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Rod Rondeaux: From cowboy to stunt man

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HOLLYWOOD - After 30 odd years Rod Rondeaux has called it quits as a cowboy. His final rodeo was in Fort McDowell, Ariz. last year and he'll miss the circuit, traveling with partners and all the lovely cowgirls. He did it all - bull rider, steer wrestling, team roper, raising and riding horses all his life. Rondeaux admits that he was too tall (6'2'') to bull ride but laughed and said he's a "controlled thrill seeker." Rodeo was his life and he has the scars to prove it.

Rondeaux never thought in a million years that he would be a stunt man. He said if he knew how much money stunt men made he would have done it long ago. He fell into stunts by accident when he was asked to be the double for actor Michael Greyeyes. "Crazy Horse" (TNT) was his first TV film. Riding horseback came easy to Rondeaux because he had been around horses his whole life and he has never looked back after that film.

The work keeps coming in and Rondeaux is proud that Native American stunt men are earning respect in the industry. He does not like the way Indians have been portrayed in earlier films and the careless Indian men today who abuse alcohol. Rondeaux has worked hard and stunt coordinators know who they should call when it comes to a man who can handle a horse, drive a car or fall off a building.

In 2001, the First Americans in the Arts gave Rondeaux an outstanding achievement in stunts award. Lately, he has been busy working in feature films. Films he has worked on include: "Wild, Wild West" starring Will Smith, "The Scorpion King" starring The Rock, "Skins" doubling for Graham Greene, "Hidalgo" starring Viggo Mortensen and "Pancho Villa" starring Antonio Banderas.

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Rondeaux enjoyed working in Mexico for several months in 2002 on the "Pancho Villa" set and the HBO film garnered rave reviews. Rondeaux said that "Hidalgo" was a long shoot and way over budget filming in Morocco. Most of the stunts used on location were scrapped and the shoot was moved to an army base in northern California. Rondeaux recreated Buffalo Bill's Wild West show on horseback with 20 other core stunt riders. With the help of the stunt coordinator he marked out where he falls off a horse and each rider buffers him before and after.

Just this year alone, he spent three months filming "The Missing" which is being directed by Ron Howard. Rondeaux remembered that all he did was ride horses, falling and jumping off them. Then, in between filming he headed back to the "Hidalgo" set to finish up. He joked that his young daughter keeps growing every time he comes home. "The Missing" is slated for release this holiday season.

Rondeaux landed a job working on the new ABC TV series "10-8" and pulled his groin after a dangerous stunt. He portrays a guy who is on the run after a jewelry heist. He runs up an alley and a car runs into him. Rondeaux said that the female driver was very good but she turned the car in the wrong direction. Rondeaux hit his mark and was going to pull off the stunt but was thrown onto a curb. He hit headfirst and laughs because he pulled his groin instead of injuring his head. Rondeaux has been laid up for three weeks. He's disappointed because he had to drop out of a job working for an HBO show called "Deadwood" because of the injury.

Rondeaux said he will remain on "10-8" as long as it runs on ABC. You'll see his stunt during November sweeps. Rondeaux enjoys his job and said, "It is all that I do." He'll continue to be a stunt man for a very long time to come. Part of what keeps him coming back, "I like danger," Rondeaux said.