Rick Avery crashes cars, gets set on fire, and is thrown out of windows for a living. For four decades Rick Avery has been a stunt man. Not only that, he is a published author,
commercial helicopter pilot/instructor, airplane pilot, World Masters boxing champion, and a 7th-degree black belt in Kenpo. If that isn’t enough of a resume, Rick also is an action movie director, ex-police officer, former army sergeant, hosts a celebrity podcast, and is an accomplished actor ( to no surprise, he’s great at that too) We were lucky enough to get some time out of Rick’s busy schedule, to ask him some questions our readers are dying to know.
You have been a stuntman in over 500 movies. Living your life the way you do, with fearless abandonment, you probably have more excitement in a day than most people do in a lifetime. What drives you further?
“I truly hate to use this phrase, but I have an incessant need to stay active. Take for example martial arts, you get a first-degree black belt and then you want to go to the next level, when you’re flying a helicopter, one goes from private to commercial to an instructor. Once you reach a certain level, I will maintain that, and then move onto other challenges. I constantly need to grow in what I’m doing. After that, I simply move on. This can be assessed as both a blessing and a curse.”
Blessing and a curse? Can you elaborate on that?
“It’s a blessing because you get to experience life and all it has to offer. It’s a curse because of the work that needs to go into evolving with the challenges. Think about it. Say after you die, you’re lying in your coffin and what do you have? Just your memories. You better have something to think about. (Chuckles).”
You’re correct, I have never thought about it like that. How is it a curse though?
Sometimes you get caught up in all the craziness of work. For the longest time, I’ve admired my mailman. He has a simple life. There’s a routine to the job: driving around, delivering mail, talking to people on your route, going home, and watching tv. Simple. It comes with its own challenges but it’s simple. I admire that. Personally, it isn’t for me but there was a point where I would be working on three shows at the same time as either a stunt coordinator, second unit director or stuntman. I would fly from Florida to California hitting all the major studio lots.”
I can’t even imagine that kind of craziness. What was your thinking throughout all of it?
“For all those years, there had been sometimes where I wanted to be a mailman.” [laughs] “I thank God every day, because this is what I wanted, and I was thankful for it. I embrace it because that is what I was given, what I earned, and what I worked hard for.
Have you always been like this?
“I’ve thought of it as a gene in my body and it runs through my whole family. My mother and my father had it, passing it on to the children. They worked so hard their whole lives; we’re driven by it.
My dad died when he was 40 and I was only 16 at the time. My mom had to raise four kids so she went back to college to find a career as a Cytotechnologist so she could maintain a middle-class lifestyle. She had no choice but to keep pushing forward to support us. Thankfully, my kids got that gene in them too.”
When you find something, you’re interested in, how quick is your process before immersing yourself in that stage in your life? Do you just find something, and it clicks?
“That’s exactly what happens. I see an avenue where I can excel or an opportunity for growth. If I don’t see that, I won’t even attempt it. It’s not for me.”
“With boxing, there was a skill overlap because I trained in martial arts for so many years. My friend and business partner called me up one day to do a photoshoot of me at this boxing ring. We saw all these pictures of middle-aged men with championship belts. I didn’t recognize them, and my buddy told me about USA Masters Boxing. When you’re over 35, you can still compete as an amateur. I saw that and that was my in. Here’s a way to measure myself against guys my age all around the world. Coincidentally, this was all after doing stunt work for Grudge Match, this boxing movie where I had to [stunt] double Robert De Niro.”
How fitting. And you started whooping some ass?
“Well, I dove into the deep end. I got a trainer and started going to competitions after six months. Got me a few championships and then started promoting and training others soon after.”
Only after six months, that is insane. Did these activities always happen by chance?
“Not always. I’ve always been interested in magic and my wife at the time had given me some lessons at the Magic Castle. So, I stayed there for a whole year. I was enamored with it to the point where I had asked my instructor how I would go about becoming a member.”
“He told me that I had to show three tricks to all the magicians here and they’ll vote for you if you do well. When I was ready, I had to perform in front of 25 experienced magicians in their theater. I worked relentlessly at it: filmed and went over my acts at home. Noticing my mistakes and perfecting my craft. When I was ready, I told my instructor that I was prepared to perform.”
“He said I wasn’t and it pissed me off.”
“So, I went back and trained harder. To the point where I did the performance and they voted me in. I successfully became a member there.”
So, it seems like you have this expansive track record of setting these lofty goals, pursuing them, and crushing them. Has there been anything that you’ve run into that you’ve decided wasn’t for you? Whether it was too difficult or seemed too out of your wheelhouse. Mount Everest? Deep-sea diving?
“I used to be a bodybuilder and at one point I was 180 pounds. I went to one contest, and I didn’t place, so I gave that up. But I learned a lot from it and I work out every day.”
“I got into rock climbing with my son and his girlfriend, who are fantastic climbers. I reached a point where I couldn’t get any better, but I learned from it. So, when I don’t excel, I at least walk away with a new knowledge of a craft.”
In what way did you apply rock climbing to your work?
“I could now talk to rock climbers in the movie industry. I was more knowledgeable about rigging. I used it to repel out of helicopters and off tall buildings. While I couldn’t excel, I was able to apply my knowledge to something else that benefitted me.”
That is astounding.
“With all that, I consider myself an average guy. Maybe more of a jack of all trades and master of none. Well, maybe a master of a few.”
Any advice for those struggling with success in their industry?
“You can’t do everything perfectly but failing at something might enhance your ability in something else. You can take things as far as you’ll go but you’ll hit a wall. If you can’t take it any further, you learn, move on, and find your next chance.”
What’s next? Are you finally cooling down and enjoying life? Or are you twiddling your thumbs until you find the next thing?
“I don’t need anything new in my life. I’m content. I still get calls for stunt work, stunt coordination, constant jobs with helicopters in the movie industry or otherwise. If not, I have a couple of helicopter students that I train. I still box and train people. Just started training David Castaneda in a starring role for a show.”
I know you are busy, and we thank you for your time. Just to wrap it up. I am a little curious. Will you ever stop going after life the way you do?
“The things I have going on may not have been like it once was, but it’s plenty. I’m interested in what I’m doing, and it allows me to focus on other aspects of life.”
“In any case, something will appear with enough time. Something always does. If we live for 200 years, I’d still be looking for my next thrill.”