Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with a former business acquaintance and current Hollywood stunt man Nick Loren. Nick Loren has been the long time stunt double of John Travolta and has recently also made a name for himself in the world of children’s literature. Nick and I sat down in the upstairs private dining room of North Beach Fish Camp in Neptune Beach to conduct the interview.
Nick and I used to work together at First Coast News in downtown Jacksonville when Nick was cohosting on Jacksonville’s local program First Coast Living with Casey Black. Nick brought his charm and charisma to households all over the First Coast as he provided an inside look at businesses and local entrepreneurs on the show.
During our two-hour interview I wanted to find out the back story of Nick’s career and what had brought him to Jacksonville. Nick is originally from San Diego California and went straight into the entertainment business out of high school. His entertainment career developed through Nick’s love for music, he used to be in a band as a teenager and even performed as a back-up dancer in several hip hop and RnB music videos in the early 90’s. Nick recalls, ” I was a single dad to my then 4 year old son, Tysan. I was discouraged with the politics of the music industry and decided to walk away from all of it in order to provide for my son. It killed me to walk away from it, but it was the only choice I felt I had.” Nick traces his memory and inspiration for being in movies back to his early childhood and the first movie he ever saw by himself, which was Grease. That movie changed Nick’s life and ever since he wanted to be in the film industry. Nick told me that, “on Cinco de Mayo of 1995, I was invited to a big industry party. This is where I met my future wife, business partner, and best friend, Denise. It was love at first sight. We’ve been together ever since that night.”
Nick got his professional career in movies started as a part time stand-in for various roles. Nick explained, “determined to help me pursue my passion for entertainment, Denise made a few calls and next thing I knew, She had me booked as a stand-in on a little movie called Face Off. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of my life long career in the entertainment industries.” In 1996 he was acting as a stunt double for Nicholas Cage in John Woo’s “Face Off.” Nick’s scheduled work lasted two weeks on set and during that time Nick was continuously networking himself amongst the cast members. About a week after Nick’s contracted work had ended he received a call because John Travolta’s stunt double wouldn’t be able to finish out the movie. Nick told me, “This is where I met John and a year later became his personal stand-in. It was a few years later that friends encouraged me to take on stunt work as well. It was a hard decision to make because you have to understand that people that go into the industry wanting to be a stunt man have a very unique mindset. I mean human nature is to survive.” Knowing the risk and reward, Nick jumped on the opportunity and for the last twenty years has been the stunt double for John Travolta; his partnership with John has taken Nick all over the United States and the world.
Nick Loren was first introduced to the First Coast in 2001 when filming “Basic” which was shot at Cecil Field and starred Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta. Nick had the opportunity to revisit the First Coast once again in 2006 when filming “Lonely Hearts” in parts of Amelia Island and Jacksonville’s historic Riverside neighborhood. This time Nick and his family fell in love with the area and ended up purchasing a home in Amelia Island. That same year the vice president of programming at First Coast News, Bonnie Solloway, approached Nick for the first pilot episode of First Coast Living.
In 2008 while in New York finishing up a shoot for “The Taking Of Pelham 123” which starred John Travolta and Denzel Washington, Nick Loren released his debut album “Forever Be Cool.” This project had started way back in 1996 just prior to the filming of “Face Off”, “Forever Be Cool” saw success in the radio world topping the most listened to tracks for several weeks.
After such an exciting Hollywood career in partnership with one of Hollywood’s most recognizable figures I wanted to know what the most dangerous stunt Nick had ever performed was. Nick told me that the most dangerous stunt he ever had to do was during the filming of ” From Paris With Love” in 2009. There is a scene where John Travolta and his partner are chasing a band of terrorists in a high-speed car pursuit. Nick had to hang himself out of an Audi traveling approximately 100 mph holding a rocket launcher while a professional Formula 1 driver zipped in and out of traffic. There is a part of that scene where Nick has to pull half of his body back into the car before it narrowly misses a semi truck. Nick added, “willingly putting yourself in a situation where you’re hanging out of a car going 100 mph, well that is something you really have to wrap your head around and fight your instinct on. I have to take my family into consideration before doing any stunt. John is the first one to ask “what does Denise think about you doing this stunt?”. It’s not something you take lightly.”
Fast-forward a few years, now Nick and his family have found themselves starting up a new career path in the publishing industry. Nick told me that he has always enjoyed reading and has been an avid fan of Dr. Seuss his entire life. Through the inspiration of his own children, Nick developed a children’s character known as Farful Foolong, which is a playful alien from the planet Oolong Panshoo. Through this character and his own private publishing firm Nick is hoping to re-establish a love for reading amongst the younger generations. Nick told me that recent research of American low-income households showed that only 1 in 300 homes had an age appropriate book for kids. Nick has started doing public reading engagements at a few local area children’s hospitals such as Nemours and Wolfson Children’s Hospital but has plans to engage fifty regional children’s hospitals within the next year throughout Florida, Georgia, and Texas. Nick also stated, “Panshoo Books LLC is a proud sponsor of Panshoo Kids Inc. The two organizations have joined forces to do a Florida Children’s Hospital Tour to provide a therapeutic and fun literary experience to the children and families of these hospitals. We’ve also teamed up to start a Northeast Florida School tour which will provide books and live readings to the children of title one schools.”
Panshoo Kids Inc aims to increase childhood literacy for a chance at a better adult life for less privileged kids. Additional national statistics show that 1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read, 37 percent of children arrive at kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifetime learning, and two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Nick said, “The incredible response we are getting from the live readings has inspired us to think bigger than ourselves. Our nation is facing an issue of epic proportion and of critical importance. It is an issue that affects our economy, reduces the competitiveness of our workforce and challenges our highest ideals. It is the early childhood literacy crisis. My wife, Denise, was deeply affected by the stats we’ve run across on early childhood literacy and the direct impact it has on a child’s future. She was heartbroken to find the incredible disadvantage children in lower income homes and communities have because they have no access or little access to age appropriate books.”
Nick continued to add, “As an answer to help, Denise has started Panshoo Kids Inc., a 501c3 non-profit that aims to empower children everywhere with the opportunities, tools, and desire to become literate, confident, creative, and responsible beings, regardless of their social or economic background. This non-profit was inspired by the incredible work already started by Panshoo Books LLC.” Nick is also planning to start a book reading tour partnership with the schools located in the lower income areas within Jacksonville. You can visit the charity’s website for more information at www.PanshooKids.org.
As the interview wrapped up on that hot Friday afternoon in the upstairs dining room of North Beach Fish Camp, Nick did reveal a teaser indicating that there currently is a project in the works for an upcoming crime drama about John Gotti. Movie fans keep you eyes and ears open for additional updates.