Matrix Reloaded Stuntman

By Paul Martin November 12th, 2001, in The Matrix Reloaded

One unexpected consequence of the Sept. 11 attacks is that demand is way down for people being set on fire.

“There are a lot less burns going on these days,” said San Carlos stuntman Mike Martinez, who is the go-to guy in the Bay Area for any movie or TV human-torch effect. “It used to be that the burn was the big deal for how you killed the bad guy or the monster. Now, people are a little more touchy.”

Not that Martinez, 47, is unemployed. He recently performed in car-chase scenes for the upcoming “Matrix” sequel when footage was shot in the East Bay and has some stunt work planned for several other pictures.

But being set on fire — his particular field of expertise — is pretty much a thing of the past as filmmakers and TV producers scramble to tone down the violence in their works.

Martinez tosses out that old stuntman staple — “I just fell into it” — when asked how he got into the business. In reality, being the fall guy in show biz was a childhood dream, one that he acted on 25 years ago by offering himself to movie crews as one of only a handful of local stunt professionals.

There was just one problem: Martinez doesn’t like heights. He did one fall from 50 feet and that was enough for him. He realized he needed a different area of specialization.

His big breakthrough, if you can call it that, came in 1985 when he landed a stunt gig in the Erik Estrada blockbuster “Light Blast,” in which San Francisco is terrorized by a madman with a powerful new weapon.

“I was doubling for a guy who was trying to kill Erik with a bulldozer,” Martinez recalled. “Erik throws a gasoline container under the tracks, he shoots, sparks fly, and then everything goes up in flames, including me.”

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