Italian-Canadian stuntman, Marcello Bezina, admits he’d be crashing through windows whether he was doing it on an X-Men movie set or not. “I could just as easily see myself going through a plate-glass window in another life,” Bezina reveals. “If I wasn’t a stuntman, I’d be living a life in a parallel universe – it wouldn’t be in a 9 to 5 work environment.”
Surely anyone growing up in Montreal’s Italian community (where values tend to be more on the traditional side) would merely flirt with a career in show business, then fall back onto something more stable – but not Bezina. The veteran thrill seeker has always found opportunity in places most would never venture. “Montreal is home to big names in video game development: Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Warner Brothers. That’s great because I work doing motion capture for them,” says Bezina of how his hometown bolstered his career.
His father, raised in Pola (currently Croatia’s Pula) and forced to move to Torino after the Second World War, was apprehensive about his son’s choices. How could a kerosene-doused career prove financially stable? On the other hand, his late mother (an Italian woman born in Paris) only requested that Bezina present a polished, professional appearance. She proudly left the rest up to him, introducing him to all her friends as “her son, the actor.”
“As far back as I could remember, the actors and action on the silver screen have always captivated me – the James Bond films, spaghetti westerns, Indiana Jones and so many others. I love the movies,” Bezina says of catching the show biz bug. It wasn’t long before his idols became his contemporaries.
Bezina remembers working with Hugh Jackman, who would bring members of the crew “scratchy” lotto tickets on Fridays. “I still carry the ones he gave me, folded in my wallet.” Ironically, Bezina describes his previous job working the oil rigs of Northern Alberta as one of the most dangerous things he’s done to this day. After a pressure valve exploded on an oil-drilling platform, he got badly injured and returned home to Montreal. When recounting the accident, Bezina can only describe himself as “lucky.” And so, as that door closed, a window (he’d be crashing through) opened. Upon his return home, a young Bezina was passing by a film set in the McGill ghetto where he met David Rigby, who was unloading stunt equipment from a truck.
Bezina credits David Rigby as the harbinger of Canadian stunt work. “He gave many stunt performers their start in this business.” Known as the “granddaddy of car stunts in Canada,” Rigby has worked on countless productions since the 1970s and helped put Montreal’s stunt community on the map. “What do you do?” Rigby asked. A coy Bezina answered, “What do you need?” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, you’ll find Bezina regularly dangling from helicopters and throwing himself through office buildings – maybe even on fire. “The challenges are working out how to safely do something and still make it appear dangerous; the one that’s kind of special for me is a fire burn. There’s nothing simple when it comes to playing with fire. You have to have full confidence that your safety team knows what they’re doing, and in that special clothing that has been soaking in freezing cold fire retardant gel overnight.”
Bezina’s gearing up for work on the 12th instalment of the X-Men series, Dark Phoenix (he’s been working with the series for years). His other project, Titans (filmed in Toronto), is a TV series premiering soon showcasing the teenage years of many DC comic characters. He is also set to be working on a new CBS series shooting in Montreal and Italy called Blood & Treasure. “It’s a funny thing how the universe works.” says Bezina. “One thing leads to another and here I am.”