Remarkable People

Interview: Rocket-bike pilot Eddie Braun on his new Stuntman film

Interview: Rocket-bike pilot E...
Eddie Braun launches toward immortality in his 10,000 horsepower steam-powered rocket, the Evel Spirit, in an event that has been beautifully documented in a new documentary called Stuntman, available now on Disney Plus
Eddie Braun launches toward immortality in his 10,000 horsepower steam rocket, the Evel Spirit
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Eddie Braun launches toward immortality in his 10,000 horsepower steam-powered rocket, the Evel Spirit, in an event that has been beautifully documented in a new documentary called Stuntman, available now on Disney Plus
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Eddie Braun launches toward immortality in his 10,000 horsepower steam rocket, the Evel Spirit
Snake River Canyon: not a small jump
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Snake River Canyon: not a small jump
The moment of reckoning draws near
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The moment of reckoning draws near
Decades as a professional stuntman have seen Braun upside down in exploding cars many times
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Decades as a professional stuntman have seen Braun upside down in exploding cars many times
To infinity and beyond: Eddie accelerates to over 400 mph in less than 4 seconds
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To infinity and beyond: Eddie accelerates to over 400 mph in less than 4 seconds
The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump
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The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump
Braun making preparations on the morning of the jump
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Braun making preparations on the morning of the jump
After decades as a faceless stunt man and body double, Eddie Braun is front and center in the new Stuntman doco on Disney Plus
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After decades as a faceless stunt man and body double, Eddie Braun is front and center in the new Stuntman doco on Disney Plus
Here goes nothing:
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Here goes nothing: highly pressurized steam jets out the rear of the Evel Spirit as Braun soars into the record books
Live feeds from a battalion of cameras allow the live crew to track Braun's progress when the rocket's in the air
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Live feeds from a battalion of cameras allow the live crew to track Braun's progress when the rocket's in the air
The rocket's descent looks calm and peaceful on film, but it hit the ground nose-first so hard that Braun was convinced both his legs were broken
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The rocket's descent looks calm and peaceful on film, but it hit the ground nose-first so hard that Braun was convinced both his legs were broken
The Evel Spirit landed in a bean field more than a mile downrange. It took several minutes for the crew to reach Braun
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The Evel Spirit landed in a bean field more than a mile downrange. It took several minutes for the crew to reach Braun
Braun walked away from the jump more or less unscathed, although the monster acceleration forces made him pee blood for days
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Braun walked away from the jump more or less unscathed, although the monster acceleration forces made him pee blood for days
The Evel Spirit, built by Scott Truax from his father Bob Truax's original Sky Cycle design, performed perfectly
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The Evel Spirit, built by Scott Truax from his father Bob Truax's original Sky Cycle design, performed perfectly
The entire event was filmed for an extraordinary documentary, now available on Disney Plus worldwide
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The entire event was filmed for an extraordinary documentary, now available on Disney Plus worldwide
A highly emotional day for Braun and the team
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A highly emotional day for Braun and the team
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a keen supporter of the attempt from early on
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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was a keen supporter of the attempt from early on
Braun with Justin Bieber on the set of a music video
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Braun with Justin Bieber on the set of a music video
Braun with Demi Moore and Emilio Estevez on set
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Braun with Demi Moore and Emilio Estevez on set
Braun with Cary Elwes, Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage on the Stingrays World Tour
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Braun with Cary Elwes, Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage on the Stingrays World Tour
Braun body doubling for Ray Liotta in Unlawful Entry
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Braun body doubling for Ray Liotta in Unlawful Entry
On the set of Shadow Conspiracy with Charlie Sheen
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On the set of Shadow Conspiracy with Charlie Sheen
With John Stamos on the set of Disney's Big Shot
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With John Stamos on the set of Disney's Big Shot
Eddie Braun points skywards in the Evel Spirit
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Eddie Braun points skywards in the Evel Spirit
Eddie Braun floats toward a distant bean field aboard the Evel Spirit, and into the history books
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Eddie Braun floats toward a distant bean field aboard the Evel Spirit, and into the history books
New Atlas's Loz Blain speaks with rocket engineer Scott Truax at the launch site
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New Atlas's Loz Blain speaks with rocket engineer Scott Truax at the launch site
Rocket scientist and flying car proponent Dezso Molnar at Snake River Canyon with New Atlas's Loz Blain
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Rocket scientist and flying car proponent Dezso Molnar at Snake River Canyon with New Atlas's Loz Blain
Final hugs for friends and family members before the jump
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Final hugs for friends and family members before the jump
Eddie has been a long-time stuntman and body double for Charlie Sheen. Here the pair are on set for Major League
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Eddie has been a long-time stuntman and body double for Charlie Sheen. Here the pair are on set for Major League
View gallery - 29 images

