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As close as I could get to a superhero

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In a Hollywood stuntman, PAUL LAMBIS finds someone always ready for the physical challenge inspired by discipline

At some point in their childhood, every child aspires to be a superhero, but very few get to fulfil their fantasies while working on some of Hollywood’s highest grossing films.

Theo Kypri recalls his early years as an exuberant child who spent most of his time pretending to be a superhero by flipping, somersaulting and even hurling himself downstairs. “As exciting as it may have been, it was not realistic,” he said. “However, as soon as I saw Lee Majors in the popular 1980s TV series The Fall Guy, I decided that I wanted to work as a stuntman.”

diaspora theo kypri
Theo Kypri

Kypri remembers the show including stuntmen “performing all sorts of extremely cool and risky things,” such as jumping off buildings, fighting and getting involved in fast-paced car chases.

“Working as a stuntman was my destiny. It was the closest I would ever get to being a superhero,” he added.

Kypri was born in London in the late 1960s after his parents had relocated to the UK from Cyprus. As the youngest of four brothers, he spent his early years participating in competitive sports. At the age of eight, he won the junior school’s diving championship, at 12 he was football cup and league champion, and at the age of 15, he became the first tennis champion in the London borough of Islington.

After discovering a trampoline while in secondary school, he decided to invest more time in the sport. Twelve years later, he had won the British Men’s Trampoline Championship four times, was the British Team Captain, had won the World Cup, and had finished seventh in the 1993 European Championships and eighth in the 1994 World Trampoline Championships.

“I had amazing experiences and met incredible individuals while travelling the world to compete,” Kypri said.

Despite having officially retired from the sport in 1995 to pursue a career as a professional stuntman, he made a brief comeback to represent Cyprus at the 1999 World Trampoline Championships in South Africa, finishing in 38th place, “which I was happy with considering that I had only three weeks of training after leaving the sport four years earlier.”

diaspora on the set of the film public enemies
On the set of the film Public Enemies

But in the years that followed he became much more visible, working as a stunt double for Antonio Banderas on The Legend of Zorro. “This served as a starting point for my work in Pirates of the Caribbean,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “I accepted the job right away after being called in to replace the film’s original stuntman after he was seriously injured during rehearsals. Those two jobs were a game-changer for me professionally.”

Since then, Kypri has contributed to many critically-acclaimed Hollywood productions, “all of which are memorable in one way or another,” including as Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Iron Man, Jack Reacher, Johnny English, Jason Bourne, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“Working with Johnny Depp on two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and subsequently stunt doubling for him in Public Enemies, Alice in Wonderland, The Tourist, and The Rum Diary was an absolute pleasure as Depp was always in good humour and we had a great time working together,” he said.

Kypri is currently based in America and has been there for the last two decades. Though he has only made two trips to the island, he nevertheless has a great sense of pride in his Cypriot roots. “When I’m in Cyprus, I always feel like I belong,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had to attend my brother Kyp’s funeral during my last trip to the island, which made it a sorrowful visit. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Kyp. He was my strongest supporter.”

While life in Hollywood is generally viewed as glamorous, Kypri said maintaining daily physical fitness and preventing injuries presents many challenges. “The human body is not designed to be thrown from a building, set on fire or flung through windows and onto concrete. I always tread on a thin edge between injury and fitness,” he explained.

“Looking back, I think I have come out in pretty good shape,” despite having suffered many injuries and had several near calls while avoiding gunshots during an action-packed career.

diaspora on the set of the fim the tourist
On the set of the film The Tourist

Another challenge is juggling family life between films, which frequently require spending months away from home. “Although my wonderful wife Kim has been a rock and our children understand my absence, it can be very stressful at times.”

But it’s not just about the physical challenges. “Being able to transform into the actor’s character and fully comprehend his gait, stride, swing, sway, or any other body position he may be in at the time is crucial. The only way to get ready for a job is to maintain your physical and mental fitness, which calls for a lot of discipline.”

The words ‘mindset’ and ‘discipline’ have become ingrained within him and are written on a white board on his fridge serving as daily reminders of the value of keeping a sound mind and the necessity of discipline to accomplish any objective. “I get inspired every day by these two words”.

Theo Kypri’s extraordinary discipline, consistency, and commitment have surely taught him it is possible to realise ambitions and fulfil potential. “Being the first and winning the game is not the only important virtue in life; generosity is also a valuable quality, and I intend to share my knowledge and skills to the next generation of aspiring ‘superheroes’.”

 

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