CARSON CITY — Hollywood stuntman Bruce Barbour pauses in front of an enormous flat-screen TV in his Carson City living room to rewind a 1990 clip from Glen Ford’s last Western, “Border Shootout.”
When Barbour’s character taunts Ford’s, Ford takes a swing at him and knocks out all his front teeth, which can clearly be seen flying across the screen.
Years later, Barbour laughs about the mishap and says, “It would have killed an ordinary man.”
Barbour, 62, occasionally takes jobs in the business.
“I still work. My SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card is current, but I just pick and choose now. If I feel like flipping something, I’ll take a job,” he said.
Barbour has at least 282 titles to his credit as a stuntman and 26 as an actor in both television and on the big screen, including “Ghost Story,” “Children of the Corn,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “First Blood.”
He says he sort of “fell into the business” when he was 16 and his brother-in-law — Mike Nesmith of The Monkees — asked him to be his stand-in for the show.
“I didn’t even know what a stand-in was, but I went from an idiot sophomore in high school in Texas to working in television. In two seasons, I made a bloody fortune,” he said.
Later, when he went to get his SAG card, they wouldn’t give it to him until director and producer Jackie Cooper intervened.
“He picked up the phone and said, ‘Yeah, Cooper. Barbour? Give him a SAG card.’ And that was that,” Barbour said.
“There were only about 35 stuntmen in the business in the ’60s, and I was resented because I had a steady job (on The Monkees), but I was good at it,” he said.
“I finally got asked to join the Stuntmen’s Association. That was the most prestigious thing you could ask for because it was so … hard to get into.”
Barbour said there were thousands of extras, but only 35 or so stuntmen, and each had a specialty. His was the “high ski,” or the ability to drive a car on two wheels, and only a few could do it without a roll cage.
“You didn’t tell anyone how you did it, and I could wreck five or 10 cars a show. With a few others, I came back to Hollywood rolling cars on fire, with the wheels and the engine flying off, without a roll cage. A roll cage could cost them $1,500, so they were hiring us like crazy,” he said.
Barbour used those skills on shows such as “CHiPs” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
“I loved to do it. I just got in and did it. I didn’t think about it, and I never got a seat-belt burn or a scratch on my body. I was young and dumb and bulletproof and pretty lucky,” he said.
Barbour said he later landed a job in “The Naked Gun” as Leslie Nielsen’s stunt double.
Several had competed for the gig and, when they were asked to audition by running, most of them took off like athletes.
“I, instead, asked (Nielsen) if I could see him run, and he had a funny run because he’d had rickets at some point. He ran like he had two broken legs; it was a goofy run,” Barbour said.
“So I put a rock in each loafer and managed to run just like him. I could barely stand it, it hurt so much, but I got the job and I made a fortune with him, too,” he said.
Barbour has not emerged unscathed, however. He has split his head open, blown up a thumb and broken numerous bones, he said.