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MailTribune.com
  • Stuntman's 'Wild' life

    Despite mishaps, Doug O'Dell, who was in film based on Cheryl Strayed's book, says safety is key to his job
  • On a typical day at work, Medford stuntman Doug O'Dell rappels down a skyscraper, drives Robert Pattinson's car in the early "Twilight" films or informs Reese Witherspoon, portraying Cheryl Strayed in the upcoming film "Wild," of her whereabouts while on an icy glacier.
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  • On a typical day at work, Medford stuntman Doug O'Dell rappels down a skyscraper, drives Robert Pattinson's car in the early "Twilight" films or informs Reese Witherspoon, portraying Cheryl Strayed in the upcoming film "Wild," of her whereabouts while on an icy glacier.
    O'Dell, 34, has been a stuntman since he was 18. He was introduced to the job by his dad, Doug "Digger" O'Dell Sr., who is also a stuntman.
    Doug Jr. started in commercials but soon began performing stunts in TV shows, such as NBC's "Grimm" and TNT's "The Librarians," and movies such as "Hidalgo," "The Rundown" and "Daredevil."
    Last November, O'Dell played a skier in "Wild" and also had a line.
    Witherspoon calls up to the skiers, "Where the f*** am I?" and O'Dell yells back, "You're in Oregon!"
    While filming for "Wild," which takes place along the Pacific Crest Trail, O'Dell and the crew stayed at Timberline Lodge and filmed on Mount Hood. They were some of the only people there, because there was little snow, and O'Dell's room was across from Reese Witherspoon's.
    O'Dell said she was low-key and friendly and didn't have an entourage.
    "We had a few drinks, a few laughs," O'Dell said. "She wasn't all glammed up; she just looked like a little hippie chick."
    Working with movie stars is nothing new for O'Dell. His favorite celebrity to work with is George Clooney, who is known for pulling pranks while on the set.
    During a motorcycle commercial, O'Dell was driving a producer's Audi around a building with Clooney in the back.
    "The director kept yelling 'faster, faster' until I was basically just sliding around this building," O'Dell said.
    On one lap, when out of sight of the producer and director, O'Dell came to a stop, and Clooney pulled out a sheet of glass that he smashed on the ground.
    Hearing the crash and thinking her Audi was wrecked, the producer came running over, panicked.
    Clooney laughed.
    In another memorable job, O'Dell and his dad filmed a AAA commercial together. While Doug O'Dell's job was typical for him — speeding in a sports car — "Digger" portrayed a housewife, complete with a wig, lipstick and minivan.
    Despite the pranks and celebrity sightings, stunt work is serious business. While filming "Wild," O'Dell had to ski down an ice-covered glacier before coming to a sharp stop before a boulder.
    Because the snow needed to be pristine and Mount Hood had few snow-covered areas, they were taken to a backcountry glacier on Sno-Cats and had only one shot to get it right.
    "I was pushing hard on the ice the whole way down to not slip, and when I got to the mark I had to really put the pressure on," O'Dell said. "That's when I heard my knee pop."
    O'Dell tore the ACL in his knee, but he said the film crew got the shot — which is what matters.
    Another time, O'Dell was doing air ratchets, in which he does tricks hooked up to a harness, when he broke his neck.
    "It sounds worse than it really is," O'Dell said. "There are just a couple bones floating around in the back of my neck."
    O'Dell said the situations he works in are always very controlled, but he still gets nervous.
    "I usually don't sleep the night before," O'Dell said. "I have to remind myself it always works out."
    In between appearances on the big screen, O'Dell is usually behind the bar in his Medford tavern, which he opened with Digger.
    O'Dell got the idea for Digger's Goodyear Tavern when he was working as a stuntman on "Grimm" in Portland.
    "There were lots of small places pouring wine and beer and also lots of food carts," O'Dell said. "I thought I could create a similar thing here."
    A month and a half ago, the tavern, named after the Goodyear Tires store that used to occupy the building, opened.
    The love of speed and cars that comes with the O'Dells' stunt work is evident in the tavern, which is adorned by car and motorcycle paraphernalia. Every Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., the bar also hosts a "cruise in."
    Later this month, O'Dell will be working on "Z Nation," a zombie TV series for Syfy network, in Spokane. He'll probably find out what he's doing a week before he starts, but for now he has no idea.
    "I fly by the seat of my pants a lot," he said.
    Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Kelsey Thomas at 547-774-4368 or kthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at twitter.com/kelseyethomas.
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