Whether it's the
ear-shattering roar of bullets
ventilating a Mafia informer or the
comic improbability of a fire hydrant
running from a dog with a raised leg,
Cory Starr may be the guy making it
For almost two decades,
Starr has been among Hollywood's elite,
specializing in movie special effects.
On Monday, Starr shared
his years of experience with fire and
police representatives from five
professionals responsible for ensuring
that the eye-catching, audience-pleasing
effects of films produced here don't
endanger life or limb.
A Kyrene Corridor
resident who also manages the
Mochajumbies coffee franchise on Warner
Road, Starr remains on
call to the film industry for such
assignments as blowing up cars, creating
bullet holes, engineering realistic
blood hits and setting things on
fire-all, of course, without killing or
maiming others on the set.
It's a skill he developed
almost by accident.
"I started out doing set
design for haunted houses for the Tempe
Jaycees," recalls Starr. "And one day I
realized, 'Wow, this is really fun.'"
He managed to get a lead
on a film production, starring Bill
Paxton, that was coming to Phoenix, and
got the nerve to make his move.
"I was huge fan of
Paxton, so I thought this was a film I'd
really like to work on." He met with the
special-effects crew and won an
assignment: wiring explosives to
simulate 1,500 bullet hits.
Even though the job paid
only $120 a day for three days, the
experience was all it took.
"I fell in love with it,"
At that revelation, Starr
says, he launched an even more assertive
campaign to get contract work.
It was the late 1980s and
there was a small rush of movie
production work being undertaken in the
The result, he says: "I
was able to get quite a bit of work." It
has been a consistent, if somewhat
irregular, career ever since.
Evidence of one of his
latest assignments, providing special
effects for the Stephen King television
mini-series "Desperation," can be seen
locally on ABC Channel 15 starting May
In addition to a
production's more attention-grabbing
scenes, Starr says, he manages
atmospheric effects such as wind and
dust storms, as well as mechanical and
physical effects, as when a chair
collapses under the unwitting victim or
a fire hydrant runs away from a dog
about to use it for, well, you know why
dogs use fire hydrants.
Although his initial
skills were self-taught, Starr says
education is a major requirement for
those with like interests.
"Anyone who aspires to do
this should take a lot of manufacturing
and engineering classes in college," he
As to the skills needed
to work with explosives, Starr
recommends "a lot of reading and some
But, he emphasizes, there
is really only one way to learn, and
that is from someone who knows how to do
"Explosives and fire are
highly dangerous," he says-not the
domain of amateurs who just like to have
As to film industry
people he's met, Starr says he has
worked with such personalities as Tom
Arnold, Charles Durning, Ron Perlman and
his favorite, Paxton. He also had an
involving Linda Hamilton,
"a really awesome person" whom he admits
"was the first and only one I was
In all his assignments,
Starr makes one more happy boast:
"I've been very
fortunate: zero accidents, zero
A good resume, no doubt,
for the firefighters and police officers
learning to hone their own skills
under Starr's tutelage.