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Kids, Don’t Try This At Home

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Relaxing after a battle on the set of the PBS miniseries "The War That Made America"

Chris Place has been punched, kicked, lit on fire and hit by a car nine times. He’s fallen from high places, dodged a cannon blast and been grazed by musket fire. He was a thug for Tony Soprano and Jack Bauer has put a gun to his head.

You’ve probably guessed by now that Place’s life is not like yours or mine. He’s a stunt man and actor, and you’ve seen his work more times than you think. Remember when Shia LeBeouf took Harrison Ford on a crazy motorcycle ride through a college campus in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? Place was there. The video clip below was captured by a bystander to one of Place’s stunts filmed in New York City.

If you go to see the new Will Ferrel-Mark Wallberg movie The Other Guys, pay attention to the scene in which a motorcycle crashes into a parked car. That’s Place flying through the air. Next year, watch what happens to Hank Azaria in The Smurfs. Place was his stunt double.

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“For a kids’ movie that will be rated G, I took an awful lot of hits,” says Place.

You’d never suspect any of this if you met the quiet-mannered Place on the streets of Verona, which he and his then fiancee (now wife) moved to from Caldwell three years ago. “He’s such a nice guy,” says neighbor Suzanne Welsh. “She made us a home-cooked meal when we moved in,” says Place, returning the compliment. “I love Verona and I love my neighbors.”

Place, who is from Livingston originally, didn’t set out to be a stunt man. He studied acting and directing at Quinnipiac University and went to Los Angeles after graduation to continue his training. “Doing my student films there, I realized that I liked the stunt part of it better than the acting part,” Place says. He went on to train at Kahana’s Stunt School, founded by the man who had been Charles Bronson’s stunt double for decades. Since there are no casting calls for stunt performers–it is strictly a word-of-mouth business–he spent the two years after Kahana visiting movie and TV sets, handing out his head shot photos.

His break finally came with a non-union part in a commercial. The director of that piece eventually helped Place get his Screen Actors Guild card, a must for bigger roles. Place got his first union job in 2004, in Kelly Ripa’s Hope & Faith. Since then, he’s built a long resume, and earned Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for his work in Indiana Jones and I Am Legend.

Despite the recession-induced slowdown in the TV and movie business, Place is very busy. He is a bike cop in Premium Rush, a movie starring Inception‘s Joseph Gordon-Levitt that is now being filmed in Manhattan, acting and doing stunts. And he’s awaiting the Halloween release of Wes Craven’s My Soul To Take. We’re not going to give this one away, except to say that his character is called Ripper.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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