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Diary of Patrick Condren At The World Stunt Awards
24 Jun 2004 :

Patrick and Yvonne at The World Stunt Awards in LA

Read Patrick Condren's diary entries from his recent visit to LA where he was nominated for 'Best Action in a Foreign Film' at the Taurus World Stunt Awards. A must read that features movie stars, high-speed car chases, ripped parachutes and beauty salons!

 
Hollywood Here I Come!

The excitement is building. We are off to Hollywood for the second biggest award ceremony (next to the Oscars!) in the world, the 'Taurus World Stunt Awards'. The awards were set up by Redbull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, as a way of honouring the stunt performers of the world. Nominations are made by your stunt peers from all over the world. The profits from the show go to a 'Taurus foundation', which gives grants and assistance to people, and families who have been impacted by stunt tragedies.

The audience and press attendance at these awards are apparently bigger than even the Emmy's or Golden Globes. Only the Oscar's have a bigger audience and a bigger press attendance. I have been nominated (with my brother Joe) for 'Best Action in a foreign Film' for the Film 'Intermission'. Yvonne and I have decided to fly out early and to do a little training and soak up some L.A. sunshine and go shopping!!.

Flight was 9 hrs and went smoothly with no need for my parachute!

On arrival we were picked up by a stretched black Limo and transferred to meet up with LA stunt master Bobby Ore. Bobby is an old friend and probably the best stunt driver in the world. He is also the best teacher and runs a school for stunt drivers (and law enforcement agencies) in Camerillo, California; just outside L.A. (www.bobbyoresports.com). Bobby very kindly gave me the use of a Lincoln LS for the duration of my stay. The Lincoln LS is probably the best car I have ever driven on the roads; it provides top quality comfort with real performance and safety. The engine is a 4.6 ltr, with every electronic aid that you can mention including indy-car standard tiptronic gear change. Boyz and their toys!!

We were booked into a 5 star hotel in Beverly Hills, within walking distance from Rodeo drive. By the time we reached the hotel, we only had the energy to unpack the bare essentials (the ceremony dress and suit) and eat a quick snack. By 7.45 local time (3.45AM Irish time) we were fast asleep.

 
Shake, rattle and Roll.

Blue skies and sun is shining - great start! Today was always going to be a tough day. Our clocks were 8 hours out and we had a 7.30 start at Bobby Ore's driving school, 80 minutes from our hotel. I had been through Bobby's courses before and had helped 'Screen Training Ireland' arrange for Bobby to teach his courses in Ireland to a group of stunt people from Irish Actors equity. Today was meant to be a refresh for me, and the beginning of a course for Yvonne.

My scheduled course was an advanced stunt/precision-driving course, which had 4 US stunt persons and myself (as a refresh). We started by reviewing and completing the basic course and were tested by Bobby. After passing the basic test we then moved on to the preliminary advanced course slalom, forward and reverse 180's and right and left sliding box parks (sliding sideways in to a parking space)- against the clock and while being chased. Burning rubber everywhere! The margin for error is 6 inches - 7 inches is a fail. This is incredibly precise driving and normally the failure rate is high, but on this occasion all of the students are repeat advanced students so we all got up to standard quickly and were allowed to progress to the next stages.

In the mid to late afternoon I'm really feeling the heat (90's) and the effects of the travel/time difference. The next exercise is a 100 meter slide at 45 degrees and exiting a twin hairpin, do the whole thing in reverse (from the other direction, then end in a forward 180 sliding box park. The entry speed here is about 70 mph. That sure woke me up! Rarely have I been so glad to see my bed. Yvonne is dead for the world too, the constant work over the 12-hour day with spinning cars with burning tyres in that incredible L.A. heat, on top of the jet-lag have really sapped our energy. I begin to wonder will I be able to remain fully alert for what will be a very long night at the awards ceremony on Sunday next.

 
You got me spinning round and round.

