Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Adventures of Manny Siverio: Stuntman, Martial Artist, Mambo Dancer!

I sat down with Manny Siverio at a diner located near Second Ave. and 58th St. in Manhattan while he was taking a break from his latest movie project.

“The most important thing for me," he says in between sips of coffee, "is that I’m a happily married man and father!"

His wife, Addie Diaz, is a dancer and choreographer; one will see pictures of him and his wife performing in various shows. Who knows, we might see them "Dancing with the Stars"!

Manny is also a well known writer whose articles have appeared in the website for Salsa New York and has contributed to various martial arts magazines; among them Black Belt Magazine and Karate Illustrated.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: You’re a professional stuntman, how did you get into that area of work?

MANNY: I’ve always been physically active ever since childhood. I practiced doing fight scenes and filming it with my super 8 camera when I was 12-13 years old. I still have several of these “fight scenes” which I had quickly slapped together when I was a kid. When I later moved to NY I was trying to use my martial art background to get work. I finally got my first Non-Union job as a guy getting killed by this “creature” in this B-Movie, but I think I got my first union gig because they were looking for Hispanics that could box.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: Any Latin American actors/actresses you have worked with. Were you ever a stunt double for anyone well known?

MANNY: I’ve doubled various people over the years ranging from John Leguizamo, Manny Perez and Michael DeLorenzo to name a few.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: Can you tell us what is the difference between a daredevil and a stunt person?

MANNY: I think the best way to think about it is that a daredevil does it for the publicity (in other words for himself) and a stunt person does what he does and rarely gets recognized for his achievements or his work. A daredevil wants to be the headliner or main event in a show, whereas a stunt person is lost in the credits of a movie. The basic idea of the stuntman is not to stand out but to blend in and be a part of the movie.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: Do you ever decide what stunt to do or not to do?

MANNY: The way a stunt is done or executed is decided or put together by a stunt coordinator. I usually coordinate so you can basically say that I decide how a gag is going to happen or going to be executed. Have I turned down a gag that has been offered to me in the past? At this point in my career I can honestly say that I’ve been able to tackle everything that has been thrown my way.

But on the other hand, there are things that I really don’t have any interest in doing any more, or even want to do anymore. For example car hits, high falls, etc. I’ve been there and done that. Not to say that I won’t do them if I had to, but it wouldn’t be one things that I would list on my stuntman’s top ten list. I rather let the younger people in the business do it. I have more fun putting it together, helping decide where the cameras go and putting the action together so that it best works for the storyline in the movie.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: You’ve had your share of accidents, broken bones, any serious injuries?

Over the years I’ve injured myself in an assorted number of ways for example…. sprained ankle, bruised ribs, fractured toe, dislocated knuckle, concussion, hernia, broken nose, stitches.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: In doing this kind of work does your family ever get scared what you do? Do they ever tell you, “Why did you pick this kind of work?"

MANNY: During my early years my extended family (mother, father, brother, sister) never really knew what I was doing until after I had worked on a job. Things have changed somewhat over the years since I got married and started raising a family. My wife is extremely happy that I’ve moved into coordinating more than actually working in front of the camera. I still occasionally get an opportunity to play in front of the camera and have gotten somewhat injured. On one occasion I picked up several stitches after going through glass on an episode of Third Watch. And while doing the opening fire burn scene in American Gangster I got some minor “hot spots” where some skin kind of peeled off on the bridge of my nose and the back edge of my ears. Needless to say my wife wasn’t exactly too thrilled by these results. But she more or less trusts me to know what I’m doing.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: You’re a Martial Artists; which art form is your specialty Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do.

MANNY: I have a background in Tae Kwon Do, Boxing, Kick-Boxing, Kali, etc.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: You both were in the hit “Latin Madness”(Great Show!) the show was put together by Latinos and the show got good reviews true?

MANNY: Its was a great show. It put together some awesome talent from the New York Mambo Community. It was both a pleasure and a honor to be a part of that show and to have shared the stage with so many talented performers. I loved the fact that we were supported in large part by the New York Hispanic community who came out to see the show in several of its limited runs. Its was a great showcase for various of the different dance companies active at the time as well for their choreographers. My wife Addie had several of her numbers featured which is a testament to her skills as a choreographer. Its a shame that the show wasn’t able to get the type of sponsorship it needed to make the move to a more permanent stage where it could be viewed by a wider audience.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: Stunt man, Martial Arts, Dancer/Performer, we almost forgot your also a contributing writer to various magazines, Father/Husband. What has to be your main success?

MANNY: I would have to say that family is my greatest success. They give me the incentive to keep pushing forward. I’ve been pretty fortunate that all my hard work has paid off over the years, but it really wouldn’t be worth much without having my family there share my success with me.

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CALL ME ISMAEL: If there’s stunt man/women performers hall of fame you, then get inducted what would you like to say in your acceptance speech.

MANNY: It would be the simplest thing. There would be three set of people who I would thank. First, I would thank all those people who I have worked for in the past. Since they were the ones who gave me my start and thus a career in this business. Second, I would also thank those who have spotted and watched over me when I was working in front of the camera. They were the ones safe guarding me from harm. And finally, I would thank all those who have worked for me throughout the years because without their hard work I would never have been able to develop the reputation that I have as a stunt coordinator today.

(Mr. Siviero recently coordinated stunts for a movie starring Andy Garcia that filmed in City Island in the Bronx.)

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