Alumni Profiles

The Illusionist
The guy who actually takes the fall is Jared Burke '01

Bookmark and Share
Easy to print version

You have probably seen Jared Burke '01 on TV or in films. But he works so hard at being someone else that sometimes even his mother doesn't recognize him.

Burke is a stuntman for feature films, TV shows and commercials. Some of his recent projects include work on "The Baster" with Jennifer Anniston and M. Night Shyamalan's new film, "The Last Airbender," both to be released in 2010, and the TV shows "Fringe" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." He trained Mickey Rourke for scenes in "The Wrestler," and, in his favorite role, Burke played a Russian soldier who is elbowed out of a jeep by Harrison Ford in last year's "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." "The scene is a flashback to 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' which was an iconic movie of my childhood," Burke says. "When we were rehearsing and they wheeled the wardrobe out, I asked the other actors, 'Does anyone else have goose bumps?'"

Burke grew up in Salem, N.H. He was a high-energy child who liked to jump off things: picnic tables, rope swings, train trestles. "I saw his feet more than his head," says his mom, Heidi Gervino, who enrolled him in gymnastics when he was 2. At Salem High School, he was the pole vault state champion his senior year.

At UNH, Burke became an even better vaulter, winning several America East titles. "Jared was unique in his spatial awareness," says coach Jim Boulanger '75. "He was very creative--he developed a routine that vaulters still use in practice. He liked to challenge himself. I remember him planning a routine and saying, 'How about if I jump off the catwalk?' I said, 'No, Jared, you're not going to jump off the catwalk.' He's a great kid."

Burke was also on the coed UNH cheerleading squad that went to the national championships in 2001. There he met a friend of a friend who got him an audition with AntiGravity, an acrobatic troupe. He performed with them for several years, but what he really wanted was a job in film. "I took some acting classes and discovered that I'm a good imitator, but not a good actor," he says. "The movie industry began elevating stunts, using stunt scenes as marketing tools. They became entertainment. I thought to myself, 'I can do that.'"

What happened next was coincidence, good karma or fate. A movie company was filming in front of his apartment in Brooklyn, and Burke spotted the stunt coordinator. "I didn't know it, but it was George Aguilar, one of the best-known stunt coordinators in the world," he says. He introduced himself. Six months later, Aguilar called Burke to do a small stunt. "Some guys didn't want the job because you had to shave your head. But I said, 'Sure.'"

EJECTION SEAT: Jared Burke '01, left, is encouraged to exit the vehicle by Harrison Ford in the most recent Indiana Jones movie. In the top photo, Burke, left, poses with Food Network star chef Guy Fieri. Burke was hired to do a promotion for Fieri's show.

He's been working ever since. It's a lucrative profession--working two days a week, a stuntman can make $250,000 per year; top stuntmen can make a million dollars a year. Burke specializes in any kind of falling, fighting or flying. "Seventy-five percent of the time, the stunt is easy--I'm doubling for an actor who maybe gets in a fight in a bar," he says. "The rest of the time, it's a real stunt, like crashing a car or getting thrown out of a window. The only scary stunt is the one where you go in not prepared."

Safety has always been Burke's first priority--he has never broken a bone--although perhaps more so now that he and his wife, graphic designer Agnieshka Kostro, have a daughter, Cadence, 2. "She loves to roughhouse!" he says. "She always wants to be upside down, and she'll throw herself on anything."

Like a professional athlete, a stuntman has a relatively short career, but Burke is learning all he can about the coordinator's job. "Stunt coordinators hire the stunt people, make the stunts look right, and keep everyone safe while fulfilling the vision of the director," Burke says. Sounds like a job for someone with creativity--and good karma.

Visit Jared's website for more photos and video

 Easy to print version

blog comments powered by Disqus