Nearly five years ago, in a vastly different world, Eddie Braun completed the stunt that famously defeated Evel Knievel, jumping a rocket bike clean over Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho. It's a special memory to me, because I travelled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to be there in person, and seeing Braun blast his way skyward from 0 to 430 mph in a couple of seconds of hissing steam remains one of the most spectacular and crazy things I've ever witnessed.

This jump was many things to many people; Scott Truax, who built Braun's rocket bike, is the son of rocketry genius Bob Truax, who built Knievel's original Sky Cycle, and he built Braun's "Evel Spirit" rocket from his dad's original blueprints to prove the design wasn't at fault. Eddie did the jump to fulfill his hero's dream. Scott did it to clear his father's name.

And now, the whole story has been turned into a feature-length film that's available now on Disney Plus. Stuntman is a remarkable documentary that brings one of the world's strangest careers into focus. It takes a man who's tumbled, swerved, fallen and exploded his way through literally hundreds of movies and TV shows you've seen, and puts his highly unusual life in the spotlight for the first time as he prepares for the biggest and scariest stunt of his life.

We caught up with Eddie for an extended chat about the movie, the rocket jump, the stark difference between Evel Knievel the daredevil and Eddie Braun the stunt man, and much more. Buckle up, it's a long one, folks, but it's fascinating stuff and a lot of fun. What follows is an edited transcript.

The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump
The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump

Loz: How's COVID been for you Eddie? Interesting time to be trying to make movie deals, I imagine?

Eddie Braun: Well I gotta tell you, in my case, COVID couldn't have been a better thing, because my film, instead of having a limited theatrical release, now it's going to be released to millions of people on Disney Plus.

It's quite a turnaround. I mean, despite everything yo go through physically in the movie, it looked like dealing with big studios to get this thing funded and broadcast was the hardest part!

Over and over again. We'd sign a deal, we'd shake on it. And then the very last minute, they, they'd say "we've had a change of heart. This is a suicide mission, and we're out. The lawyers have decided this is not for us." And at that point I'd spent so much of my own money, because they were going to refund me. And that didn't happen once, that happened three times. Now I look at it as a blessing in disguise, but man, at the time...

It's interesting, because you've been in the entertainment industry so long, but always in the practical side, getting stuff done. And then here you are finding yourself on the business side, getting hot air blown up your ass and finding out people in that world don't necessarily treat their word as sacred.

Exactly, I'm used to being in the trenches building the house, we don't see the deals with the architects and the realtors behind the scenes. And some of those people don't seem to have a lot of integrity at times, and they switch their positions like revolving doors. But look, I'm blessed, I still made a movie out of it.

Eddie has been a long-time stuntman and body double for Charlie Sheen. Here the pair are on set for Major League
Eddie has been a long-time stuntman and body double for Charlie Sheen. Here the pair are on set for Major League

It must be a bit surreal coming from being a faceless stuntman in so many huge Hollywood movies to suddenly being the star, and having your name on the poster.

Loz, I never really did it for that. I didn't do it to put my name on it. There was a very good reason I called my rocket the Evel Spirit, and not the Eddie Braun, it wasn't about putting my name out there. It was about completing something. Completing the dream of my hero, Evel Knievel. I certainly never meant to star in my own film. This was going to be just about the rocket. But we called it Stuntman and not Rocket Man, because of everything it took for me to get to this point.

Yeah. From watching the movie, you seem to have a strangely reluctant kind of relationship with your stunt work. Like, you're doing these wild and crazy things, but before the cameras roll we see you sitting there in some car rigged with bombs in almost a kind of grim state. Can you describe that state of mind?

I wouldn't use the word grim. I'm very fortunate to be asked to do some of the stunts that I've done, so it's not grim. However, I know some of this stuff is going to hurt – no matter what, even best case scenario, it's going to hurt, and I'm never thrilled with getting hurt.

