Casey Wright as mascot Sunny Ray
For most performers who operate on the silver screen or on a stadium stage, the goal is to be seen. Recognition drives those who find themselves called to the work; applause is the currency of the realm.
But for some, recognition is anathema. To be seen - to be noticed - is to have failed. Casey Wright knows this paradox all too well. As both a stuntman who has worked on multiple Hollywood blockbusters and the man who gives life to one of Australia’s most beloved sports mascots, Casey lives in a particularly strange world for a performer.
“If they see me, then I’m not doing my job correctly,” he says.
Such is the life of the fall guys in Hollywood, but their job is indispensable. These unseen artists work tirelessly to make the big name superstars even more super. Casey has lent his talents to numerous films and television series, helping to make stars like Paul Giamatti and Brian Sacca seem capable of larger-than-life wonders.
He recalls how his invisible assistance helped keep one project on track in a more subdued fashion:
“[During filming of] In Like Flynn, actor Dan Fogler had tweaked his ankle during a scene where he was being chased by head-hunters. I was called in to double Dan. This meant that I had to perform the actions required in character, which involved sprinting through the bush, swimming across running rivers, and more. My work meant that Dan was able to rest and heal up, and filming wasn’t disrupted.”
Even with such high-profile work behind him, Casey doesn’t have a high profile. In his role as Sunny Ray, mascot of the Gold Coast Suns AFL team, Casey performs in front of packed stadium crowds every week of the season.
Combine that with school appearances, charity events, parades, and the like, and Casey lives for hours at a time as Sunny Ray, his own efforts hidden behind the smiling mask. But as he says, the relationships that Sunny forges in the work are all worth it.
“People see Sunny and they just light up. Kids especially. When I interact with children, there’s no question that Sunny Ray is real, and that’s exactly how I want it to be.”
For all of the difficulties of performing in the shadows, Casey loves the work. Whether on set or in front of the crowd at a stadium, he brings an infectious energy and joie de vivre that lights up every situation. And given the work at his “office”, why wouldn’t he?
“Hearing the call of “Action!”, and then watching a team of men on horseback drag a building through the streets does make you wonder how the hell you ended up here. I love that part of the job.”
Unfortunately for performers like Casey, the paradox that keeps them from their glory even impacts the industry as a whole. Stuntmen and women have been campaigning for years for exceptional stunt work to be recognised at highest echelon of film - the Academy Awards.
Currently, no such award exists, and great work by men and women like Casey Wright goes unrecognised on Hollywood’s night of nights. For now, they will have to continue to wait in the wings for their due. Still, as a grin crosses his face, Casey explains that it’s not all bad.
“We get to do things no one else can. Sure, no one knows who’s doing it, but hey, if I wanted to become famous, I would have gone into acting instead.”
Even still, Casey himself has been honored by the SAG awards for his contributions to the Oscar-winning Hacksaw Ridge.
“That was a lovely surprise,” Casey adds.