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Collins: Daredevil to stuntman

By Greg Gelpi

He's no Burt Reynolds, but he's played him on TV.

He's been shot at, plummeted from building tops, flipped in cars and paid all the while for doing so.

Brian Collins, 52, of Riverdale began his life as a daredevil at the age of 12 and appeared in numerous action flicks as a stuntman.

"When I was a kid, I was a daredevil," he said. "I was a gutsy little guy."

Recalling his first stunt as a child, Collins said he dropped 30 feet into a gorge while riding a skateboard and has savored the adrenaline rush ever since.

"I was watching TV one day and said 'Man I could do stuff like that,'" he said.

Although he is retired from the stunt business, his list of film credits include "Tank" with James Garner, "Invasion USA" with Chuck Norris and "Smokey and the Bandit" with Reynolds, who Collins played as a stunt double. He has also been in the television shows "In the Heat of the Night," "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "The Fall Guy."

"It's just a matter of getting it right," Collins said. "If you're falling from a building, you can blow off course."

And for those stunts, Collins said he was paid between $1,500 and $3,000.

There's a "real rush like in bungee jumping," he said, and he's been lucky not to have been injured during his time as a stunt man.

"That's rabbit foot luck," Collins said. "Pure luck."

His most difficult stunt was rolling a tractor trailer loaded with lumber. He also flipped a car six times in another stunt.

The first car that he overturned, though, was no stunt, he said. He recalled accidentally flipping his father's car when he was younger.

There are many ways to get into the profession of being a stuntman, International Stunt Association President Brian Simpson said, explaining that he "fell" into the job by being a five-sport athlete.

Being a stuntman requires being a "jack of all trades and a master of none," Simpson said. Members of the profession must be able to perform stunts, while also having the ability to relate to actors and directors, do paperwork and work within safety regulations.

"We're like professional athletes," he said, explaining the rigor of performing the same stunt countless times. "You can get just about anybody to do it once."

Along with his stunt acting, Collins has also had "bit" parts in movies and television shows and held jobs as a taxicab driver and truck driver.

Collins is divorced and has no children.

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