I'm never thrilled with getting hurt.

There's not a lot of jobs where you clock in knowing you're going to get hurt.

Yeah, I like to say, I get hurt all the time, I ought not to and hope not to get injured, and that is a clear distinction. But I'm never excited about getting hurt.

Decades as a professional stuntman have seen Braun upside down in exploding cars many times
Decades as a professional stuntman have seen Braun upside down in exploding cars many times

Right, right. And one of the key themes in the film is the difference between stuntmen and daredevils. But I guess it's the kind of job that you'd expect crazy daredevils to be doing, right? Like, were you that kid in school who always wanted to jump off the higher tree branch?

Therein lies the difference, I would not consider myself a daredevil. There's a big, distinct difference between a daredevil and a professional stuntman. A daredevil is a guy that just goes out and does something, he's not sure of the outcome, it's more like "hold my beer and we'll see what happens!" A professional stuntman usually does a lot of preparation and homework, and he's pretty confident of a desired outcome. One he can repeat over and over again.

That's where the professionalism comes in, and that's a point that the film makes really well. But I'm interested in how you'd start off in this business if you don't have a bit of that crazy in you.

Well, I did have a little bit of daredevil in me I guess, but when I started in the business, it was a protege type thing; someone takes you under their wing, an established stunt guy, and he teaches you the ropes as you go. And the better you listen, and the better you do, the more you're entrusted, the more opportunities you get. The last thing anybody wants is some crazy guy out there, I mean, I hear it all the time, people say "I could be a stunt man, I can run into a wall, I don't care!" And that's the kind of person I would run away from, because he's unpredictable, maybe stupid. Those are not the people I want to work with. I want to work with guys that measure and calculate what they're going to do.

Right. So let's rewind a bit. When you first ran into Scott Truax, he was already making the rocket, and he needed a pilot, is that how it went?

Who knows who, what, first or where... I knew over all these years that someday I wanted to fulfill the dream of my hero Evel Knievel, and I knew there was one thing there he'd left unfinished. Meanwhile I guess in the Scott Truax world, he always wanted to avenge his father's rocket design. He had spare parts, he had the original blueprints, he just didn't have anybody that was willing to make that all happen and give him the funds, he had no money. We both connected and it was like a serendipitous connection. And by the time we realized each other's intents, it was almost a perfect match.

Yeah, it's a beautiful little intertwining of of stories.

Yeah, so we had Scott doing this to clear his family name, and me to fulfill the dream of my hero, and to kind of have an ultimate stunt that would be more or less a mic drop for me – and to pay homage to the guy that inspired me to get started in stunts in the first place. Evel Knievel.

New Atlas's Loz Blain speaks with rocket engineer Scott Truax at the launch site
New Atlas's Loz Blain speaks with rocket engineer Scott Truax at the launch site

Right, a guy coming very much from the daredevil side.

Daredevils usually do things to glorify themselves. I mean like, Evel Knievel had his name splashed on everything. But a successful stunt man never works alone.

And most people never know their names.

Yeah, well, the people that matter know. And I knew that once I connected with Scott, I had to surround myself with the perfect team, guys I could trust with my life. Guys that had been there before and knew what it's like. So I got to put together my dream team.

Right. And then you ended up having to fund this yourself.

I never intended that in the beginning, but when these guys kept pulling out, our timeline couldn't wait for lawyers and attorneys. Things had to get going, so I was self funding this thing. As soon as the deal clears, they're gonna reimburse me. Meanwhile I'm telling everybody, hey, I'm gonna do this. And we're preparing.

And when the studio pulls out, well, to me that doesn't mean my word is going to be no good, I already said I was gonna do this thing. I mean, that's what I mean by "let your yes be yes and your no be no." How can you back out of a deal once you've committed? As a stunt man, your word is the only thing you have. That's integrity, if you don't fulfil your commitment on your word, who's going to trust you? Who's gonna put their lives in your hands?

As a stunt man, your word is the only thing you have. That's integrity, if you don't fulfil your commitment on your word, who's going to trust you? Who's gonna put their lives in your hands?

So it became a thing where I never intended to self-finance this whole thing, but more importantly I never intended to break my word. The team was counting on me. I tried to fund-raise directly, but there's a certain point where it comes down to put up or shut up. There's a saying, and it's so true. Everybody's a millionaire, until it's time to write a check.