The class started at eight o'clock today (so we enjoyed the lie in!). Already the temperature is in the mid 80's. I'm now covered in what feels like two inches of sun block and I'm sporting the most ridiculous hat in existence. It is a bright orange 'legionnaire' style baseball cap, but I'm assured that it is fully UVA and UVB proof to factor 50+. Over the course of the day it proves it's worth the 'daffy duck' comments.

The driving today is extra special. We start with a high-speed pursuit course, this is an element of the elite law enforcement-driving course. It's a case of negotiating though a high speed slalom (70+ mph), taking 90 degree turns and 180 degree avoidance measures, normal slalom and ending with a hairpin exit. At speed and while being chased by Bobby who is about 12 inches from your car, that is a pressure exercise, but one which makes you a much better driver.

The next exercise is a series of accident (or obstacle) avoidance skills. The purpose of this exercise is to further develop accuracy and high-speed car control. We end the day with full four-wheel drifting exercises, that are drifting entirely around a coned figure of eight. If you can do two full cycles you pass, otherwise you fail. It is difficult to explain on paper just how high the quality of the driving and the driving instruction is, but if you consider that one of the exercise in the basic course is reversing and throwing the car round in a reverse 180 then immediately sliding the car in to a 90 degree parking space (with a six inch margin of error) at 60 mph, then you are getting close. For my money Bobby Ore is both the best stunt driver and the best stunt-driving instructor in the world.

After a long high-octane day it is definitely time for bed.

 
Fist Full of Dollars.
One of the best consumer experiences in the US is the one that is so good that the US has not exported them in and significant way as yet, the Outlet mall. In short every designer and major high street brand at real bargain prices. Since we first discovered the Outlet's on a Skydiving holiday in Florida, no US trip would be complete without a visit to the outlets. From Timberland jackets and boots at $25 to Levi's for $15. A fist full of dollars buys a lot, but the flexible friend is required to satisfy the appetite. It is possible to buy clothes for a couple of years in one US trip, for men the cost is probably not much more that $1,000. That is for plenty of top quality, designer clothes. It will come as no surprise that we stock up well. Our biggest concern today is, how do we get all of this stuff home!
 
Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Rodeo drive is probably the best known street in the world for expensive shops, and for ostentatious displays of wealth. Tiffany's jewellers has it's own place in US wealth folklore, so it's not surprising that Tiffany's has a branch on Rodeo - it's actually got pride of place on the corner with Wilshire Boulevard. Above Tiffany's and to the rear, is a beautiful little restaurant with a view over Wiltshire and Rodeo Walk (a faux European street). So we decided that today was going to be our 'Rodeo experience' day. We went here for breakfast, and of course to people-watch.

I doubt if there is a better place to people-watch anywhere in the world. A couple of leisurely hours sipping coffee (no one here seems to really drink) and having breakfast (again no one seems to really eat, they pick at the food), is a real eye opener. Every cliché that you have ever heard or seen were manifest in front of our eyes. From the leggy blonde in the Barbie doll pink clothes and high heels, walking the pink poodle with the ridiculous bush like pruning, to the smarmy gold dripping pot belly balding mid-life crisis man who tried to chat up Yvonne while I was away from the table, it's all on display from 8.00AM. When we eventually got tired of another round of air kissing 'stepford' wives, who expressed oh so sincerely how well each other was looking, to backbite that same lady as soon as she left the table; we decided to take a walk up Rodeo itself.

I must admit that the jukebox in my head was alternating between 'Beverly Hills Cop music' and 'Pretty Woman', and again the locals did not disappoint. Gucci, Fendi and Versace are just of few of the shops on this street, and not necessarily the most expensive! A dazzling display of elegance, style, glitz and glamour, and that is just the sales assistants! It's the first time that I ever felt that I should have dressed in my best suit just to go shopping. While no one actually said 'sorry we don't have anything for you here', they did eye my shorts and trainers in a rather dismissive way. Especially the men, I definitely felt that most of the men that we met there were offended by my dress sense and really would give anything to get me 'co-ordinated', 'Will and Grace' style.

