John Ryan

Stunt Actor 1969 - 1971

I was encouraged by Bernard King from Brisbane (my home town) to go to Melbourne to pursue my aspirations as a Stunt Actor. I had been appearing regularly on local TV, amateur theatre, live demos of Karate & Martial Arts, stunts at shows etc. since the early '60s. I was also doing Security part time to live and that was a part of my life until the present 2007 (40 years.) It is full time now obviously.

After a short stint in the Army, a stint in the "Funny Country" as a privateer, I arrived at Melbourne's 475 Collins Street and asked for a go (1969). Henry Crawford gave me a chance at a one-off as a "thug truck hijacker" in an episode of Homicide (Valley of Silence). On arrival on location, director George "Noddy" Miller wanted to know who could skid the baddies car and cut off the truck with the undercover cop (George Mallaby) driving .... I volunteered and assured him I knew what I was doing. Then we needed a "fight" to ensue and to be choreographed (blocked), I again assured him I was the man. George and Leonard Teale encouraged me to do it, and away we went. .....Not too many takes to get to me jumping from the car and reaching for the door of the truck and ...POW! . The door slammed into my face knocking me to the ground and as I started to get up, cosh still in hand, BAM!!!! the U/C Detective ("Barnes") kicks the bad guy in the face and pulls me up, slamming me into the truck and one good one into the belly and the biggest right cross you could ever imagine. Then, up turns the uniform cops to drag me away, (real ones) we used in the episode.
WOW a cop kicking a baddie, ...that made the news in TV Week and was the first time there was censoring by 7..... I got a full time appointment as the resident Stuntman for Crawfords, another TV first in Australia. But as usual with the budgets at Crawfords, there was a catch, I got a company vehicle, BUT it had the towbar, so I had the responsibility of the location caravan. More "luxury" for the talent. Weekly wage plus a negotiated fee for each stunt and permission from the Budget Controllers prior to a stunt happening.

Well, things started happening, VERY high speed chases for real instead of camera speed being slowed, although when a magnetic based siren came flying off the "Police Car" bonnet when I had it airborne over the railway crossing in North Melbourne, there was a minor rumble from head Office.

Then it happened, for an episode called "Kindly Killers" we got the budget and permission to really crash a car instead of the former "perception" techniques. What a buzz!! and we had MULTIPLE cameras for it. HOWZAT!!
Danny (Burstall) on the Arriflex from the front with Igor (Auzins) and another crew menmber with handhelds and only one take. I had spent the weekend crashing wrecks in a quarry, drivers side down practising. When we got to location the roadworks mound I was going to use to roll the car was on the opposite side of the road, that's easy, we crashed it at a faster rate and put it on its roof.

I have a vast array of "funny" anecdotes, as you can imagine with all the various stunts we undertook, from an actor getting really buttstroked with a rifle by "Inspector Fox" after I took them through the scene over and over so it wouldn't happen, but the adrenilin was flowing on the "take" and then, so was the blood, with George Miller screaming out to keep rolling and don't waste the real blood flow. Better than the capsules we were using.

Luis Bayonas had completed a documentary script re the real Cat Burglar in Melbourne who had been preying on rich Jewish families and cast me as "The Coolest Cat in Town". When we did a night shoot on location at the home of one of the real victims, someone forgot to check if the residents were all away, but Granny was home and thinks she sees the same guy on the balcony jumping onto her driveway and running towards the entrance, when, lo and behold, I'm surrounded by Cops (real ones) with real guns. As I'm dressed in the black trackie and glasses and white shoes as per the real "Cat", I'm screaming out "Channel 9!, Channel 9!" with the crew in stitches back down the driveway. That was a hoot !!! NOT.

17th Feb 2007