I hadn't heard that one! And there's that heartbreaking scene in the film where you head down to speak to the top fuel drag racing guys. They know what it's like to deal with extreme risk, everybody there grew up idolizing Evel Knievel and understands what you're trying to do, and you still couldn't get a buck out of 'em.

Nope. A lot of handshakes, a lot of pats on the back, "good luck." Quite a few doubters and skeptics saying "yeah right." We were shooting this in real time, we didn't know what was going to happen. I mean, it was a financial hit just to go there, only to spend three days getting nothing but pure rejection, and at the end of the day coming home with basically a shit sandwich.

Snake River Canyon: not a small jump
Snake River Canyon: not a small jump

Yeah. And then of course you go to Twin Falls, and you've got the town hall meeting where everybody stands up and says, "you wanna come here and put on some show to honor Evel Knievel, a man who has pissed this whole town off?"

Yeah, I gotta be honest, I didn't expect that he'd left such an animosity, even generations later. Yeah I didn't expect that. But be that as it may, I still had to overcome it.

Indeed. And I think people left that meeting satisfied that you are a very different man from Evel Knievel.

Well I just approached it like I try and approach my life: let your word mean something. I had to go to individual farmers' homes and talk to them, and slowly try and get them in my corner. But at the same time they could see how we were conducting business in the town. We employed a lot of people, and we paid for a lot of things, and everything was done exactly as we said it would be. People appreciate someone that keeps their word. And the ironic thing is, the biggest detractors early on, some of them are still my friends to this day, I mean, they wanted to make me an honorary citizen of Twin Falls by the time the project was done, and these are the same people that were blasting me from the beginning!

I guess the people with the strongest emotional reactions to a guy like Evel Knievel are the ones that place the most value on respect.

The more that I heard of the impact that Mr. Knievel made in that town, I can't say that I blame these people. So of course they're going to be skeptical when a guy from Hollywood shows up in town saying he's gonna do all these things... I can't blame them at all for being skeptical. I just thank god that they had the open-mindedness to at least watch and observe and give me a chance.

Yeah, I guess you're sort of walking in the guy's footsteps, but then you're also acutely aware of the kind of person that he was, and the kind of impact that he left, and you are very much not that kind of person. So you're not just finishing the jump he never finished, you're doing it with some class.

I've often said that Evel Knievel inspired me – professionally. I've always used that distinction. Not personally, because we're vastly different men. And look, I wasn't completely naive, I did my homework on the man. Listen, I'm a de facto part of the Knievel family now. They're very dysfunctional, but lovely people and they themselves, told me about certain things I'd have to overcome. The best documentary on Evel that I've seen is Johnny Knoxville's, he produced a wonderful documentary called Being Evel. And if you watch it, he too clearly states, once you learn more of the man, it's hard to reconcile with some of the things you find. You have to accept him as a whole. But I'm my own man.

I've often said that Evel Knievel inspired me – professionally. I've always used that distinction. Not personally, because we're vastly different men.

Yeah. Fair enough. I guess there's not that many people who've sat in a highly-pressurized rocket pointing up at the sky, I mean there's you, there's Evel... Mad Mike Hughes?

You know, I briefly spoke with Mad Mike. I'd never really met the man face to face, and he had something against me from the get go. He was nothing but critical of everything I was doing. But you know, it's unfortunate, what happened to him. But it reinforced what I believe: you cannot go into these things half-cocked or unprepared. And look, from watching that Homemade Astronauts show, it seemed like Mad Mike was a classic daredevil. He was trying to make a name for himself, whatever the cost. You just can't. This is serious business.

So having said that, you show up at the site knowing that you've prepared to the best of your professional abilities. You've got a dream team of other professionals. You've got the whole thing roped off, so there's no chaos and craziness happening around you. Everything's set up, everything's triple-checked. And yet still, you're almost saying goodbye to your family before the jump, just in case.

You have to understand that first of all, I'm attempting something that no-one else had ever done successfully. You don't know what you don't know. And I was fully cognizant of the fact that if this went bad, it was gonna go really bad. I told the guys on the day, "this is going to be epic today. Now, whether it's going to be an epic success or an epic failure. I don't 100% know." I stack the deck as much as I can in my favor, through preparation, through testing. But at the end of the day, it's still this little rocket on the edge of a cliff. And who the hell knows what's going to happen when I hit that button? My confidence was very high, I'm not, I'm not foolish I'm not crazy. I was very confident that it would be successful. But I would be foolish, and I would be irresponsible, if I did not prepare for the small possibility that it'd go badly.

