Without knowing it, you’ve probably seen him drive fast cars and perform dangerous stunts in movies like Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde. Or maybe you’ve seen him spinning in a Ferrari or in an old muscle car, on TV shows such as the NCIS: New Orleans.
But Andrew Comrie-Picard didn’t start his adult life as a stuntman or even an actor. Instead, the 48-year-old Canadian-born racing enthusiast and entrepreneur has taken, one might say, the long road to his dream job.
âI grew up on a farm in rural Canada, and since I was 7 or 8, I rode go-karts, dirt bikes and snowmobiles, and I was the best in my neighborhood, but no one never looked to a future like that, âComrie-Picard mentioned.
Cars remained a part of his daily life throughout his college and graduate studies at Oxford Law School and McGill University. Comrie-Picard says that despite earning a total of five degrees, he was intended to spend time behind the wheel.
âIt turns out I was good at school, and I think I went into law because I couldn’t imagine at first how to see my way of being a professional runner,â says Comrie-Picard , or “ACP” as friends and the like the stuntmen call it now. “Now I’m a little convinced that you can try to change your stars, but you’re going to be fighting all the time.”
Once ACP may have stopped ‘fighting his stars’ he became a competitive driver, putting his driving skills to work for ESPN’s X Games 12 and its inaugural rally car event in 2006. He will compete in four more X Games, winning medals in the process, while joining the BF Goodrich performance team, competitive rally car and off-road racing. Hollywood later brought in Comrie-Picard, and over the past decade he has become a sought-after stuntman for both the big and small screen.
Last month I caught up with ACP to get a little more perspective on rally cars, movie stunts and what it’s like to leave the office complex for the road and the track.
Andy Frye: Cars are your obsession, and it looks like you’re competitive. How did you transfer your life from the right to run?
Andrew Comrie-Picard: At first when I was a kid I used to ride dirt bikes, snowmobiles and everything, but I also raced rc model cars. And at the age of 13, I was good enough at it to fly around the world to Europe and Japan for the world championships. But I still didn’t see myself with a way to compete as a real racing driver.
So I went to school and became a lawyer, but throughout my studies I ran. It was super budget races, thousand dollar cars, nothing fancy and a lot of fun off-roading. Eventually I saved enough money to buy a good racing car and things took off. And while I was working in my New York law firm on weekends and holidays, I was racing and winning a North American rally championship in Canada.
So I decided “I’d better try” because I didn’t want to regret missing my dream. And everything went well because, in truth, I was a very bad lawyer.
A F: So how did the stunt concert come about?
ACP: I believe that one door always leads to another open door. My predilection was primarily for racing, but I thought a good way to get the most out of it was to do two things well. And having run my whole life, I know there are a lot of great runners out there, but not a lot who can run and talk at the same time.
I found out that I was good at both, and that I could drive and also talk about cars, and I became a development driver first for Toyota, then for Ford. Then that and the X Games led to the opportunity to do a show on the Discovery Channel. Just the planning of this show – how and where to drive, the safety part and showing what you can do – led to some coordination of the stunts. This first show led to other opportunities in Hollywood.
I’m kind of about to retire from racing now, and before that I knew the best way to apply this racing knowledge was to do some stunt driving. I’ve learned to be at the forefront of rallying, extreme sports, X Games, and stunts because it’s such a varied race, but I use the same skills in different places.
A F: What kind of nerves do you need to be a racing driver and stuntman? Are they different?
ACP: I see in some young runners and stuntmen this thing that they get more and more excited as that moment arrives – that is, the director is screaming âaction! Or the fall of the green flag. The truth is, more successful drivers have a growing sense of calm and confidence. I know what I do best is be behind the wheel, and that calms me down and slows everything down.
This calm, tome, is the number one transferable skill. Because in the movies, just like on the racetrack, things start to happen really quickly. And as a stuntman, you need that aspect of everything moving slower and more calmly for yourself than for everyone else.
AF: So how do acrobatic driving and Hollywood mix?
ACP: Sometimes you’ve got big, big stars in the car with you, like I once had Charlize Theron (in Atomic Blonde) in the front seat. At the same time, you cannot guess your judgments or your abilities.
Of course, in the X Games or other competitions that I have done, sometimes I look at things that I have done and I’m like, “Dude that was crazy”. But in the end, you have to have faith that with every jump or cliff or quick turn, you’re the one doing it.