Robert Conrad was the only person Robert Conrad wanted to perform his stunts

By: H&I Staff     Posted: August 28, 2023, 9:19AM    Tags: Robert Conrad, Black Sheep Squadron

When famed Black Sheep Squadron and The Wild Wild West actor Robert Conrad comes to mind, so does a tough guy persona. The actor became synonymous with stunts and his ability and willingness to do them on his own, and do them well. 

The actor, who starred as James West in The Wild Wild West, would argue he did stunts better than even some of the most seasoned stuntmen the entertainment industry.

Performing stunts was a way for aspiring actors to get some exposure and make a good wage in exchange for a blunt fall or hard hit. It's how Conrad got his start in the business, and he knew how to play the game, even early on. 

He told The Hollywood Reporter in 1977 he'd take a tumble for some cash, sure, but he needed something more. 

"Somebody offered me $80 to fall off a horse, and I agreed to do it on one condition: that he give me two lines in the scene," Conrad said. "I got my two lines — and the reputation for being a guy who'd take a fall for a line."

While that notion was true for the Northwestern University drama department graduate, it wasn't the whole story. Doing his own stunts throughout his career went beyond trading a bruise for a buck. Conrad felt he did them better than any stuntman would, and it'd be cheaper. 

"Why pay a double $1,300 for a $150 stunt that I knew I could do better?" he said. With this mindset, Conrad "performed more than 500 stunts in [The Wild Wild West] and never used a double," according to the article. 

From his time as detective Tom Lopaka on Hawaiian Eye to his James West character, that tough guy persona followed him whether he wanted it or not. Though he had altercations before, he never wanted a fight. 

"I never look for trouble... In fact, I do everything I can to avoid confrontation, but if someone really gets on my case, I cool him fast. I don't turn the other cheek."

So, according to Conrad, he may not have looked for trouble, but he didn't shy away from it either. With that said, there were other benefits to having all of the fights, falls and bruises take place infront of a camera and not in the streets. 

"I can't afford fist fights either, because the legal fees are astronomical." 

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