At every juncture in my life," says Ray Eddy, "I asked myself the same question: 'Will I be a stunt man or will I be normal?' For a long time, I chose normal."
All that changed two years ago, when a friend called to say that MGM was looking for a new stuntman to join their Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at Disney-MGM studios in Orlando, Florida. Eddy flew down for an audition. The tests included high falls, then stage combat, and the audition pool grew thinner. Only two candidates remained. The audition ended.
On September 12, Eddy received a call at home in North Carolina--he got the job. On September 13, he moved to Orlando.
Eddy says he first became interested in stunt work when he was five years old, after watching a documentary about stuntmen on television. But as he grew older, he began to explore what he considered more realistic professional opportunities.
After graduating from Duke, he began a short-lived career in consulting, but, "I didn't like sitting behind a desk all day," he says. "It wasn't exciting enough." So he returned to Duke to pursue a master's in teaching.
He began a new career in student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Eddy says it was "a great job, once you got past the obligatory Duke insults" from colleagues. Still, his dreams of stunt work persisted.
Then, in 1995, Eddy visited his alma mater to attend a conference called "Hollywood Comes to Duke." The keynote speaker said something that changed Eddy's life forever. "He said, 'If you have an interest in [entertainment] and find yourself debating about whether or not to give it a shot, go for it. If it's been bugging you for years, it's going to keep bugging you unless you do it,'" Eddy recalls. "And it had been bugging me for years."
Eddy, who played drums in Duke's marching band, left UNC to start his own business, Superior Marching Band Enterprises, Inc. He and his staff members instruct marching bands, write band music, and hold music camps nationwide--seasonal work that gives him the time needed to train for and pursue stunt jobs.
When Eddy showed up to audition for Indiana Jones, he found that he would be competing with about 300 other people. "The very first thing they do is look at you and, if you don't look like Indiana Jones, it's over," he says. As it turns out, the show's producers did think Eddy looked like Indiana, and he beat out 175 other potential Joneses to get the job.
Since he joined the show, Eddy says, his life has changed completely. Although he worked out routinely before his big break--and had to complete strength and agility tests during the auditions--he now exercises even more, lifting weights and doing cardio exercises when he's not running his company or running from boulders.
With six to eight stuntmen employed as Indiana, Eddy finds himself in the role anywhere from one to five days a week--substituting for more senior actors whenever they are unavailable. On days when he is Indiana, he usually performs two or three times a day. He is onstage for most of the show, which lasts about thirty minutes and requires not only stunt skill but also acting talent, since Indiana chases treasure and battles bad guys.
Playing Indiana Jones has also led him to other jobs in Orlando. Last summer, Eddy starred in The Swashbucklers, a stunt show at Universal Studios. And he performs in MGM's once-a-day Fantasmic show, which features five stunt roles, all of which Eddy knows how to play. One role, as John Smith in a scene from Disney's Pocahontas movie, has him swinging across the stage on a rope.
Eddy says he has no regrets and is thankful to be pursuing, finally, his lifelong dream. "When I'm performing and I hear someone in the audience scream, or I hear the audience roar as I'm running by, I know I'm bringing a little something to people's lives."