Growing up, Buddy Sosthand had a Sunday ritual that would serve him well later in life.
His father watched football following church, while his mother opted for Kung Fu movies. Young Sosthand chose Bruce Lee over gridiron glory. The youngster’s passion for action movies offered an early taste of life as a Hollywood stuntman.
Today, Sosthand’s handiwork can be seen on some of Hollywood’s biggest films:
- “The Amazing Spider-Man”
- “Captain America: Civil War”
- “The Expendables”
- The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise
The award-winning stuntman saw Burt Reynold’s “Hooper” as a young man and thought the life of a stunt professional looked amazing. Only he didn’t know how someone got into the business.
Good thing fate intervened.
Sosthand spotted an ad seeking martial artists for a film project shooting in his Texas neighborhood circa 1996. He submitted some Polaroids of himself and bonded with one of the stunt men working on the film.
“It was almost like divine intervention,” Sosthand says. His new colleague noticed his interest in stunt work and became an unofficial mentor. He also offered Sosthand a couch to crash on.
“I drove out to L.A. with $300 in my pocket,” he says.
Sosthand found work as a production assistant and an extra. He taught martial arts at a local park while he slowly got to know other stunt professionals.
It wasn’t easy.
He trained with established stunt coordinators at area gyms, floating his resume in between sessions. He took any Hollywood gig he could to “keep grilled cheese on the table,” he says.
Slowly, he worked himself into the entertainment ecosystem. And, along the way, he un-learned what he spent years as a martial artist learning.
“In the ring fighting, when you get kicked really hard you don’t snap your head and go, ‘argh,’” he says. That shows your opponent he or she landed a quality blow. That’s exactly what you need to see in front of the camera, though.
“When you throw a punch on screen, the camera has to see it,” he adds. “It was a really tough transition in all aspects.”
FAST FACT: Buddy Sosthand won a Taurus World Stunt Award for his work in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
His first professional stunt gig proved both demanding and obligatory for a neophyte. A “car hit.”
“They want to make sure you were tough. You wanna do this? Car hit. Then you do a stair fall,” he says.“There’s no such thing as zero risk' - Stunt professional Buddy SosthandClick To Tweet
From there, stunt professionals can tackle any number of action scenes. Sometimes they’ll work on a particular skill and develop a reputation for them. He’s known for close quarters combat, but can tackle any number of stunts.
Or, as Sosthand puts it with a laugh, “I crash for cash, baby.”
The Pain Factor
So far, his worst on-set injury left him with six broken ribs. The pain wasn’t bad … at first.
“Once the adrenaline goes down, I said ‘maybe I should go to the hospital,’” he says of an injury that took him out of action for six weeks. “We’ve all been concussed, gotten bumps and bruises.”
The rise of CGI technology is changing some, but certainly not all, of the stunt business. Bigger budgeted projects can use ones and zeroes to make an action sequence look real. Other films have to go old school to get a similar effect.
“If they don’t have the money for FX, then it’s ‘let’s do it for real,’” says Sosthand, who has doubled for Samuel L. Jackson among other major stars.
And while CGI can let a stunt professional avoid certain dicey situations, danger lurks within every gig.
“There’s no such thing as zero risk,” he says.
Sosthand keeps fit by doing cross training, boxing and rock climbing. Every stunt performer is different, though. A huskier pro might work on his or her agility over staying lean. Stars come in a variety of body types, after all.
Sosthand has more on his mind these days than just stunt work. He’s the co-host of “The Great American Podcast” with actor John Pirruccello. The non-partisan podcast might explore Black Lives Matter one week then basic American history the next.
“I had a radio show in college. This is almost like returning to my roots,” he says.
An early takeaway?
“I‘ve learned how important it is to have a conversation. Let’s go on the porch and kick it,” he says. And while the show offers a forum for folks on the left and the right, the tone is gentle, not combative. He does enough of that on screen.
“I’ve learned there’s a lot more hope [for the country] than what’s portrayed in the media,” he says.