Dan Shea has fond memories of finishing his final anatomy exam and blasting to Fort Lauderdale in a rented RV packed with varsity hockey buddies.
“Sternocleidomastoid has insertion point at upper 1/3 of the mastoid process. Still remember it well,” says Shea. “It’s the same neck muscle used for a head snap when taking a punch.”
Anatomy, biomechanics, and a deep understanding of the body’s physical capabilities has come in handy for Shea who’s been living and working as a stunt performer in Vancouver for nearly 25 years. After an eye injury curbed his dreams of the NHL, he headed west with vague notions of Hollywood and in need of income.
“I crashed a beer commercial audition and two days later I was in Hawaii blasting around on jets skis in shark infested waters making more money than I ever dreamed possible.”
Soon he was stunt subbing hockey scenes for Richard Dean Anderson on MacGyver, leading to a 10-year run as Anderson’s stunt double on Stargate SG1. The highlights reel plays on from there: Shot in the head by James Woods in White House Down. Mirroring Steve Martin’s Clouseau in Pink Panther. Spending Days of Future Past with X-Men Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence. “Every day I work is a great adrenaline rush,” says Shea.
Stunting has also proven a unique family pastime with daughters Joey and Stephanie, also a Waterloo Kin grad, joining him on set. “I was once stunting with Joey during her time at McGill. The shot was on Hallowe’en day so she left her SPFX zombie makeup on and headed to the university Hallowe’en party ‘as is’.”
Shea is currently stunt coordinating The Returned –a remake of a French supernatural drama, and Bates Motel –a prequel series to Hitchcock’s Psycho, with an eye to producing his own projects.
While he’s often spotted ringside in Vegas watching Championship fights, one of his favourite spectator moments was returning to campus to watch daughter Stephanie play varsity basketball.
“What a blast,” says Shea. “And the guy taking tickets for her game was the same one who took tickets for my hockey games 30 years before!”