In publication since 1991, Wrangler News is distributed free every other Saturday to more than 18,000 homes in the Kyrene Corridor area of South Tempe and West Chandler, and is supported by local and regional advertisers.

  Search past and present issues of the Wrangler
    Site search Web search                       
   powered by
Contact Us Links Media Kit Make a Payment Previous Issues

Back Home Forward

Man on fire

By Don Kirkland

April 29, 2006

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 happen.

For almost two decades, Starr has been among Hollywood's elite, behind-the-scenes technicians specializing in movie special effects.

On Monday, Starr shared his years of experience with fire and police representatives from five

Valley cities-specialized 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," he says.

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 Valley.

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 18.

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 says.

As to the skills needed to work with explosives, Starr recommends "a lot of reading and some experimentation."

But, he emphasizes, there is really only one way to learn, and that is from someone who knows how to do it.

"Explosives and fire are highly dangerous," he says-not the domain of amateurs who just like to have fun.

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 assignment

involving Linda Hamilton, "a really awesome person" whom he admits "was the first and only one I was starstruck with."

In all his assignments, Starr makes one more happy boast:

"I've been very fortunate: zero accidents, zero injuries."

A good resume, no doubt, for the firefighters and police officers learning to hone their own skills under Starr's tutelage.




Photos by David Stone


web site hit counter