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Auburn resident makes stunt passion his Hollywood career

Del Oro graduate down-to-earth person, former classmate says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn resident Gary Davis made a career of what used to get him grief growing up in Loomis and said he wouldn’t change a thing. Davis, 60, said he used to get in trouble for doing wheelies on his motorcycle in Loomis, including at his Del Oro High School campus. Davis has since performed stunts in, coordinated stunts for and helped direct 280 films, 250 television episodes and 190 commercials. “I left here in 1969 from high school at Del Oro and I went to Arizona State University,” Davis said. “So, when I was in college, I was doing that showing off stuff (on my motorcycle) and one day somebody came up to me and offered me a bike to start racing.” Davis said he did well in the races and a promoter asked him if he had ever thought about jumping over cars on motorcycles. For a couple years he traveled the states doing that, rivaling the famous Evel Knievel. “One day Hollywood called and said, ‘We are doing a pilot for CBS called ‘Evel Knievel,’” he said. The company flew him to the track where it was being filmed and he joined the Screen Actors Guild. “I was quite spoiled right away, and I thought, ‘I’m going to go to Hollywood and do every movie there is,’” Davis said. He said he did pieces of about three films the first year. After that his career caught on and he has spent 39 years in the stunt business so far. Davis said he reached a point where he felt his stunts were scary when he performed them, but not when he was watching them on screen. He decided he wanted to find a way to create those images for viewers. He got his first chance to do so in 1984 when he worked as a stunt double for Jeff Bridges in the movie “Against All Odds.” He also coordinated the stunts for the film and directed the famous chase scene that later won several awards. While working on 2000’s “Proof of Life” in South America with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe and director Taylor Hackford, Davis remembers that the actors had large body guard crews, but his stunt crew had none. So, he was given a license to carry a machine gun and sidearm in rural areas in case they got in trouble. In the 1986 film “F/X” Davis and his daughter made a cameo as a father and daughter who move out of the way of a speeding vehicle just in time. Davis said he is most proud of the movies “Against All Odds,” “Terminator 2” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” all of which he helped direct. One of the most challenging parts of his career was having to crash a motorcycle for the movie “Viva Knievel!” because in his more than 300 public jumps around the United States and the world, he had never crashed his motorcycle. He had to crash twice in this movie. “All my instincts were to save the motorcycle in the air,” he said. “I had to talk to myself the whole time.” He said he was delayed the first time he attempted the jump and it was almost like God was telling him not to go through with it. “But finally it all came around, and I had to do it,” he said. Back breaking work – literally Throughout his career Davis said he hasn’t broken that many things on his body, but his first break was a compound fracture in his leg after a scene where he had to jump from a balcony and shoot a gun in the air. When he was asked to jump a car in “Smokey and the Bandit II” he hit a ramp going 88 miles per hour, flew 165 feet through the air and broke his back when he landed. The jump is still listed as the longest car jump in movies. “Obviously, monetarily it’s rewarding, but I love it,” Davis said of stunt work. “I’m an adrenaline junkie.” Davis was also featured on the cover of LIFE Magazine for jumping 21 cars on his motorcycle on March 5, 1972, beating Knievel’s 19-car record. ‘He saved my life’ Dennis Scott, a fellow stuntman, said he met Davis in 1982 through fellow stuntman friend Gene LeBell. “I knew about him before that through the industry, because he was like the motorcycle guy in the business at the time,” Scott said. “I became friends with him and he took me with him at that point, provided a lot of opportunity for me. We did some good work.” Scott said Davis also saved his life when they were riding on LeBell’s property and Scott went off a natural grade ramp on his bike. The ramp had been washed away and he basically went straight up and came back down. He hit his shoulder and tore three nerves from his spine. “At that time I was basically dead,” Scott said. “He gave me mouth-to-mouth and heart massage and brought me back. So, he’s not only a mentor of mine, but he saved my life.” Rocklin resident Tom Aguilar attended Del Oro with Davis and said he got his first experience on a motorcycle from his friend. “He was always a maniac on a motorcycle, which got him into the business,” Aguilar said. “He gave me a motorcycle ride, my one of two rides in my whole life on a motorcycle, from Del Oro to Downtown Loomis in a wheelie. It was terrifying. Other than one other ride on a motorcycle, I have never wanted to ride on a bike because of that.” Aguilar said Davis is a very down-to-earth person. “I don’t think his movie career has really changed his attitude much,” Aguilar said. “Of course, he has matured, but it hasn’t made him really any different than he was. He’s just a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy.” Davis said he has enjoyed his career and life so far. “I have really, really had fun,” he said. “When I look back, I don’t think I would trade any of it. If I died tomorrow I wouldn’t have any real regrets other than I wouldn’t see my granddaughter get as old as I would like to see her get.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ----------------------------------------------------- Gary Davis • Performed, coordinated and directed stunts in 280 feature films, 250 TV episodes and 190 commercials • Owns 230 motorcycles • Graduated from Del Oro High School in 1969 • Has lived in Auburn for 10 years • Has recently worked on films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Green Hornet,” “Thor,” “The Town,” and “Road to Red” • Has worked on TV shows such as “CHiPs,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and “Charlie’s Angels” • Doubled for Jeff Bridges in the movie “Against All Odds,” Davis’ first chance to coordinate and direct stunts in films • Weirdest stunt he has ever done was doubling for African-American actress Jayne Kennedy, wearing a blue chiffon dress and riding a motorcycle. Davis will be appearing at this weekend’s Content, Creation and Distribution Expo in Loomis. For more information, visit ccdexpo.com