King of Hollywood
Published 12:25 am Thursday, October 2, 2008
Not many people can say they have combatted an infestation of alien insects, walked in the shoes of a flesh-eating zombie or run from a building while covered in flames, but it is just another day at work for Bobby C. King.
King, who was born in Andalusia and is the son of Andalusia native Jo Isenberg, began his college career at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., with aspirations of becoming a singer or entering the medical profession, but changed his mind after being cast as the lead in a school production.
“When I got down there my teacher said there was a play going on and I should audition for the play,” he said. “I auditioned for the play and got the lead. I turned around and fell in love with it. I had a football scholarship and I did not do that anymore. The next thing I knew, I was doing nothing but acting. While I was acting on stage I learned how to sword fight.
“I soon realized that I never wanted to be a doctor,” he added. “I never wanted to be a singer. What I wanted to do is play all of them. The next thing you know I’m a bad guy, I’m a cop, I’m a soldier, I’m a senator. I get to be all of these people on film. One thing I really got into was being able to fight and not get into trouble.”
King moved on to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York on a scholarship in 1987 and eventually made his way to California to begin working in the film industry as a stunt man. Finding work, however, was not so simple.
“I originally went to California to work with Paul Statter,” he said. “He worked in the ‘Towering Inferno,’ ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and all of those old movies. I moved to Hollywood and I began working with him. I thought I had it set, but he passed away shortly after. When he passed everyone acted like they didn’t know me because I was the new guy. I had to go out and prove myself.”
Work was very sparse over the following five to six years, according to King, and he worked in local bars and even became a licensed contractor in California to pay bills while searching for work in film.
“For the first five or six years I could not get a job to save my life,” he said. “People asked me to do small student films and things of that nature. I worked in a bar to make ends meet. I became a contractor and I can now build just about anything from the ground up. I have my license to operate in California, but I just do not have the time for that anymore.
“Now I have finally made that jump into working stunts in the industry, but it took six years,” he added. “They tell you when you arrive in California that you should give acting and stunts at least 10 years. You should try it, as much as you can, for 10 years.”
King said there were hard times during those six years that almost led him to give up on the film industry, but he always found his way back.
“Luckily I kept getting little tidbits that kept drawing me in,” he said. “There were times when I thought I didn’t want to do it, but two days later I would always be jonesing to just do anything. So I would do some stage performance or a stunt convention. I did seminars to show kids how to fight.”
According to King, he stumbled upon his first film assignment by chance.
“One day I was walking onto a set to present my picture and resume,” he said. “In Hollywood you basically have to hustle by going from set to set and presenting yourself. You let them know what you can do and ask if they can use your talents in their film. They didn’t have a stunt coordinator and they asked if I could coordinate a scene. It just so happened to be something I had already been taught during my time on stage in college. The director could not get across what he wanted the actors to do in the film. I coordinated the scene. The actors did exactly what they were told, it was exactly what the director wanted and he fell in love with me. He and his producer have been hiring me ever since. I have been coordinating since day one in 1996.”
The small break has led to a successful career, according to King, and now he has worked as the stunt coordinator for several well-known actors and directors.
“I have been to Japan and I have toured Japan with live stunt shows,” he said. “I have done off-Broadway shows in New York. I have done Shakespeare in the Park in New Orleans. I have worked at Tulane and done musicals. I have been in countless television shows and worked next to some of the biggest stars. I have coordinated people from Donald Sutherland to Meryl Streep. I think it has always been me. I have found out that I can do everything I ever wanted to do in life on film. I do not have to spend six years in college to become a lawyer, but I can play one on TV. ”
King said that being set on fire tops his list of hair-raising moments.
“It is a little scary,” he said. “I ran out of the building and the local fire department in Jackson, N.H., opened up a fire hose on me. It hit me so hard that it flipped me backwards. That was pretty gnarly. I can tell you right now that it was one of the most fun times I have ever had. I have been in cars that have wrecked. I have slid motorcycles, which is pretty hairy. If I am doing things myself, then it is not so scary because I am in control.”
King said his most frightening moments have been during times when his well-being was placed into the hands of another person.
“The most scared I have ever been is when fighting an actor,” he said. “The actors become so involved in their character that they forget it is acting. Steven Seagal is notorious for hurting people because he gets so into he character. The bad guy comes at him and he pulls the guy’s arm out of the socket. I’ve had several stitches in my head because an actor hit me in the head with a gun when he was only supposed to ‘act’ as though he was knocking me out. It is on stage and you would think he would remember it is fake, but no, he knocked me out. It was convincing.”
The highly realistic look and feel of modern day horror films does little to rattle King’s cage, but movies that depict real life events often strike a nerve.
“I have blown up creatures and zombies,” he added. “I have played zombies and it doesn’t bother me at all. I have been covered in fake blood, ripped peoples’ arms off and bitten off fake flesh. It doesn’t bother me a bit, but put me in a movie with a real-life serial killer and it will freak me out.”
King said his most disturbing experience came while working as the stunt coordinator for a movie adaptation of the life of serial killer Ted Bundy entitled “Bundy.”
“It was very realistic,” he said. “The director got all of this detail that was disturbing. I had a hard time liking the actor that played Bundy because of the character. To help me get over that they let me play the cop who caught him. When you watch the film you see me chase him down into a field, knock him down and beat the mess out of him. I didn’t hit the guy, but acting like I was beating up Ted Bundy was actually quite invigorating. It made me feel much better.”
For more information about Bobby C. King, including a complete list of his films, visit www.imdb.com and type his name into the search box.