A Day in the Life of Robert Chapin

I was originally called to the set by Anthony De Longis who was training various members of the cast to swordfight. The only time available for training was between takes, and he could only train one person at a time.

Anthony did not get cast as the Spanish duellist, but I immediately recognized the person they eventually hired. I had met Jesse over ten years ago on the set of Miami Vice. Jesse was also a regular on the old TV series Fame.

Anthony resigned himself to doubling Dale while I recommended a friend of mine, TJ Rotolo, to double Jesse. Both of them did a fantastic job considering the circumstances...

It was a long fight. Much more than anyone would attempt to shoot in a single master. The director understood that the fight would have to be broken up into several takes, but there isn't a lot of time on the schedule (as I found out playing "whip boy" on the following episode) and the director simply said "Let's see how much we can get."

The fight started and nobody bothered to say "cut". Tony and TJ went through the entire fight, trying their best to remember the entire fight while not collapsing in the 100+ heat. They survived, but it was extremely dangerous, even for professionals.

Not to be outdone, Dale stepped up. On set, Dale is about as cowboy as you get - teasingly regarded by other members of the crew as "actor out of control". He wasn't expected to do the entire fight, but once again, no one said "cut" and Dale had something to prove. We all held our breath as Dale and Jessie launched at each other. The fight was fantastic and nobody got killed (which is always a good thing). They made it through the entire fight sequence and everyone applauded.

As for "Whip Boy", I was recommended by Anthony as a whip specialist when the Mag7 script for "Chinatown" called for a "Whip Crackin Rowdy" to bust up a saloon. I toyed with the idea of calling myself "Whip Boy", until it suddenly caught on, and I found my character's name on the call sheet and trailer had been changed to "Whip Boy".

I had heard that busting up the saloon with a bullwhip was Michael's idea - everyone always "shoots up the saloon", how about using a bullwhip? It sounds like a good idea, but in reality...

The saloon is like any other saloon, packed with chairs, tables, and a million other things a whip would just love to get snagged on. This doesn't even count the crew, actors, and equipment that can be seriously damaged with an 8 foot bullwhip.

The shot called for me to chase a lady bartender around behind the bar, busting bottles to the left and right of her. The only way to do this safely is to either use squibs, or to have an airgun standing by behind camera to break the glass bottles. I had discussed this with the stunt coordinator and special effects guy, but when it came time for the shot, I noticed there were no squibs, and nobody with an airgun.

I asked the effects guy how we were supposed to break the bottles. He just looked at me and said "do your best". The cameras were rolling before I knew it and I just went for it. I threw the first crack and five bottles on the bar exploded into millions of pieces. I was stunned. I just wanted to look at the camera and say "did you see that?", but I continued the take and managed to smash all of the targets while not hitting the actress ( a good thing).

We shot the take three more times with the same results. Everyone seemed impressed, but no one as much as I was. I guess everyone figured "Hey, he's a professional" without ever realizing - it ain't as easy as it looks!


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Original content Robert Chapin, 1998. Archivist's Note: To the best of my knowledge, this article is not available on any other website, and I have archived it here for the benefit of fans of The Magnificent Seven and Robert Chapin. I do not claim authorship or ownership.