Final hugs for friends and family members before the jump
Final hugs for friends and family members before the jump

It's weird, I look at it and I'm like, this is a guy who deliberately crashes exploding cars at 80 miles an hour on the daily. And he's fully prepped for this jump, and yet he's still gonna take his son aside and say, hey, if this doesn't go well, please make sure you walk my daughters down the aisle...

Well look, we did this with 1970s technology. Everything could have been carbon fiber and full of computers. And with today's tech... But this rocket was built piece by piece as pretty much a duplicate of Evel's. This was built in a garage with duct tape and ball peen hammers just as though it was built in 1970s.

And a dog food can lid to hold the pressure in!

Yeah, Scott Truax had to go to the market buy dog food, because the circumference of the lid was the perfect diameter for the diaphragm to release the pressure! I mean, listen, anybody with a carbon fiber wingsuit can clear that canyon. It's like motorcycle jumping; nowadays, they do these extreme jumps, but they have these specialized bikes. If they did the jumps riding those Harley-Davidson bricks that Evel Knievel did, then my hat would really be off to 'em. But when you see these guys do these things using 2000s technology, come on, it's almost like a fixed fight.

(laughs) It's still pretty crazy! Watching Robbie Maddison go flying...

Without question! I mean, listen, Robbie, man what he did... I was on the edge of my seat, my hat's off to him! But again, come on. If you're doing it with modern technology, yeeeeah, you kinda stack the deck in your favor a little too much.

Possibly, but on the other hand, Evel Knievel fell off and busted himself up almost as often as he landed them!

That inspired me as a kid! He always got back up! The lesson is, you could fall, you could crash, but pull yourself back up and do it again. Do it better. That's what inspired me. I mean, as a kid... This guy wasn't famous for the jumps that he cleared. Had he not crashed at Caesar's Palace, nobody would've heard of Knievel.

True enough!

That's what I tried to teach my children, through example, not just words. No matter the odds, no matter the failures, you keep getting back up. Michael Jordan always said he missed a lot more baskets than he made.

Eddie Braun points skywards in the Evel Spirit
Eddie Braun points skywards in the Evel Spirit

Yeah. So, we better talk we better talk about what it felt like, right? To be sitting there, in those moments of silence before the rocket went off.

Yeah, it wasn't the easiest thing. I had to sit in that rocket for quite a bit of time, and in essence that was a loaded bomb.

Yes, how much pressure was behind you again?

I don't know the exact numbers off the top of my head, but suffice to say if anything went wrong, the thing would have just exploded. I think Scott told me don't worry about it, you might hear something for about two seconds and then the lights will just go out, it'll be that fast!

The way I remember it, it was almost shockingly quick how it all went down. I mean, I guess I'm just used to the stunt shows these days. They spend half an hour telling you what they're going to do, with some hype guy begging everybody to cheer. "Come on guys, let him hear it! The louder you are, the bigger they jump!" And the audience is sitting there going "for f*ck's sake, just let him do the f*ckin' backflip."

But Loz, that's the showman. I'm not much of a showman. I wasn't doing that for the hype and the showmanship, I mean, seriously, if no one was out there but just my close friends I would have been fully content with that. And it's funny, I heard from everybody some of the top action sports athletes were actually giving me condolences, saying, "I'm sorry your thing wasn't a much bigger event. But I didn't do it for a big event. I did it for myself, internally, first.

Right, there was basically no crowd, you guys had to make that call at the last minute to make sure it didn't turn into some huge biker party. So the less savory Evel Knievel fans didn't show up in droves and trash the place and leave Twin Falls with another mess to clean up. I really appreciate that you and Nicole kinda snuck us in through the back door, since I'd come all the way from Australia to see it. But it was certainly a surprise to see something like this happening with no crowd at all.

Yeah, we didn't want all the people there. And look, you know, cheap, cheesy TV specials and big crowd events come and go, but film lasts forever. And this film now is going to be in the Disney library for... Well hopefully it outlasts me, and for multitudes of people to see, much more than any stadium full of people.

