Andrew Comrie-Picard, MBA/LLB’01, once watched a car engulfed in flames sail over his head, just before tussling with a towering Samoan opponent. He has also been beaten up by Charlize Theron. Such is the life of a Hollywood stuntman.
Comrie-Picard has an eclectic CV. In addition to his stunt work for films, he has been a TV reality show host, a lawyer, an award-winning race car driver, an automotive journalist, a wine expert and the entrepreneur behind Ziptire, a Los Angeles-based company that delivers tires to drivers, wherever they are in the area.
“I’m always interested in learning to do new things,” says Comrie-Picard about his career’s unusual zigzags.
He was one of 54 stunt drivers who worked on Hobbs & Shaw, the latest film in the wildly successful The Fast & The Furious franchise. Besides driving and watching soaring cars aflame, he grappled with the aforementioned Samoan. The Hobbs character (played by Dwayne Johnson) enlists the help of his extended Samoan family in the battle against the bad guys.
“But I never got to fight Dwayne Johnson,” Comrie-Picard says with a laugh. “He’s a real prince of a guy, and very patient. He did a fight scene that took eight hours to film.”
Comrie-Picard did get to trade blows with Theron in Atomic Blonde – that’s him dressed as a ninja in the back seat of a car fighting with the star. “The car spun around nine times and landed on the mark each time,” he remembers. “Charlize is a really cool woman, and very tough herself. Before that shot, the director came over and asked, ‘Are you safe?’ I nodded, thinking, ‘Wow, they’re trusting me with the lead actress in the movie.’”
While he enjoys doing stunt work, Comrie-Picard knows full well that the job carries very real risks. That was brought home while he was filming Deadpool 2, where a stuntwoman was killed when she lost control of her motorcycle.
“Everything we do in life is about managed risks,” he says. “The stunt world has an outstanding safety record, but accidents can happen to any of us. Intelligent planning and experience reduces risks. Considering the number of crazy stunts performed in movies these days, people are hurt very infrequently.”
Comrie-Picard grew up on a farm in rural Edmonton, and the youngster spent many afternoons riding BMX bikes and dreaming of a career as a race car driver or an actor. He excelled in high school and later received a BA in philosophy from Trinity College (Toronto) and a master’s degree in politics and philosophical economics from Trinity College (Oxford).
It was while he was at McGill, earning a joint MBA and law degree, that he decided to indulge his longstanding passion for racing. Comrie-Picard travelled to Europe to take part in the 1999 Monte Carlo Historic Rally, a race from London to Monte Carlo.
“While I was at McGill studying law during the day, I was up at night scribbling notes for how to get across mountain passes in the Alps.”
He describes his time at McGill as a turning point in his life, not just because he was able to return to his first love – racing – but for the legal education he received, which enables him to negotiate his own contracts today.
“McGill was a fantastic place to study the business and philosophical sides of law,” he says. “The faculty was very open-minded and made us confident in our learning.” He became the executive editor of the McGill Law Journal and one of the students he collaborated with is now McGill’s dean of law. “Robert Leckey and I were tadpoles working together on the McGill Law Journal in 1998, and now he’s running the whole school and rightly so.”
After graduation, he motorcycled through India for four months, then joined a prestigious New York City law firm on September 10, 2001. The next day, during an introductory staff meeting, he watched in shock as the Twin Towers were attacked and destroyed.
He worked in the firm’s entertainment law department, where his clients included Andrew Lloyd Webber and Victoria Secret models. He also continued racing, winning rally events in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
Working in entertainment law reawakened Comrie-Picard’s childhood interest in acting. Scanning through a trade publication listing casting calls, he noticed one for a new reality TV show that touched on his enthusiasm for cars: “If you think you can build a car in three days, call War of the Wheels.” He called, was hired and one job led to another. He later joined Top Gear (another show about cars), then began doing stunt driving for movies and television shows like NCIS: New Orleans.
Comrie-Picard has two new projects this fall that showcase his expertise in driving. He’ll be part of two upcoming Netflix shows: Hyperdrive, a car stunt show that Comrie-Picard describes as “American Ninja warrior with cars,” (it is produced by Theron’s production company); and season 2 of Fastest Car, a series about drag racing.