The shopping on Rodeo drive was a very interesting experience, and is definitely worth the effort. But we did have serious business at hand. Yvonne had bought 'The Dress' in Dublin (for any men reading: this is the dress that she wants to wear for the big night, all women instinctively knew that), what we were looking for were shoes and a bag. I actually enjoyed wandering around looking for the right shoes, and having passed up many offerings including Channel and Ralf Lauren we eventually found the perfect shoes and the perfect matched bag. So, we walk back to the Hotel, the whole Rodeo experience, only 8 hours.

 
Flying high in Hollywood.

Patrick flying above the Hollywood Hills

Today is time for a photo op. I got my Pilots licence in January 2000 in Camerillo airport, so I went back there to charter a plane. I have only had the minimum flight time since then, so I'm a little apprehensive. Not that flying is any problem, but the radio traffic can be a challenge, especially as I want to fly in to some of the worlds

busiest airspace to get a photo of me flying over the Hollywood sign. Does that sound a little vain? Well I understand marketing and I know that it will be a great shot.

So a quick visit to the doctor for a PPL medical and a checkout ride, I'm round to my old flight school to become airborne again. I have chartered a Cessna 172P, which is about 4 years old and has all of the latest technology fitted, including a GPS which indicates airspace boundaries. I take off and head through 5 different air traffic control (ATC) centres to get to the Hollywood sign, we do a couple of passes before heading back to Camerillo, again transitioning 5 different ATC centres, but the flight is otherwise quite normal. It was great to be back flying again; it is such a great feeling that I wonder why it's such an ordeal in Ireland. I practiced some flight exercises, stalls, turns, emergency landings and VOR navigation, then it's time to stop playing and to go home, retracing my flight in my car; which of course takes 3 times longer.

 
The Fall Guy.

Back in the saddle again, or at least back in the parachute harness. Perris Valley just outside L.A. is California's main Skydiving centre. A very professional operation, with good facilities, aircraft and well maintained rental kit. Today we have come to do just two jumps, from 14,500 feet, just to get current again. It's been 4 years since my last jump (2 since my last wind tunnel), so I'm a little apprehensive. Shortly before our last jumps we both had skydiving 'incidents'. Both were not our fault, just one of those things, but the hardest thing that you will ever do is rip away what appears to be a good canopy (parachute), because your trainer is screaming that there is something wrong. That is exactly what I had to do 4 jumps back, when my canopy opened the cables between me and it were like a solid rope, all coiled round each other. This happens sometimes and a gentle pull and body rotation normally corrects them, but not that time. The training says, rip the canopy away and pull the reserve, but that is a hard call to make when you are floating on that canopy. If you do not you will fall too fast and will not be able to steer the canopy which has serious landing implications. The problem is that the parachute is not the proper shape as the tight cables at the corners are arching the canopy - which should be flat, but from the point of view of the skydiver, it looks Okay (from directly below). So your mind plays a game with you. Why tear away a canopy that is 'mostly okay' and take a chance on a reserve opening? Training kicks in and you accept that looks are deceiving yourself and the statistically the best thing to do is to rip the main shute away and pull the reserve. Easier said than done mentally, but its probably the reason that I'm still around today to write this.

This time (as with 300+ others) there are no such issues and again we both realise what we have been missing back in Ireland. The funny thing about Skydiving is that once you forget about the noise of the air rushing past at 126mph, it is actually incredibly peaceful and yet exhilarating. It puts us in the mood for 'Van Helsing' tonight on the Imax screen in Universal Studios.

 
Pretty Woman.

Today is the calm before the storm. We know that the next two days will be mostly Awards business, so we just relaxed and did a little shopping for 'hard to get things' like specialist stunt equipment and the shopping list that our 'friends and family' gave us before we left.

