This hometown fall guy is a legendary Hollywood stuntman

EVERETT — Barroom brawls are second nature to David Boushey. So is being lit on fire and falling off cliffs.

What’s up with that?

Boushey spent decades as a stuntman and fight director.

He was in two Herald stories in the 1970s but somehow managed to avoid the local paparazzi since.

Until now.

He was a willing subject. Fact is, he called the newspaper to let us know he was here, living quietly in the Everett suburbs for the past 25 years with his wife, Kathleen.

“My neighbors are going to be surprised, because I don’t make a big deal about what I’ve done in my life,” he said in an interview at his home.

Boushey, 79, grew up in Everett, moved to Seattle at 15 and returned to attend Everett Community College.

While working at Chicken Delight at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, he scored a bit part in a French farce to make extra coin.

David Boushey directed sword-fights actor Christopher Walken (right) at the start his career in the Shakespeare play “Hamlet” in Seattle.

It was his first time on stage. “I was holding a candelabra and had a big poofy white wig and the darn wig caught fire,” he said.

But that’s not when he decided to be a stuntman.

He worked at Boeing in Seattle after graduating with double degrees, in psychology/parks and rec, from Central Washington University in 1969.

A Boeing co-worker who was into theater got him started doing plays.

“There was no such animal as fight directors,” Boushey said. “I didn’t discover that until I went to England.”

After two years at Boeing, he went to England to study acting. That’s where he learned the art of stage combat.

“All of a sudden I am doing more fighting than I’m doing acting,” he said. “So I ended up being a fight choreographer with a small focus on acting. I was a real good fight guy.”

Upon return, he was the fight director for Seattle Repertory Theatre, including the sword battle in “Hamlet” with Christopher Walken, who was then just starting out.

David Boushey’s first theater review in the The Everett Herald is part of his collection of items spanning decades. Boushey is a retired stuntman, fight director and member of Hollywood’s Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

David Boushey’s first theater review in the The Everett Herald is part of his collection of items spanning decades. Boushey is a retired stuntman, fight director and member of Hollywood’s Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A 1974 Everett Herald review of the show said Boushey “choreographed every step, swish and tumble so that not a single movement appears phony or even hesitant. The duel is as real as you’ll ever see.”

Next stop for Boushey was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

“That’s where I acted with Jean Smart,” he said Monday. “I saw her on the Emmy Awards last night for Best Actress for the TV series ‘Hacks.’ She’s just as beautiful as she ever was.”

The actress was also his student at the University of Washington professional actors training program, among the many places he taught his craft.

He met Kathleen as a guest artist in 1984 for the University of Wisconsin production of “Macbeth.”

“She was choreographing the dance. I was choreographing the fights,” he said. “I had a natural inclination toward her because she was such a superlative mover and dancer.”

They married in 1988 and have three children.

“He put me into the stunt business because of my movement and ability,” Kathleen said. “You do have to be an actress to make it believable.”

She got hit by cars and leaped off buildings.

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“He put me in crazy stunts,” she said.

You can learn some tamer moves from her at the Everett YMCA, where she teaches Forever Fit classes.

Boushey was inducted into the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame in 1992. That inspired him to start the Seattle’s International Stunt School to train others.

The school, now run by Boushey’s former student, Jeff McKracken, has a one-month summer program with classes in Seattle and Everett.

“He brought a whole wealth of talent to the industry with his style of fighting and his particular penchant,” said McKracken, 48, of Burien, who spends the rest of the year as a stunt performer.

“Everybody does a good Dave impression who has known him throughout the years because he’s such a distinctive character.”

Boushey founded the Society of American Fight Directors and the United Stuntmen’s Association.

His Everett home office is lined with photos and awards.

He worked with filmmaker David Lynch on “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks.”

David Boushey as the bow-tied mower of lawns as a child in Everett.

“You had to more or less read his mind when working with him,” he said. “He was different.”

Other credits include numerous TV shows, commercials and movies such as “Drugstore Cowboy,” “Mad Love” and his favorite, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.”

Boushey said he’s worked with Denzel Washington, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Dennis Hopper, Matt Dillon, Kiefer Sutherland, Annette Bening, William Hurt, Chris Cooper, Linda Evans, River Phoenix, Jobeth Williams, Danny Glover, Mary Tyler Moore, Brendan Fraser and Heather Graham.

To name a few.

Enough of that. What I wanted to know was: Can he still fall out of his chair and not get hurt?

“Of course I could,” he said.

He didn’t prove it.

The walls of photos were proof enough.

“Doing a high fall from 40 or 50 feet up isn’t much different than just doing a fall from this chair once you learn the technique,” he said.

As tempting as it was, I didn’t ask him to jump off the roof.

Of course he could.

“Once you learn how to fall on those parts of your body where you don’t hit your elbows, or your knees or your face or whatever,” he said.

Sounds like skills everyone should have. Handy around the house.

“I’ve fallen down my hill here, it’s a pretty steep hill,” he said of his yard. “So it helps me when I do my gardening.”

His latest project is a new book, “Lessons from the Maestro.”

Part how-to guide, part autobiography.

Everett plays a key role.

“What fueled my career was the way I was raised,” he writes. “It was a working class community where hard work was a part of growing up.”

As a kid, he had a Herald paper route, picked strawberries and mowed lawns.

He wore a bow tie when he pushed a mower. “Dressed for success!” he explains under the photo in his book.

Boushey looks back on his life of falls, fisticuffs and fights with pride.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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