Carl Fortin’s favourite stunt of his career wasn’t a high-stakes fight scene or a death-defying leap off a building.
It was the one where he had to strip naked and fall down a set of stairs.
Fortin is an accomplished stuntman who has been working in the entertainment industry for 13 years. He’s worked on movies such as Deadpool 2 and Pompei and TV shows including Arrow, Hannibal and The 100.
But in 2011, Fortin was asked to take off his clothes for a scene on the show Skins.
“I had to fall down 23 steps in a century-old home in Toronto fully nude,” he says. “The character, he’s about to take a shower, he goes into a washroom and I think there’s a homeless man sleeping in the bathtub who caught him off-guard. So then he fell out of the washroom and tumbled down the stairs.
“Thankfully I only had to do that one once.”
Fortin, fully dressed this time, was in Nelson on Friday to lead a workshop at Kootenay Martial Arts. The event packed the dojang with kids and adults ready to learn from someone just as capable as throwing a punch as he is faking one.
The workshop concluded with fight-scene training, during which Fortin pressed his students to practise moving as slow as possible.
“How I deal with six-year-old kids is how I deal with an actor,” he says. “You just slow it right down to the basics and with time and practice we speed things up and make them closer when we need to. But safety being No. 1, always.”
When he isn’t on a set, Fortin runs Flow Training Centre in Squamish where he teaches parkour, martial arts and acrobatics. He earned his first black belt at age seven and later went into the military, but opted to leave in favour of a career in show business.
He says he’s since worked on 53 shows, about 15 commercials and around 1,500 live performances. On sets, Fortin has found, he’s needed to be good at a lot more than just martial arts.
“One day you show up and you’re fighting on hockey skates, so your skating [has] to be good. Then it could be a flip or an acrobatic move, so gymnastics helps. So being very diverse in your skill set and being good to people, because favours come and go and if you miss opportunities because you’re not being a good person then your chance won’t happen.”
A good stuntman is invisible to the audience. There are no Oscars for stunts, and Fortin says a lot of the time he’s either helping make sure sets are safe for actors or waiting for his scene.
The kid who once dreamed of being a star has now made a career out of making others look like stars.
“I wanted to be in the spotlight and I wanted people to ooh and ahh at the hard work that I was putting into my skills. And then that kind of killed me in the movie industry. [People would say], ‘No, no, we don’t want to see you. We want you hidden.’”
On Friday, though, the spotlight was solely on Fortin. He ended class with a circle in which students showed off their moves, and people marvelled when he stepped in for a few flips of his own.
“I feel like I thrive in this,” he said.