I'm not much of a showman. I wasn't doing that for the hype and the showmanship

You know, Evel Knievel did say one thing that stuck with me. He said you have to be willing to cross that canyon for nothing before you'll do it for anything. And for me that was really the case. This was never about money or grandstanding. It was to pay homage, and then to show my children that if you work really hard and never give up, you might be able to fulfill the dreams of even your heroes. And it resonated with them, because when I got back from Twin Falls, we sat down to dinner, and my eldest daughter piped up right away and says "well dad, I guess it's gonna be kind of hard for us to say we can't do something, when we just watched what you did." So it resonated with my four kids and to me that's what matters.

Yeah. Fair enough, as a parent you are constantly trying to find these little moments where you can make a positive inflection in their lives.

I knew they were watching me during the whole ordeal. They were watching my reaction to deals falling through, and how I reacted to that was gonna stick with them. So I was acutely aware.

Yeah, and with kids, they're watching whether you're doing something spectacular or not, right? You're never quite sure what's going to stick, whether it's your grandest moments or just swearing at some guy in traffic.

The one thing I thank god that they did see was my tenacity, not to give up in the course of eight years that took me to do this.

The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump
The Evel Spirit sits dormant on the launch pad before the jump

So back to the canyon. You're sitting there, the countdown's ticking...

I didn't want a long countdown, I couldn't sit there for ten, I told Scott "let's cut it in half, start at five, and I promise you at one I will hit the button." And I think even Scott was a little skeptical. "Is he really going to hit the button, or is he going to think about it for a minute?" But when I heard one, my finger was on that button, and I went, "holy crap, I've bitten off way more than I can chew."

Did you use your "EASY" button?

No no no. I was doing this to pay homage to my hero. And I didn't want this to be a big joke, I didn't want to put the EASY button in there, because nothing was easy about this. I wanted to do this with some sort of decorum. I asked my guys, I said please, let's conduct ourselves like gentlemen, I really don't want to see a bunch of high fives and chest bumping, I see that enough on YouTube. I don't know if you follow American football, but every time Joe Montana would win the Super Bowl, and I think he won five of them, he would always just shake hands with his guys like gentlemen, like he'd been there 100 times before. I wanted the movie to be respectful. I did not want it to be a whole... Yahoo-fest.

Right, but I thought that was the joke behind the easy button, that it's not easy. Everybody knows it's not easy, it's the hardest button to push.

You're right, but I have done those crashes so many times that I can joke a little bit about it. However, I've never done a rocket, I've never done this before and I wanted to try and have as much class as I could muster up.

Fair enough.

That was my attempt, and whether that translated to anybody else. I don't know. But I feel very proud of how the whole team handled themselves. We can proudly say that in the whole process of the rocket and the movie, we can walk into any room and look anybody that we dealt with in the eye and shake their hand, because of the way we dealt with them.

And I wanna say thank god for Mr Dwayne Johnson, the Rock. I mean, very early on, before we even had the rocket, The Rock heard of it and said, "however I can support this, I want to be a part of it. I'll host it, whatever you need." I had often thought, well, if I do this thing and nobody hears about it, it's kind of like the tree that falls in the forest, did it really happen? Well, the Rock said "this will be the oak that falls right in the middle of Times Square."

Had you guys worked together on movies before?

I worked with the Rock on a movie called Escape from Witch Mountain, but I really didn't get to know him, you know, he's doing his deal, I'm doing my stunts. We connected through his stunt double, his cousin, Tanoai Reed. I owe a huge amount of gratitude for his support. He's a brand, a successful brand. He's putting his reputation behind me that I'm going to fulfill what I say I'm going to do. That makes you want to rise up to the occasion. I mean, I figured if I've got the Rock behind me, I better be successful and I better do it the right way, because Dwayne Johnson is all class.

I figured if I've got the Rock behind me, I better be successful and I better do it the right way, because Dwayne Johnson is all class.

Yeah, for sure. So we're back on the launch pad, and the countdown gets to zero...

Well I just I was laser-focused, because I had so many things to think about. It wasn't just hitting a button, it was realizing where I was spatially, what I had to do. I had three parachutes. There's a drogue chute to slow it down, because if everything went right, I would be going so fast that no parachute would help. So once I'd slowed it down, I would pull the main chute, and if everything went right, then great. We had one last chute called the "oh shit" chute. and if everything went bad, we'd hoped and prayed that maybe it would slow me down enough to possibly survive.

