How a stuntman from Wheaton worked on three of the year's Oscar nominees

Quentin Tarantino loved it.

Hollywood stuntman (and former Wheaton and Park Ridge resident) Joe Bucaro was on a vintage Triumph 650 motorcycle burning doughnuts into the parking lot at L.A.'s iconic Tommy's Hamburgers.

"The camera was on a dolly track and it was coming up slowly to me as I was doing doughnuts with smoke flying everywhere!" Bucaro said.

Tarantino gave him a nickname: "Djonuts."

"He said, 'Get it? The D is silent, like in 'Django.' Djonuts!"

Bucaro couldn't wait to see the stunt when Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" - up for 10 Oscar nominations at Sunday night's awards ceremony - hit the silver screen.

"My whole, great, prideful moment - my nice little fun gag for a Tarantino movie - didn't make the cut," Bucaro said, not bothering to mask his disappointment.

"Maybe I'll be in a behind-the-scenes DVD moment."

We'll find out if Tarantino's movie will win any of its Oscar nominations, including best picture, director, supporting actor and original screenplay. Meanwhile, Bucaro stands to win bragging rights to say he worked on three Oscar-nominated features this year.

He played the driver for Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) in "Bombshell," up for best actress, supporting actress and hair/makeup.

Bucaro plays one of the guys on Christian Bale's pit crew in "Ford v Ferrari," up for four Oscars, including best picture.

And though his part in "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" was cut, Bucaro still gets a credit - and enjoyed working with Tarantino.

"I'm proud to work on these Oscar-nominated films because it's refreshing filmmaking," Bucaro said. "I'm kind of sick of the prequels, sequels, remakes and comic book films. I work on a lot of Marvel projects and I'll never see them. I'm too desensitized to all the fighting and CGI action."

Bucaro, 55, lived in Park Ridge for 13 years before moving to Wheaton and graduating from Wheaton Central High School.

He now lives in St. Augustine Beach, Florida, with his wife, Lisa. They met when they worked at Universal Studios, where she got stabbed to death 12 times a day in an Alfred Hitchcock tribute show.

"When I got into stunts," Bucaro said, "I wanted to learn it all - cars, motorcycles, horses, high-falls, fighting, fire-burns, air rams and ratchets. And when you are that guy, you're more of an asset to the stunt coordinator and you'll work a hell of a lot more."

And he has worked a lot more than almost all other Hollywood stuntmen.

Stephen Follows' Film Data and Education blog tallied up the stats from 4,000 movies released between 1997 and 2016, and proclaimed Bucaro to be Hollywood's third most credited stuntman.

At a time when a lot of stunt guys think about retiring, Bucaro is going gangbusters.

"I continue to do everything, but at just a little slower step," he confessed. "I live on a lot of ice and Advil."

So, no plans to retire soon?

"You retire from stunts when the calls stop coming in," he said. "If you're getting calls and you're still in the game, you are going to work until you can't do it anymore."

Bucaro said he worries about the new kids on the Hollywood block.

"Right now there's a lot of fight scenes in films. These young kids are unbelievable at their craft in performing and designing fight scenes, but for many that's all they do. No horses, no cars, motorcycles, high-falls, or moving when you're on fire."

Despite that a good chunk of movie and TV production has abandoned L.A. to take advantage of tax breaks in Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico, Bucaro thinks Chicago still qualifies as "a great city" for the film industry.

"They have a great stunt talent pool of veterans," he said. "Many other states have to pull in L.A. talent. We don't have to do that in Chicago. We have all the resources to pull off all of the good stuff."

Plus, the city has legendary Rick Lefevour, 64, whom Bucaro calls "the Godfather of Chicago stunt performers."

Meanwhile, Bucaro continues to rack up the credits.

In Ukraine last fall, he shot "Fast and Furious 9" scheduled for release May 22. "There will be some good stuff in that film!" he promised.

In Margot Robbie's comic book thriller "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)," which opened Friday, Bucaro plays mob boss Carlos Rossi.

"I take an arrow in the throat," he said. "I'm living the boyhood dream!"

• • •

<h3 class="briefHead">The 92nd Academy Awards</h3>

• "Oscars: Live on the Red Carpet" will air at 5:30 p.m., followed by the awards show at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9, on ABC

• E! begins its red carpet coverage at noon Sunday, Feb. 9

Joe Bucaro's stunt work covers both movies and TV, including CBS' “Magnum P.I.” Courtesy of Joe Bucaro
Stuntman Joe Bucaro drives a motorcycle through a plate-glass window in a past TV commercial. Courtesy of Joe Bucaro
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