Veteran actor-stuntman Carson Manning’s extraordinary career has been one fraught with challenges. Not only does Manning routinely confront potentially dire peril—falls, car wrecks, explosions—as an actor, he must also explore and create nuanced, convincing dramatic portrayals.
Manning’s double-barreled ability to perform spectacular stunts and create meaningful, fully realized characterizations has kept him working as in-demand cinema asset for decades.
The unusual Manning career saga had a fittingly offbeat origin.
“I grew up in Toronto and was pretty much on my own,” he said. “My dad took off when I was young and my mom was often not around, I stayed with my grandfather. I was one of those tough kids. Didn't get into much trouble but it was rough.”
As a teenager, Manning began training himself as an athlete, acrobat and driver, both cars and motorcycles, but his true passion was acting, particularly comedy.
“It was something I always wanted to do even when I was 5, 6 years old,” he said. “As I grew I got into comedy, and I was the biggest class clown ever, I’d get kicked out of class. The principal eventually began taking me from classroom to classroom to perform my skits, I’d do ten or twenty minutes off the top of my head, people would be in hysterics.”
Manning got serious and began formal training in innumerable acting classes and workshops, even studying with fabled comic troupe Second City.
The talented youth began acting, starting as an extra before he moved on to more significant roles.
“They liked my look and started giving me more parts” Manning said. “In the early days, I wanted to learn everything and I got to know some of the stunt coordinators and decided I really wanted to get into stunts.”
With his invaluable athletic and automotive background, it was a natural transition and Manning easily established himself as both a reliable risk taker and accomplished dramatic player.
“Sure it’s scary,” Manning said. “It drives you insane some of the stuff they want you to do. I mean if you’re hanging from a helicopter sure we do green screen and wires and all that but there’s a lot of action that you must do phsyically.”
These tandem abilities have allowed Manning’s impressive roster of professional credits to reach almost 100 titles and also formed some key professional alliances—the blockbuster Marvel comics ‘X Men’ franchise has used Manning, in both capacities, for almost twenty years.
Along the way, Manning earned a prestigious Screen Actors Guild award nomination for his work on
‘X Men Days of Future Past,’ the time travel themed action epic that was one of the highest grossing reileases of 2014.
“It’s an interesting thing,” Manning said. “I did the very first one 19 years ago, I was doubling for Hugh [Jackman] back then. I did the next few but ‘Days of Future Past’ was a couple down the road. I wasn't doubling but actually performing acting and stunting on that. The big one in that was when President Nixon is giving a speech to a huge crowd and the evil Magneto brings in all these flying robots and complete mayhem breaks loose. The robots fly in, cars are on fire and being catapulted into the air and exploding, it was a pretty big sequence. It takes weeks of rigorous preparation before shooting and the rehearsal time alone is considerable.”
Attention to the most minute detail is key to success in the stuntman’s world.
“It’s all a safefy issue,” Manning said. “Everything has to be precisely calculated—as best we can—because we have all these explosions, fire and smoke. cameras flying though the air. There’s a another scene with a character who has super-speed and he’s running around and around and there’s bodies flying through the air, we were all on wires, debris was scattered everywhere. It gets wild.”
The multi-faceted Manning has relished every startling action scene he’s performed over the years, but his passion for acting remains a primary motvator.
“I love acting and I love this business,” he said. “But now, in my fifties, I am looking to continue acting,
do more stunt coordination and I’ve also started producing—I have an action film project, ‘Time Man,’ that’s really exciting.”
Manning’s enthusiasm and drive is matched only by the hard-earned, sagacious pragmatism which decades of high-flying daredeviltry have instilled in him.
“Stunting is a young mans game,” he said. “Theres a lot of stuff I won’t do and with all the Marvel comics movies, it’s getting a lot more physically demanding. People are sick of all the CGI and these young guys work very hard doing this spectacular stuff.”
Manning’s indomitable drive ensures a steady output of high quality film achievement, even if it is a little less hazardous.
“I’m still going strong, I wont give up,” Manning said. “Sometimes you get home thinking ‘Thank God that’s over with’ and get a call saying ‘You were great but something went wrong. We have to do it again.’ It’s an amazing business to be in”