Here goes nothing:
Here goes nothing: highly pressurized steam jets out the rear of the Evel Spirit as Braun soars into the record books

Yeah, so do you remember the feeling of that acceleration?

It was very unpleasant. I don't know if you've ever been punched by someone who was bigger than you. I have, your ears ring, your your vision kind of goes blurry. Yeah, it was awful. I fully understand now why Evel Knievel never went back to do it again, I wouldn't do it again. I would not do it again. It's not a smooth acceleration, it's an explosion.

I fully understand now why Evel Knievel never went back to do it again, I wouldn't do it again. I would not do it again.

You're riding an explosion that lasts for what, three and a half seconds or something like that?

Long enough. I peed blood for days beyond the launch. It was not pleasant at all, even my hair hurt by the next day. Yeah, it was awful. I know you Australians are tough, and I like to think I'm tough, but no, this thing kicked my ass. It was awful.

Right, but you didn't black out?

Thank god no I didn't. I felt close but I didn't. And that was one of the unknown variables, we didn't know what was going to happen.

Yep. So you probably can't see anything but sky at this point?

Oh yeah, well, here's the funny thing, the thing spun and spiraled like a football, so I saw ground, sky, ground, sky... I knew I was spinning. I was just praying that I was spinning in the right direction. There was a lot to think about, because you know you really don't want to mess it up.

Eddie Braun jumps the Snake River canyon on a rocketbike

And that's what happened to Evel right? He hit the hit the parachute too early?

It's easy for all of us to Monday-morning quarterback. I don't know. I mean, some say it was a malfunction, some say it was Evel Knievel. I don't know, I'm not even gonna guess. I wasn't there.

But you're uniquely qualified to say whether that's a possibility... Like, were you thinking "I have no idea where I am, I dunno how far through this jump I am, I don't know if I should be pulling the chute yet?"

It's hard for me to speculate. Mr. Knievel was usually on a motorcycle. He always had control. I'm used to being trapped in some tiny little crash cage in a car, I'm strapped in, I'm uncomfortable. I'm in there for a while, while they're setting cameras or bombs or whatnot, so I'm kind of used to that environment. It's an unpleasantness that I'm familiar with. That allows me to focus on other things. And again, I wasn't there when Mr. Knievel did it, but I'm sure it was hectic and crazy and all those things. Anybody can guess that he pulled the chute early, or that something malfunctioned early... Who knows? What I do know, having taken the same rocket across the same canyon is that Bob Truax's design was perfect, and Scott Truax built a rocket that worked perfectly.

So how do you know when to pull the chutes?

It's not an exact science. No one had ever done it. I guesstimated: hey, the ground is coming up, my brain has caught up with my environment, and I better start pulling chutes because when you're going over 400 miles an hour in a little tin can, that ground comes up pretty quick. So I pulled the main chute. But I still had this terror and fear that it was still gonna be a wreck coming in because I'm going really fast, even with a parachute. It's very deceiving how fast I'm coming into the ground.

Eddie Braun floats toward a distant bean field aboard the Evel Spirit, and into the history books
Eddie Braun floats toward a distant bean field aboard the Evel Spirit, and into the history books

Yeah, and it's not like you're holding the sticks of an aircraft or anything like that. You had four controls: one go button and three stop levers and that's it.

Yeah, and you know there's a solid stop waiting for you.

Indeed. What does a nose-down rocket touchdown in a field feel like?

It was an absolute wreck. I honestly thought I had broken both my legs. It hit so hard. I thought "okay I broke both my legs but at least I'm alive." So I sat there for a second and tried to move my feet. And they worked, and I went "okay well I can still move my feet, maybe my legs aren't broken." And so I climbed out of the thing and took a minute for my brain to process everything I had just gone through. Like "wow, I successfully made it."

Yeah! And how close were you to where where the guys expected you to land?

Well, here's the thing. Nobody knew where I was gonna land! So we just guesstimated it, and I tell you what, that rocket was just so powerful. It superseded all of our expectations, I landed about a mile away. So it was surreal, I felt like Starman landing on an alien planet, I was out there in a field all by myself. Finally I could hear the drones catching up to me. And then, in the distance I could see people coming finally, but I literally flew about a mile downrange, which was wild.

