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Bruce Willis as John McClane in 'Live Free or Die Hard,' now in theaters.
AP photo/Fox
Bruce Willis as John McClane in "Live Free or Die Hard," now in theaters.

Living stunt life on 'Die Hard'
Former Decatur resident is now a stuntman in California, but wouldn't mind moving back after working in movie industry for 15 years

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

A few months ago, David Earle drove a beat-up 18-wheeler from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., so he could drive it crazily through the streets of the Capitol while gunshots were fired at the truck.

Not your average job, but then, that's show biz.

Stuntman David Earle with his daughter, Glenn Mitchell of Decatur. Despite living what many would consider an exciting life, Earle said he would prefer the move back to Decatur to 'be sooner than later.' After all, when he moved back to Los Angeles 15 years ago, he had only planned to stay for three months.
Courtesy photo
Stuntman David Earle with his daughter, Glenn Mitchell of Decatur. Despite living what many would consider an exciting life, Earle said he would prefer the move back to Decatur to "be sooner than later." After all, when he moved back to Los Angeles 15 years ago, he had only planned to stay for three months.
Earle, who owned Decatur's first movie rental store and raised racking horses for 10 years in the Decatur area, has been raising hell on the silver screen as a stuntman since 1992.

His latest endeavor is the recently released "Live Free or Die Hard" — the fourth in the action-packed series starring Bruce Willis. He was one of eight stuntmen who drove the 18-wheeler for the movie. In the plot, the truck is a mobile FBI command center that terrorists have hijacked.

Earle has been working in the movie industry for 15 years since he moved from Decatur to Los Angeles (his hometown) and started working with his brother in transportation in the movie industry. He either does stunt work in movies or works as director of transportation for them. Sometimes he acts in bit parts.

Not intimidated

The Decatur man takes his work in stride. He is used to meeting celebrities that most people only see on the cover of Us Weekly or People magazines.

"I've never been intimidated by the presence of an actor," Earle said. "Everyone has a job and goes to work like everyone else, just some of them get paid more than others."

Over the years, Earle has met such famous actors as Steven Seagal, Keanu Reeves, Andy Griffith, Billy Bob Thornton, Richard Dreyfuss, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

Earle typically spends 12 to 18 hours per day on set for films. However, working with nice actors such as Willis and an interesting script makes those long hours bearable.

"(Willis) is very nice to the crew," Earle said. "Very businesslike."

Willis often relaxed on the set by sitting at his computer, buying and selling specialty cars, Earle said.

When Earle first started on the set of "Die Hard," he was a bit hesitant about making another movie in the series.

"When I started the project, I though 'Oh my goodness, they're going to have a Die Hard 4?' " he said. "But as I traveled across the country ... everyone seemed to be excited about another 'Die Hard.' Apparently there's a lot of Bruce Willis fans and a lot of 'Die Hard' fans."

Earle's daughter, Glenn Mitchell of Decatur, said she plans to see the movie because she likes the series. She doesn't see every movie her father's worked on because there have been so many, she said.

Some of his recent projects include "The Night Watchman" starring Keanu Reeves, "Iron Man" starring Robert Downey Jr, and "Mama's Boy" starring Diane Keaton.

"He works nonstop. He's a workaholic," Mitchell said.

However, she doesn't worry about his job as a stuntman, because he typically only takes the less dangerous stunts that don't involve driving at extreme speeds or flipping vehicles or anything like that, she said.

Because she's a hair stylist, Earle has tried to get her to come to Los Angeles to style hair on set. But she doesn't see it happening.

"I just don't have it in me to do hair on set for 18-hour days," she said.

Causing a stir

When Earle drove cross-country to Washington, D.C., in the "Die Hard" truck, he stopped in Decatur to see Mitchell and her family, and even took the semi-truck onto Bank Street downtown.

But the truck caused even more commotion when he parked it across from the Capitol as he waited for filming to begin.

Within minutes, a police officer was at his door.

"He said, 'We had a concerned citizen call about this old truck,' " he said. "I said 'Believe it or not, this truck is brand new.' "

Soon after that police officer left, another one from a different jurisdiction showed up at his door, he said, laughing.

Earle said he hopes to return to Decatur in a few years to have time finally to "stop and smell the roses."

Despite living what many would consider an exciting life, Earle said he would prefer the move back to Decatur to "be sooner than later."

After all, when he moved back to Los Angeles 15 years ago, he had only planned to stay for three months.

"That three months just hasn't come back around," he said, laughing.

‘Live Free or Die Hard’

Luckily for Bruce Willis and the audience, his die-hard cop still has a lot of yippee-ki-yay in him, nearly 20 years after the first “Die Hard.”

This fourth installment in the franchise, the first since 1995’s “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” is the sort of generally welcome surprise that last year’s “Rocky Balboa” turned out to be, a reacquaintance with an old friend you didn’t think you would like anymore, but do.

Let’s be clear. The movie is silly, outlandish and painfully implausible, and it grows more so as director Len Wiseman revs up the climactic action sequences to preposterous extremes. Yet for a pure summer power trip, it’s a decent throwback to the pure-brawn heyday of Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This time, Willis teams with a computer geek (Justin Long) to take on a mastermind (Timothy Olyphant) who has launched a cyber attack that cripples traffic, utilities and federal agencies over the July 4th weekend.

PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language and a brief sexual situation. 130 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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