We recently caught up with Germantown Academy graduate Josh Fried '06, who was Zac Efron's stunt double in the hit film The Greatest Showman, which is currently showing in theaters across the country.
Q: Tell us about The Greatest Showman and what was it like working on the set of a major film?
A: The Greatest Showman is a historical period drama musical film
inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum. The film is a passion project for Hugh Jackman, who has been trying to bring it to life since 2011. In the film, I worked as Zac Efron's stunt double, specifically for one musical number titled, "Rewrite The Stars." Zac's character is a high society playwright, who falls in love with an African-American trapeze artist played by Zendaya (Zendaya Maree Stoermer Coleman). Their duet includes stunts, circus and acrobatics, while singing about the implied challenges, or almost impossibility, of being an interracial couple in the mid-1800's.
I have been fortunate enough to work on a handful of films and television shows, but this experience was by far the most memorable and unique. This project was fueled by so many talented and passionate performers, it was a truly special experience to everyone involved.
Q: What was your role? What specifically were you asked to do? Any dangerous moments?
A: A stunt doubles role can range from performing an entire scene for an actor, to sometimes only providing protective pads, or bits of advice. In the film, Zac and Zendaya were passionate about performing as much of the piece as they could. I worked, alongside with a stunt double for Zendaya and a stunt team of coordinators and riggers, to help them execute as much as possible. Ultimately Zac and Zendaya were able to perform a huge portion of the number, leaving only the moments too risky for an actor for the doubles.
As far as dangerous moments, there were certainly a few highlights. Working in film is a lot of trial and error as many times you are trying a unique stunt in a new environment for the first time. My favorite moments include jumping off a balcony to catch Zendaya's double who was swinging by, along with another stunt, where I am standing in the middle of the circus arena, and Zendaya's character comes swinging in, knocking me down into what I can only call a "romantically-charged chaotic roll".
Q: What was it like to work with Zac Efron? How did they make you look like him?
A: Zac was great to work with for a number of reasons. His passion, interest and engagement in the work was unparalleled. He had no ego, just an excitement to perform, and desire to make the best piece of art we all could. Doubling an actor who is as excited as I am to be there makes it so easy to want to perform at the highest possible level.
To match an actor as a double, the main three things you need are similar height, weight and hair. Zac and I are the same height and weight and every movie or TV show has a team of professional hair stylists and makeup artists. After haircuts and wardrobe, we ultimately matched well!
Q: What's next for you? Any exciting projects coming up or project that will air soon?
A: Right now is my favorite time of year, as many of the older projects I worked on with start to come out, and all kinds of new movies and television shows will start production. Last year I worked on a few other movies which will be coming out sometime in 2018 or 2019. The first, Hotel Artemis, is a futuristic thriller, on which I doubled for Charlie Day for a few fight scenes. The second, All-Star Weekend is a comedy directed by Jamie Fox, where I play a crowd surfing, dancing Mascot (glamorous work!). Lastly, I worked on an independent movie called, The Art of Self-Defense, a dark, martial arts comedy, where I doubled for Jesse Eisenberg and Allesandro Nivola. In television, I am currently doubling an actor on an NBC show called Timeless and may be spotted in a few episodes of the upcoming season of Westworld.
Q: Before coming to Hollywood you were performing in the production "The Dream" in Las Vegas, correct?
A: Yes, Le Reve (The Dream) was my first job out of college, and set me on my path as a performer. I graduated in May 2010, and found out just a few weeks after I had been hired and would be moving to Las Vegas. If I did not get that phone call, I can honestly say I have no idea where my life would be right now. It was one of those clear moments looking back that defined where the next decade was heading for me. After four years in Las Vegas, I had a much better idea of my long term goals and ambitions, which made the decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue film and television an easy one.
Q: Why Hollywood? What is your ultimate goal?
A: As a live show performer, there is an expiration date. One day, inevitably, you will wake up and say, "I'm in my mid 40's and flipping and flying around is a lot harder than it was 20 year ago." Once I made that realization, film and television was the logical choice. I can utilize my time over the next 10 years to not only perform, but begin to work towards the next phase in my career. I would like to work as a stunt coordinator, choreographer, and potentially even direct someday. The goal for me, is to be in the position to direct or coordinate, before my body tells me I have to make that decision.
Q: For you, how did you get into becoming a stuntman? When did that start?
A: There is a Steve Jobs quote, to loosely paraphrase, which explains that you cannot connect the dots looking forward, only looking back. As far as a conscious choice to become a stuntman—that happened about five years ago. Unconsciously it has been in the groundwork of my life for as long as I can remember. From climbing and jumping off things as a kid, through collegiate gymnastics, to performing in Vegas, it all led me to exactly where I am.
Q: What's kept you interested in this niche industry?
A: In a lot of ways, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. My life has been down this path for so long that it seems to make perfect sense. The other great aspect of what I am doing is that I still have so much to learn, so many goals to achieve. Being at the tip of the iceberg is an incredible thing.
Q: Did you do Belfry Club while you were here at GA? Athletics?
A: While at GA, I was on the diving team, played soccer and tennis. Once I was heavily involved with gymnastics, I had to give up a lot of the other sports, ultimately competing for four years at The College of William and Mary. I did a bit of choir and singing at GA, along with a production of Guys and Dolls, all of which would have never indicated I would grow up to be a performer!
Q: Are there any teachers that had a positive impact here at GA?
A: I had so many amazing teachers at GA, a few come to mind, all for the same reason. Deb Mersky, Susan Negro, Rebecca Burnett, Dainas Roman, Reed Skoug, Marcia Wexler, and Craig Conlin. GA is filled with incredible teachers, a job I am not sure I have the patience for! These few, among many others, recognized and saw that my life was heading a bit outside the traditional norm, and that when I found my passion and calling in life, I would have the skills and organization to go after it.