It was surreal, I felt like Starman landing on an alien planet, I was out there in a field all by myself.

So you had a nice little bit of quiet time to privately reflect.

First thing I did was I knelt down and thanked god that I survived, and pretty much unscathed.

The Evel Spirit landed in a bean field more than a mile downrange. It took several minutes for the crew to reach Braun
The Evel Spirit landed in a bean field more than a mile downrange. It took several minutes for the crew to reach Braun

Yeah it's it's pretty awesome. It's certainly the craziest thing I've ever seen in person.

Let me ask you something. You keep using that word crazy... That day was pretty well controlled... Do I seem like a crazy person?

Well, no, but Eddie, you got in a rocket and blasted over a canyon. That's pretty crazy shit!

Well from an Australian I'll take that as a compliment! But sure, I did that, but with a measure of thought.

100%. And obviously it's not the sort of thing that you undertake unless it has immense meaning to you, and I guess that's one of the other things that really comes through in the film. This is a full stop. This is an exclamation point on on your career.

To me it's a quiet, graceful way to bow out. I wasn't trying to make a statement. I wasn't trying to make an exclamation, I was just trying in my own way, to say thank you for a great career as a stunt man. Thank you, Mr. Evel Knievel for inspiring me. Thank you, thank you, thank you, humbly exit stage left.

I guess the humble exit of a stunt man is probably an exclamation mark on anyone else's life, let's put it that way!

You never want to be the last guy at a party. As far as physically the toll it's taking on me, I didn't want to be the guy outstaying my welcome, trying to do these big stunts at 70 years old. I wanted to leave the party quietly and gracefully, and that was the way I chose.

... By quietly and gracefully blasting a 10,000 horsepower rocket bike across Snake River Canyon? (laughs)

(laughs) I was living the dream too, come on!

The entire event was filmed for an extraordinary documentary, now available on Disney Plus worldwide
The entire event was filmed for an extraordinary documentary, now available on Disney Plus worldwide

Absolutely! So I guess it's been nearly five years now since the jump. What've you been up to?

Well, it took from 2016 to 2018 to put the movie together. I was still at my day job doing some stunts, but I had to make a movie. We are, in essence, filmmakers, and this is our calling card, this is our first movie out of our production company. So we finished it in 2018. We put it in the LA film festival, and it blew me away that we actually won. I was floored. But the job's not done; we had a movie, but if you can't get it out to the masses, what are you going to do, hand it out as Christmas gifts on DVDs to your family? We had to find someone, partner with someone. We found the perfect partner with Disney.

Okay. So are you retired as a stunt man now?

No, I'm transitioning. I'm not doing big stunts anymore, I've had more than my share of those. I'm doing stuff that's still classified as stunts, but they're not ones that are gonna put me in the emergency room. Smaller stunts. I'm doing that while launching our new film production company. It's not an easy task and it's not an overnight tasks.

It's going to put you and put you in a position to deal with more of those film industry execs that you've enjoyed dealing with so much! (laughs)

I still believe a handshake means something, as foolish as that sounds.

Fair enough. So what what sort of projects are you working on? Another passion project?

I put passion into everything I do. I think the next project, as audacious and as big as it is... Well I can't talk about it right now, but I can promise you Loz, you will love the film we're putting together, it's such a natural fit. I'm just hoping it won't take the eight years Stuntman took to make!

Sounds amazing. You have demonstrated tenacity and perseverance, and those things will serve you well I think in this next phase. Look mate, thanks for putting together a terrific movie out of an incredible event, I watched it with my son, his jaw was on the floor even before the rocket jump, like "that's a job? You can drive exploding cars for a job? Wow!" I can only hope Stuntman is a huge success for Disney.

It's hard for me to judge a movie that's about me. But what I can say is I'm very proud of it. Every frame of footage I'm proud of. So I hope that translates to somebody that watches: hey, this guy gave his all. Thank you again for your time and your interest. I really appreciate it.

Thank you, man! It's been a great chat and I loved the film.

Many thanks to Eddie Braun and Nicole Wool for their assistance on this story. Check out the Stuntman film trailer below. It's available now worldwide on Disney Plus.

Stuntman | Official Trailer | Disney+

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2 comments
2 comments
Daveb
You’re the best Loz
guzmanchinky
Excellent interview. I'll have to check this out...