”

    Alex was the primary bullwhip instructor for both Anthony Hopkins on “Mask of Zorro”, and Halle Berry on “Catwoman”

  • Technical Advisor/Western Whip and Gun Coach: Live Stage
    Over 2500 Live Appearances
    Special Training to Stage Performers – Las Vegas “Wild West Theatre” Aladdin Hotel / Hacienda Hotel / New Frontier Hotel
    Tropicana Hotel Bellagio Hotel – Cirque Du Soleil “O” Extravaganza
    Host and Creator of the DVD Series – “Whip Cracking Made Easy”
    Western Stage Props Movie Whip Line
    *personal product line of over 8 different whips from various Film & Television projects, including the “Indiana Jones” style whip, the official “Zorro” whip, and the “Catwoman” whip.

    Founder and Main Performer – “MGM Wild West Shows”
    Alex was the founder and main performer of an old style Wild West travelling show which showcased accurate dramatizations of the better know legends of the Old West. Each show included expert demonstrations of gun spinning, trick shooting, fast draw exhibitions, re-creations of famous gun fights and a bullwhip display. Alex’s Wild West Show performed over 100 shows in such venues as The Calgary Stampede, The Canadian National Exhibition and The Mike Douglas Show.

    National Cowboy Hall of Fame – 1975
    Inducted for his contributions to the Western Arts

    Founder of “The Wild West Arts Club” – 1990
    The Wild West Arts Club was founded by Alex Green and partner Mark Allen. It’s mission statement was “The Wild West Arts club is dedicated to preserving and promoting the Western Arena Arts & has a dynamic membership of over 600 people from 10 countries around the world. Trick Roping, Whip Cracking, Gun Spinning, Trick Riding, Fast Draw, Knife and Tomahawk Throwing – those and many other heritage arts of the historic American West are being kept alive and given added vitality by the Wild West Arts Club.

Awards

  • Holder of multiple Guinness World Records
    *Cracking the longest stockwhip 140 ft – 1960 – Adelaide, Australia
    *Cracking the longest bullwhip 160 ft – 1993 – Las Vegas, Nevada 

    Taurus World Stunt Award Nominee
    Best Fight – “Shanghai Noon” – 2001

    The Union of BC Performers Sam Payne Award 2009
    honouring the individual that best represents humanity, artistic integrity and the development of new talent in the film and television business.

    The Union of BC Performers John Juliani Award of Excellence 2010
    For his distinguished contribution to the film and television industry. This award is the highest honour given to a member by the Union of BC Performers.

Stunt Doubling

Alex was the principal stunt double for Sir Anthony Hopkins from the time they met on the film “The Edge” in Alberta in 1997. Sir Anthony was so impressed with an 80 foot fall stunt performed by Alex, he made him his main stunt double and took him with him on subsequent projects, including “Mask of Zorro”. Alex taught Sir Anthony the skill of using the bullwhip, which became a major part of the film.

Alex also doubled many other actors, including Charles Bronson in “Death Wish”. Alex’s mastery of Bronson’s mannerisms and physical characteristics was so exact, Bronson’s wife once mistook Alex for her husband on set.

Alex Green’s Doubling Credits Include:
Christopher Plummer
Jack Lemmon
Sir Anthony Hopkins
Omar Sharif
Leslie Nielson
Charles Bronson
Peter Falk
Wilford Brimley
Cliff Robertson

 

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