His name is Will Cascio and he can ride . . . and he can fall. He's a Hollywood stunt man, and Andrew Kavovit's primary stunt-double on CBS's The Magnificent Seven.Copyright 1999,
Growing up in a family of horse breeders, riding seemed to come naturally to Cascio. "I've been horseback-riding since day one. Started rodeoing at thirteen -- team roping -- [which I did] professionally for nine or ten years." From there he became a professional jockey, riding and winning on horses trained by this father and grandfather.
While riding at Los Alamitos race track in southern California, Cascio was introduced to a friend of his father's, Bennie Dobbins, a stunt coordinator, known for his work with Hollywood legends such as Arnold Schwartznegger. "Well, I immediately latched onto him, telling him I wanted to be an actor." Dobbins encouraged Cascio from the beginning, treating him like a son, and introducing him to everyone he knew -- anyone who could possibly be of assistance to the eager young man and his budding acting career. Dobbins "was a rare man who was never afraid of his job, and in this business that's RARE. I loved that man, and still do." Unfortunately, Dobbins passed away before seeing any of his young protege's work.
Cascio's first big break was a co-starring role in Bluegrass as a jockey -- no big stretch there -- but it gave him the opportunity to work with Rudy Ugland, the head wrangler on the TV mini-series. Ugland then introduced him to another stunt coordinator, Walter Scott, who hired Cascio to stunt double for Michael J. Fox in both sequels of Back To The Future. At just under 5'8" with a slim build and brown hair, Cascio was able to pull off the stunt-double work without a hitch.
From there, Cascio caught work in films such as Far And Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and even had some fun riding for one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the third movie of that series, though the costume proved to be more than he'd bargained for: "No," Cascio says, laughing, "I couldn't see a damn thing through that head!"
Cascio's most recent work on the big screen is the 1999 release Hi-Lo Country with Woody Harrelson and Billy Cruddup. Cascio has a small role starting a brawl with the two stars. And who wins? Well, let's just say that the life of a stunt man is full of hard knocks.
And then there is the television series The Magnificent Seven -- a reworking of the 1960 movie, now starring Michael Biehn, Ron Perlman, and Andrew Kavovit. Cascio was hired again by Walter Scott, for the 1998 pilot, to double for Kavovit to whom he is "real close in weight and appearance as doubles go. I believe I make a great double for him. You will never see me." Most of the work he does for Kavovit is the harder horse-work and far-off views. "As a matter of fact, I believe it's me in the weekly trailer, when you see the Seven all riding abreast through a field."
Kavovit, though, is known for wanting to do as many of his own stunts as possible -- "There hasn't been a stunt that I didn't want to try, but there have been a couple that I was glad they didn't let me," Kavovit says -- so Cascio is sometimes there simply to provide information and advice about particular scenes: the terrain, coordination with the other stunt men, and how Kavovit's horse might respond to the action. "I usually don't have to say much -- [Kavovit's] no dead weight on the set. He usually knows everything and is very easy to communicate with, but I'm there as a horseman and a stunt man to ensure he is comfortable with everything taking place. . . . If he gets hurt, I'm out a friend and a job." And how does Cascio feel about the actors doing their own stunts? "[It] does take money out of my own pocket as a stunt man, sometimes though, and the audience is going to believe it's me anyway." But he takes it with a grain of salt: "That's just the way the business works." Of course, with Kavovit doing some of his own stunts, there is more opportunity for close-up filming during the action sequences. In the opening scene of the second-season episode 'The New Law,' it was Kavovit who tackled bad-guy Cascio off a running horse: "Another stunt man [then] took me through the window . . . complicated, huh?" But these guys make it look so easy.
Still, the stunt man and actor gets back more than a bit of his own from Kavovit when he guest stars as Mark Nichols in The Magnificent Seven episode 'Vendetta' with Tyne Daly. Cascio loves working on the show, and Nichols is a role he wouldn't mind reprising next season, so if you like his work be sure to let CBS know!
So far, the cast and crew of The Magnificent Seven have been careful to avoid any major injuries on the set, but this is always an issue for a stunt man, especially on such an action-packed series. "When a stunt scene is being shot, and it's potentially life-threatening, people in the shot and on the crew are called to hyper-attention: there is no talking, the stunt people become in control of the whole production. They have the right to stop the shot should something not go as planned, or just plain not feel right." On another shoot, Cascio was witness to a situation which went from bad to worse: "A covered wagon was supposed to release the [four-horse team] pulling it just before it was to flip forward, end over end, from an air cannon built inside, with the stunt man staying in for the ride." With the first two attempts, "the horses got more out of control, the level of intensity was getting out of hand, and it started to get scary, so they called a meeting and decided that something was definitely going to go wrong, you could just feel it, [and] the production [staff] listened to intuition -- 'the signs' -- and decided to call it off. Smart movie making -- smart people, professionals."
So, it's up to the stunt coordinator, Walter Scott in the case of The Magnificent Seven, to call the shots. "If it's that dangerous, chances are the actor will not be allowed to try the stunt." And while Cascio has never had to replace an injured actor, he has been called in when a less-experienced stunt man did not seem capable of doing the job safely. Still, Andrew Kavovit is "tough," says Cascio, and he likes to do as many of his own stunts as he can, as many as they will allow him. Aside from the dumbest thing Kavovit's ever done (which Cascio says is wearing that sombrero in 'The New Law'), his most dangerous stunt was trying a running vault onto his horse: "[He] got dragged all the way down Main Street, but he survived." Kavovit actually thought this ill-fated stunt was funny!
Unfortunately for Cascio, his most rewarding and exciting stunt work on The Magnificent Seven never appeared on screen: "I did a horse fall and some pretty wild riding for [Kavovit] in [the pilot]; however, it didn't fit the story, they decided, so they cut it out." Kavovit adds, "He jumped a horse off of an eighteen-wheeler flatbed, over a six-foot wall of rocks, and had to fall off his horse upon landing. And I thought I was crazy!!!" Hate to break it to you, boys, but you're both nuts!
Given the opportunity to talk behind his friend's back, Cascio jokingly had this to say about Andrew Kavovit: "Well, I'm sorry to say the whole 'star thing' has kinda changed him. You know, the typical, 'Where's Andy?' Well, he's not dressed yet, or he has to have breakfast first, or his wardrobe's the wrong color for his eyes; he's out of suntan lotion and refuses to come out of his trailer; can't work until his girlfriend arrives on the set to watch him; his guns aren't polished enough; his reins are too long; his stirrups are too short; his horse hasn't had breakfast yet; why does Chris always get to draw first? I'm telling you, I never hear the end of it!!
So, what does Kavovit have to say in return? "Will is a good guy, a good rider, and a good stuntman. . . . [We] got along from the pilot. I think we're similar because Will wants to act and I love doing stunts. I want JD to be scrappy-tough and Will has to portray that equally during stunts. . . . He doesn't mind hitting hard. He's a good physical match and he looks hysterical in his wig. It makes me wonder what my hair looks like if that is supposed to match. "
Cascio says, "And you ask me what it's like working with Andy??? He's great. (Just doin' my part to make his life a little easier.)" Ain't we all!
Finally, Cascio has some advice for the big star: "Hey, pal, if you really want to make a difference, get a hat with a bigger brim next season, so I can go home at night, on occasion, after a long day in the sun, without a Defcon-3, sunburned face." Seems like such a small worry for a man who risks life and limb each week to give the audience some fine pieces of daredevil excitement.
Now we must bid a fond farewell to our man of action, Mr. Will Cascio, who leaves us with these parting words: "Till next week, World . . . this is the Willyman . . . I'm out."
Happy trails, pard.
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