In the afternoon Yvonne had an appointment in a Rodeo Drive beauty salon. As is the case with most men, I regard what goes on in there as "women's business" and keep well away, but this time I drove up with Yvonne and waited inside the salon.

What an eye opener! It was like 'Legally Blonde' on speed. Never have I heard so many people talk, so much, about absolutely nothing! Nothing at all, none of it made any sense. If I hear the expressions 'It's so', 'un-ha', 'he said to me', 'hold on girl' and 'girlfriend' (one girl to another in a social way) I'm going to freak out. One hour solid of literally sitting in the centre of 10 women, both staff and customer, prattling on, about toe nails, boob jobs, fake tans, electrolysis vs. Wax, most of the women seemed to be engaged in several conversations at once. The only respite was when they would all stop and look at me and one of them would say "ain't he cute for waiting for his girl". Apparently the lady with Yvonne though that I was very nice for participating because my head was nodding, little did she know it was in a state of murderous bewilderment. Interesting experience thank you! Never going back to a 'beauty salon' ever again, even with headphones on- I can't even imagine my legs getting waxed!.

 
The good, the bad and the ugly.

Today is all about the press conference, which is in the late afternoon and early evening. To kill the time we went with the Redbull team to the Outlet mall (honest we did not want to go, they made us!). Or problem with case space significantly increased, we have to get home quick!

The press reception was an interesting affair. It was my first time at one, so it was all- new to me. It started with the producers of the show being introduced to the press, then the hosts, Denis Hopper and Carmen Electra. It's all smiles and teeth and witticism, but one can tell that the hosts would prefer better questions from some of the press. 'When you divorce your current husband, can I marry you Carmen?' was not a journalistic high point.


Dennis Hopper and Carmen Electra

Then it was a round of five 'meet the nominees', in which five US based nominees were introduced to the press. It was very interesting listening to the answers that they gave to what were better questions. I was concerned that

with the attitude to injury though, they accepted it as part of the job. To me something (probably me) has failed if an injury occurs to my stunt team or me. After this session we were introduced as the international nominees, and I gave several interviews to European, Asian and South American journalists. I think that I ruffled a few feathers when I said that injury was not acceptable to me, it indicated a failure of the safety systems. I standby that; it should always be possible to achieve the stunt without hurting people. It can be a risk, but most of the examples that I have heard of were avoidable. We finished this evening with a meal at 'The Ivy', which must be one of the best restaurants in L.A., and they certainly serve one of the best steaks I've ever had.
 
And the nominee's are...

Today is the big day and I'm only nervous about one thing, the speech. It never stuck me as an issue before, a quick few "thank you's" to the team and a pleasantry about the honour of the award and I'm off, but unfortunately I had enough time to think about it and what I should be saying. I have felt all along that the nomination was a massive honour in itself and that I'm already a winner having become the first Irish person to be nominated. I have also known (and said on TV and Radio interviews) that the nomination may be for Joe and I, but that it is really a 'feather' in the cap of all of the stunt (Stunt Actors Register/Irish Actors Equity) team and special effects crew (Team FX), and also the wider industry. To me it is a justification for all of the hard work that has gone in to setting up the equity stunt section and bringing on the new talent that is there. In many ways it both closes a chapter for me, and opens a new one.

It occurs to me that I'd never have had the opportunity to be nominated for this award were it not for Mick Rowlands and Bronco McLoughling who I'm proud to say were my stunt mentors. I learned the basic's of my craft from them. Words can never repay the debt I owe to each. Likewise for Kevan Barker, Mary Alleguin who gave me the right opportunities at the right time, to develop and grow in my profession. Also Jo Homewood, Carol Moorhead, Martin O'Malley, Seamus McInerney and Patrick O'Donahue who have given me such valuable subsequent work. That's without going in to the special producers and directors that I have worked with, and there are many. So you see that the problem is that there are so many people that I feel I'd like to thank publicly in this speech that I could never do it. Then there is the biggest problem of all; what if I forget someone. Will they be offended? I can see the need to confine it to just the guys from Intermission (John Crawley, Mark Rowe, Alan Maloney and Neil Jordan), but I'd have rather extend the thank you to others too. I'll never joke about an Oscar speech again. The only thing that I have absolutely decided on is that I will top and tail the speech in Irish (and no tears of course), if I get the opportunity to deliver it at all.

