The Mercury monster is nowhere to be seen at Honolulu Harbor’s Pier 36, where shooting for the new Five-O is in progress. The dock looks like Ringling Brothers crossed with a paramilitary operation: Canvas tents, mazes of coil and rows of video monitors are everywhere. Almost everyone carries tools or walkie-talkies and wireless headphones. And the last shot of the day is the one everyone’s waiting for. Scott Caan (the new Detective Danno) and his partner Daniel Dae Kim (Detective Chin Ho Kelly) are expected to sprint with guns drawn, leap off the pier and roll onto the deck of a moving boat. This has been deemed hazardous: If they were to miss their mark and land in the water, they would be in the path of the boat’s propeller.
Kim Possible: Danny Kim came to the world of stunt work from his background as a fifth-degree black-belt master who once ran a taekwondo school. “I was like every other Hawai‘i kid,” he says. “I wanted to be like Bruce Lee in the movies.” Most of Kim’s work has been doing stunts for actor Daniel Dae Kim, first on Lost, in which Dae Kim played Jin Kwon, and now on the new version of Hawaii Five-O, in which Dae Kim plays Detective Chin Ho Kelly. “He’s been helping me look good for seven years,” says Dae Kim of Danny. “As much as I love doing my own stunts, I know he’s the capable one.”
And so Five-O’s stunt coordinator has decided to bring in stunt performers. He is putting them through their paces in the parking lot where they rehearse a graceful zigzag routine. I turn away and then back again, only to see the Kelly character hit the pavement. But wait! That’s the real Daniel Dae Kim. He is laughing and telling his stuntman, “They wouldn’t let me do this anyway.” The stuntman’s name is — are you ready?—Danny Kim. He looks familiar to me, not only because of his resemblance to the high-profile star, but because he lives in my Honolulu neighborhood, Palolo.
Danny is a fifth-degree black-belt master who used to operate a popular taekwondo school. His entrée into this business came through a stroke of serendipity. “I was like every other Hawai‘i kid. I wanted to be like Bruce Lee in the movies,” he says. He had never heard the term “stuntman” until he met fellow martial artists who’d come to Hawai‘i to work on scenes from the movie Windtalker. “That’s when I realized what stunt guys do. They make Bruce Lee look good. They’re the ones going down when Bruce Lee throws a punch,” says Kim.
In the role of Jin on Lost, Daniel Dae Kim needed a stuntman. Danny Kim auditioned and got the job. The two Kims share not just name and appearance, but trace their ancestry back to the same bustling beachside city in South Korea. From the start Danny Kim addressed the actor with a term of respect that means older brother, hyung.
“He’s been helping me look good for seven years,” says Daniel Dae Kim of Danny. “As much as I love doing my own stunts, I know he’s the capable one. This is the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a stunt double.” For today’s stunt, Danny has mapped out the timing of three variables: his movement, the motion of his partner and the boat. He is to jump second, so the shot would be ruined if he jumped and obscured the camera’s view of the other two elements.
The younger Kim seems utterly relaxed as the crew begins to swirl and reposition everything. There’s a collective breathholding as the director yells, “Action!” The boat churns forward, and a blur of perfectly airborne bodies is visible on the monitor, followed by a loud burst of spontaneous applause. The crew looks more animated than they have all day. Some pat Danny on the back. Stuntmen, for all their anonymity in the public’s eye, get their due in their own milieu.
“The question that everyone asks me is what goes through my mind just before a stunt,” says Danny. “And the answer is always the same: I clear my mind, slow down and stay in the moment.” That, he says, reduces the risk of the danger—his big responsibility and his key to job security.