In honor of Mat Hoffman’s new documentary I was remembering some stories.
I don’t think many people can claim this, but its true that I was once (twice actually) Mat Hoffman’s stunt double. Back in the 90’s when I rode for Hoffman Bikes Mat got a few offers to do some TV commercials. Around that time was more or less the peak of my vert riding career and it also just so happened that I wore the same size clothes and shoes as Mat. That made me a perfect stand in for Mat… but stunt double? Well, that’s what the commercial people called me.
TV commercials are usually shot in a hurry. It takes so much money to have all that film equipment, lighting and crew on hand, so they try to get all the filming done as fast as possible. There’s so much pressure on those 2 or 3 days of shooting they can’t risk something happening to Mat and then having to shut down the shoot. So, they need a stunt double just in case.
Hollywood is f-in weird. I don’t know how people could be into acting… even that little bit of being in that world that I had turned my stomach. Well… I’ll keep my opinions to myself I guess but it seemed like I ran into every stereotypical Hollywood character you could imagine. Smoozers, losers, druggies, hanger’s on, and crazy ego douche bag directors.
I actually watched the hip young director (straight from MTV) meltdown and scream at his assistant, ” I don’t pay you to think, I pay you to do!!). It was nuts… Maybe, lets hope, on films with higher artistic value then TV commercials people aren’t so shitty to each other.
On set it was mostly sitting around for Mat and I. Even more so for me since I was never the main talent. We would just wait and wait and then someone would come running for us needing us to ride right away. On one commercial I was really bored. Sitting around for almost an entire 12 hour day. I was itching to do something. Also they had me set up on a pay schedule where I got paid a base rate to be there, another rate if they asked me to ride, and and even higher rate (and residuals) if they used footage of me in the commercial. When they finally called me out I was charged to ride. Mat had just landed a 7 or 8 foot high tailwhip on vert and they asked me if I could do that. I kind of could, or, I could only do downside whips and I had never really tried them quite that high. They threw me on the ramp and off I went. Trying downside whips the highest I had ever done and eating shit!!! I pulled maybe 4 out of 20 and was getting my ass kicked. I was exhausted and beat quick but I kept getting up and trying more and more. On a particularly hard crash I knocked my head and slid across the flat bottom on my stomach. I laid there catching my breath with my head ringing when I heard the director say, “Ok, we got the lights set, bring out Mat.”
Ha! All they had needed me to do was normal airs so they could focus and set the lighting.
On another commercial shoot they filmed Mat for what seemed like hours. They just kept asking him to do the same thing over and over. He was finally so exhausted he had to stop riding. The director was clearly frustrated but we couldn’t understand why. In typical Mat fashion he was going way higher and riding way better then he could have ever needed to. Finally the director came over to us and explained that he had been waiting for Mat to crash. It was part of his plan to have an amazing slow motion shot of Mat slamming. Mat was shocked. “Look, if I crash you can film it, but I’ve spent my life trying not to crash. I’m not going to do it on purpose and I don’t want you to make it look like bike riding is all about crashing.” The director argued with him for a bit, but Mat wasn’t budging. There was going to be no on purpose crashes. They asked me too, but if Mat wouldn’t do it I sure as hell wasn’t going to. We took our break and went to lunch.
When we walked back into the studio what we saw was fantastically comical. There was a “real” stuntman (who had never ridden a bike) wearing Mat’s clothes standing on the top of a 12 foot ladder on top of a vert ramp. He had Mat’s bike in his hands and he was preparing to jump into the ramp to his doom. He was visibly shaking.
Mat shut that down quick and the stuntman was understandably relieved to not have done that stunt. I think later on Mat finally did crash and so everyone was happy. I don’t believe that they ever used the crash footage anyway.
I think I’m going to put on a premier for Mat’s documentary here in Austin. I don’t quite have a date worked out, but stay tuned.