We arrived at the ceremony by stretched-limo (what else) with Felix who is regarded as the finest parachutist in the world (hold both speed and distance records). There is a camera frenzy as we exit the car, I assume because no one knows who we are and they want to cover their bases 'just in case'. We walk the red carpet, Yvonne, me, Joe and Louise stopping for photos and mini-


Felix, Ashlee Dickinson, Patrick & Yvonne

interviews/sound bites along the way. Yvonne is looking even more fantastic than ever, 'The Dress' and the Rodeo shoes and bag are right at home here. The glitz and glamour is fantastic and its everywhere. I could get used to this (well once a year anyway).

The ceremony itself is fantastic; it lives up to and exceeds expectations. The stage and setting are excellent, the show itself is slick and professional and the shows live stunts are well incorporated in to previously shown footage. 'Best Action in a foreign film' category is the second one to be called. It was very unreal to hear your own name called out at an event like this and then to see the movie clip played of the Bus turning over in 'Intermission'. The whole thing seemed very surreal, so much so that it took a few seconds to register that they had not read out Joe as a nominee. When the envelope was open, it really was no surprise that a German film won as their script had called for much more action on the screen, so I think the award was very fairly


Keanu Reeves at The Taurus World Stunt Awards

given to them. It was great to sit in an audience beside Stephen Spielberg and have people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Keanu Reeves, and Burt Reynolds tell you how much they admire what (we) stunt people do for them, their movies and the industry in general. If that sounds a little conceited, then please make allowances for the situation and emotion.

There was a party afterwards (which will remain confidential as requested), where all of the guests, nominees and presenters (stars) were invited. Again it all seems surreal to be munching on a barbequed burger swapping stories with Arnie and Burt, as if they were long lost buddies, but that's Hollywood.
 
Out but not down in Beverly Hills -- Flying Home.

It's the morning after the night before. Way back in the deepest recesses of my mind a tiny voice is telling me that I should be disappointed that I did not win the award. That voice can hardly be heard over the much louder voice that is marvelling that I (and Joe) were nominated at all for 'Intermission'. 'Intermission' is an excellent movie, but it is not and was never intended to be an "action movie". The loud voice also controls my face and is insisting that I wear a true US 'super sized' grin.

I finished my interviews with the two Irish journalists who came over especially for the ceremony, Duan from Hotpress and Adam from The Irish Independent (TV and Living), on the plane and in the airport. I wonder how they are not bored listening to me tell the old 'war' stories and spout on about my opinions on every element of the movie business including stunts. I guess that they are just too polite to ask me to stop, so I keep going until we all fall asleep.

 

The entire 'Taurus World Stunt Awards' experience was absolutely fantastic. It rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the business. After a 22-year career, I caught a glimpse of new horizons and a bigger stage. Not that I want to leave Ireland, not by any means, but I have seen how Ireland can place itself front and central on the movie world stage.

I'm finalising a feature length script that I have co-written with John Gleason called 'One-Shot', which will be shot later this year. It is a fast paced chase-thriller, with many psychological twists and turns. If all goes to plan I'll be producing and directing it with John in the late summer. I hope that we have given the story international appeal, but most of all I hope that it is a good story and that it will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. This film has an action packed stunt fest ending, but the focus is on character resolution. My experience at the 'Taurus World Stunt Awards' has given me a real appetite to make this film project into a really good movie and to do this movie to a standard that it will be an international success. I'm not ashamed to say that I'd like to go back to Hollywood and win this award next year!

Many thanks to Ashlee Dickinson and everyone at Red Bull Ireland for taking such care of us in LA. www.redbull.ie




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