From my Inbox to you, courtesy of Virginia Tech — an interview with Superman’s stunt double.
BLACKSBURG — For many little boys, the notion of growing up big and strong like Superman is dangled in front of them like a rare gem by parents who are eager for finicky tots to eat their vegetables. “Eat your vegetables,” they say. “You want to be big and strong like Superman, don’t you?”
But Paul Darnell, a 2005 Virginia Tech graduate in human nutrition, foods, and exercise actually did grow up to be Superman — or at least his stunt double. Darnell appears this summer in the Warner Bros. “Man of Steel” movie as the stuntman for Henry Cavill, who has the starring role.
Darnell has come a long way since his first part — a straight-to-DVD production entitled “Evilution” in which he played a free-running zombie — and has gone on to appear in major blockbusters such as the “Twilight” series as Robert Pattinson’s high-flying vampire double and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” when he was Adam Sandler’s Krav Maga counterpart. He was also in “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
While Stunt Double 101 isn’t a course of study in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, studying nutrition and exercise certainly seem like practical options for a superhero in-training. As an alumnus of the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, and a former member of Virginia Tech’s gymnastics team, Darnell laid a solid foundation for a career of flying, leaping, and otherwise performing physically preternatural tasks on-screen — movements that require knowing how his body works and how to feed it to perform optimally when the cameras roll.
Darnell recently spoke to Virginia Tech about his career and his path toward becoming a stunt man.
Q: How did you make the transition to stunt man and how did your degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise help you along that path?
A: After graduating from Virginia Tech I packed my bags and moved to California. My education helped me get a job at a physical therapy clinic so I could pay the bills while training and trying to land stunt jobs.
I was on the gymnastics club team at Virginia Tech, which is an open-gym style, so I was able to train for all sorts of flips and tricks that a stunt man would need to know. Going to college before I started pursuing stunts really gave me the preparation I needed to become a successful stunt man.