He used to do the high-dive 62 feet down into a little splash of water in Cirque du Soleil’s “O” show, and he loved it; but he left Vegas to pursue his Hollywood dream as a stuntman, and since then he has saved the world as Spider-Man and Shia LaBeouf.
This week, you can see this former Vegas performer, Colin Follenweider, in the No. 1 hit film “Ender’s Game.”
“We did all the zero-G flying of the kids,” Follenweider says of himself and his stunt friends.
His big break came in “Spider-Man 3.” You might remember the armored car scene.
“Sandman is there, and I punch through his chest, and he hits me and I go flying out of the back door.”
He doubled for LaBeouf in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” He was one of several Kevin Bacons in “X-Men: First Class.”
“I was his floating dead body.”
And he was killed via Bruce Willis in “Live Free or Die Hard.” He has defied real death in one pop culture moment after another — “Twilight,” “Avatar” and “Tropic Thunder,” plus TV series “True Blood,” “24,” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Follenweider, 38, grew up in Colorado and got a late start as a gymnast (age 12), then realized his dream was to do stunts.
“I used to fall down the stairs to my room just for fun.”
He became a high-diver (85 feet jumps) around America, sometimes for three customers in the rain, until he moved to Vegas and worked in a dueling pirates show at MGM, “EFX” with David Cassidy, “Imagine” at Luxor, then the high-dive at “O” for years.
“I’d get up there sometimes and I’d say, ‘Wow, I don’t remember it being this high.’ But it was a lot of fun.”
One time, he walked out of Studio 54 drunk and he was stumbling, but someone challenged him to do a backflip, so he did that in the lobby in between lurches forward.
“I can always do a backflip, and I can always find my feet; it doesn’t matter how drunk I am.”
His final dive at “O”: a quad-twisting two-and-a-half with all four twists on the second flip.
“I had a training philosophy. If I had a certain skill level, and I wanted to do a trick in the next skill level, then I would try a trick beyond that, because that makes the next skill level-up easy. I had some awesome crashes. They call them ‘starfishes.’ ”
Between films, he works live shows at Universal Studios and Disneyland. He met his wife, (former Vegas and Broadway performer Marcie Dodd) at Disney. He was a chimney sweep. She was Mary Poppins. They have a son.
Feel free to tell him his job is dangerous. He knows.
“This is our career. Yes, we take risks. Yes, you get hurt. When you get hit by a car, you’re still getting hit by a car. But you have to take the necessary precautions so you can get up and do it again, and go to work the next day.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears on Page 3A in the main section on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.