At some point, most pro surfers (minus say, Tom Curren) reach a moment in their pro surfing careers where they’re forced to plan their next vocational move—their next act, so to speak. For San Diego barrel fiend and ex-pro Pat Millin, his second act is literally acting. And stunt doubling.
If you follow Pat on Instagram, you'll see a mixture of surf photos—Millin standing tall in gaping mainland Mex barrels—and images of him in a wig and a mustache, standing next to an also wigged and mustachioed James Franco. A few years ago, when Millin’s pro surf career was coming to a close, he decided to move to LA and pursue a career in stunt doubling. Since then he’s been doubling for A-list actors and doing crazy stunt work that sometimes involves pretending to beat the shit out of people. After he posted a recent picture of him and Franco, we decided to hit up Millin to talk about what it’s like working in Hollywood.
How'd you get into this whole stunt-doubling thing?
Honestly, I've always wanted to be an actor–always made short films and loved storytelling. It’s always been there but was so dedicated to my professional surf career that I was so one-track minded. I had a pretty rocky surf career, with some successes but also a lot of failures. I finally felt like I had broken through to the top level of my surf career and ended up losing a lot of my endorsements. It was like the 4th time that had happened and I was so defeated that I finally picked up a cue from the universe like okay I get it. I'm not meant to be doing this.
I was 27 at the time and then thought ‘Oh shit, now what am I am going to do?’ I kept hearing about being a stuntman and what it's all about and I figured doing something like that would be a no-brainer—I've always loved acting and I'm a really active guy. I'm good friends with Scott Eastwood [Clint Eastwood’s son], and at the time we were the same body size and he was like, ‘Hey man you could be my stunt double.’ He told me to get into the union and get my SAG card and get it going. I spent almost a year hustling background and doing whatever I possibly could do to make that happen and get into the union. I've still yet to double Scott on any projects, but he’s been a great motivation. I also have to thank Mark Norby who has been a huge inspiration and instrumental in helping me navigate this tricky business. Mark has been a professional stuntman for 20+ years and is Matthew McConaughey’s stunt double. He's probably the kindest, hardest working dude I've met and has done it all. Once I got into the union I moved to LA and started training. I've already got to work on 4 or 5 feature films and 6 TV shows so far, which is pretty good for the length of time I've been doing it.
I’ll be in the new Transformers film called ‘Bumble Bee’ that will be out this December. Then there's another one called ‘City of Lies’ which is with Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker. There's one called ‘I Am The Night’ with Chris Pine that'll come out later this year and is a mini-series on TNT. And then I doubled James Franco for season 2 of ‘The Deus’ on HBO.
Looking at your Instagram it looks like you’ve become fairly good friends with Franco. Does he like to surf?
Yeah, we got introduced through a mutual friend and we started hanging. He had only surfed once when he was like, 16, so about a year and a half ago, I taught him how to surf and now he's surfing a ton. We did a couple trips, went to Nicaragua and Hawaii and became good friends. He’s also become a mentor to me—which is mind-blowing. The guy is such a good human and is so smart. He's a true artist. He's been an actor for 20 plus years and is so obsessed and in love with what he does. One day he invited me to do stand-in work for him on set for The Deus, and then eventually the producer called me and was like, ‘We want you to double James for his stunts.’ It's been just a great opportunity to be only 3 years into it and to stunt double for an A-list actor is pretty incredible.
One more question about Franco: is he goofy or regular?
He's goofy. I took him out surfing in New York in late February, during a proper northeastern swell—10 foot, waters 38, offshore and bombing east coast barrels–and he had quite the experience. He got caught inside.
What does training to be a stunt double look like? I saw a video of you running down the side of a mountain whilst pretending to fight someone.
I started training in this backyard in San Fernando Valley with Bob Yerkes, who was a legendary circus stuntman from the 60s or 70s, with just a bunch of working stuntmen, on super old pads and old circus wires. I started practicing cinematic fight stuff, car stuff, ammunitions stuff, wire work, the whole deal. Before I got into it I was like, ‘Oh I could easily do this.’ But the more I got into it I realized how challenging it is.
In my cinematic fight classes, they teach you not only the form, but also how to sell a hit on camera—like where it needs to be, how fast, how far, but also where to aim it depending on where the camera is at. So you've really got to be with other people that have done it before. A lot of it I've learned on the fly. There aren't going to be many situations when you're stuck in the middle of 10 Humvees exploding and getting flung 30 feet in the air. Like where are you going to train for that you know?
Wait, you were really in a situation like that?
Yea that was for a scene in Transformers. It was this really climactic fight situation. Huge explosions that we were right in. A bomb went off and I actually got hit by the flames. It's pretty wild and I actually can't wait to see it on the big screen.
Have you ever gotten hurt besides the whole getting-hit-by-a-bomb thing?
I got some burns, major whiplash while training. I feel like being a stuntman is like being an NFL player. You're hitting the ground a lot, which is why it's so important to train a lot and keep your body strong.
Looking at your “Olas X” edit you just put out–where you scored pumping Pascuales–it looks like you still have time to go on surf trips.
I still love surfing and get so excited about chasing big waves like that but my focus has completely shifted. Surfing is now like my 4th priority. It's a weird thing. Some days I'm so grateful that I'm not surfing professionally anymore so I can actually enjoy my surfing. But then sometimes I'll see an edit that'll get me really fired up and it'll make me miss it and wish I was getting barreled.
It seems like there have been other surfers in the past-I think Brock Little too-did stuff in bigger movies.
Here's the thing. A lot of pro surfers who have done stunt work have been tagged as 'water guys,' but my whole deal going into this is that I don't want to be known as just a 'water guy' because that's all you're going to get called for you know? So that's been pretty funny for me–it's one of my strongest suits but I keep it on the down low because I want to do so much more.