Evrimahos Kyriakakis was born and raised in Toronto’s Greektown, with his three siblings. His upbringing was very Greek and focused around community life, but he always dreamed big.
In the late 1980s, Kyris moved to Los Angeles to study acting and become a model. His aspirations were not met with success, which led him back to Greektown where he worked at restaurants and lived in a basement apartment.
Without putting much thought into it, he signed up for a new Nicolas Cage film. They selected him to be the famous actor’s stand-in the moment they saw him.
“Want to know what it means to be a stand-in?” he says.
Funded by Kyris and directed by Blake Johnston and Kelso Steinhoff, the short screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival is like a candid Q & A with Kyris, while photos of the two men dressed like each other on set and at parties appear as flashes. One can also see Kyris mimic Cage and re-enact his role as a stand-in.
“The job is right in the name. Stand-ins just stand there for long periods of time while crews set up shots that can sometimes take up to three hours to get right. It could be snowing, raining, freezing, boiling… you just stand in there. You get driven around in limousines like a superstar and drink and party like one, only, you are not!
“For me, it was more of a prestigious position, believe or not,” he admits.
“That is because Cage was a super star, and not just a Hollywood actor. His family are the Coppolas. The biggest family dynasty in show biz.
“I felt like I was working for Hollywood royalty. He had an aura about him that was noticed by everyone on set. So, I was treated with a certain amount of respect too. Most stand-ins in Hollywood were not as fortunate as I, and were not treated as such. Not a desirable job at all, unless one is hooked up as I was. Also, I met and started working for him in Toronto, so I didn’t have to go through the normal grind. I was hired upon request by him.”
Kyris’ friends thought it was kind of cool cause it was Nicolas Cage, “but no, it was not regarded as a real job”. The former stand-in explains he was not really respected at the beginning “… til I ended up on his perk package. Then it was ‘oh wow man, you work for Nicolas Cage’. Lol.”
Initially, Kyris had second thoughts about whether to make this a permanent gig or not but after being pushed by his peers, he accepted.
“I was a waiter/maitre d’ in restaurants and no schooling at all, so I was kind of aimless in my future career. Though I loved the restaurants, it was hard to stay employed in the early 90’s recession in Toronto. My friends thought that it would be my future, but (it) never did happen. My parents never spoke English and didn’t understand what I was doing on a film set, since I was not on camera. They never got it at all, other than (knowing) a big movie star in LA hired me to work for him, and make lots of cash.
“There were bragging rights in the Greek community, and church too, in Toronto. How I ‘made it’ in their eyes. The older Greeks were constantly toutou-ing me, as a note of pride for one of their own in Hollywood,” he laughs.
The stand-in job does not really pay well in general, Kyris reveals. “And for me, in the first few films I did with him, it was a typical voucher day rate for a stand-in.”
Kyris’ first stint as stand-in Cage was ‘Trapped In Paradise’. Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz were also in it. While the movie was being filmed production instructed the overly social extra to refrain from talking to the actors.
The tricks of being a Hollywood double
Kyris not only did not listen but he would always take things one step further. Not only did he not get in trouble, he got offered a permanent role. During those years he would hang out with celebrities the calibre of Angelina Jolie.
“Well, I will say… I met every single actor that was on our film sets. Every last one of them! Since I was the prime stand-in for Cage, I even got to do many rehearsal and walk-throughs with many celebs. Nerve wracking, but exciting. I hung out with many too. Far too many to mention in a paragraph, but you get the picture. That was always fun for me. In cafes, or bars with several of them in various cities. Life of an A list stand-in!”
“Cage told me I was the best stand in he ever had,” Kyris tells Neos Kosmos.
“I didn’t just deadpan stand in. I observed the shots as they were being set up and was able to impersonate Nic and mimic his mannerisms which helped the crew get a better idea of how to shoot the scene.”
He was so good that some of those ‘test-shoot’ scenes actually made it onto the big screen!
The multi-commented aerial shot of the famous star dropping to his knees, holding up flares at the end of ‘The Rock’? That’s not Nicolas Cage. That’s Kyris.
Kyris was on both ‘Con Air’ and ‘Face/Off’, experiencing some of Cages most iconic performances. And there’s more! “It’s my leg that high-kicks Christopher Eccleston off of a warehouse walkway at the end of ‘Gone In 60 Seconds’. It is my hand that writes down the secret codes from the back of the Declaration of Independence in ‘National Treasure’.”
That was no easy task! As left-handed Kyris explains Cage is right-handed and Kyris is not.
“I paid attention to everything he did. He is amazing and I was mesmerised to see how he would change from character to character, film to film.”
During ‘Face/Off’, where Cage’s face is removed and swapped with the face of the man who killed his son, Kyris describes being constantly flabbergasted by the actor’s method acting and level of talent.
“He blew me away. I’m thinking, ‘No wonder I’m not an actor. Look at this guy go!'”
Kyris eventually says that he took the permanent stand-in role more for learning the film biz through Cage. It was only after he was perked up on a heavy travel package that the money was worth the toll. Meanwhile, Cage and Kyris’ working relationship was becoming more friendly, but still not personal.
“He was my boss, as he was to the rest of our entourage. So, we all understood our place in the working aspect of it. He is a very private man and does not open up about his personal world. Though we knew a lot about him, it was what he allowed us to know.
“I never asked any personal questions, as it was not my place to do so. But, we were all friendly for that decade we worked together. And wined and dined often too, while on location outside of LA.”
Kyris had a secret talent, too. Investment property. He started acquiring and renovating houses in Toronto between standing-in for Cage and by the end of his stint he owned 12 properties.
Cage himself had at one point reached owning 15 homes, but wasn’t as savvy as his stand-in.
You get driven around in limousines like a superstar and drink and party like one, only, you are not!
“He didn’t rent out his places – he just lived in them all, landing in debt,” says Kyris who now lives comfortably off his investment-properties.
Property investment is not Kyris’ only interest who aspires to turn his documentary into a feature film.
However, his life has been non film-esque. Once it was over at the end of 2004, Kyris was burnt out. What kept him going was his real estate in Toronto and Fort Lauderdale.
“I invested in a restaurant too, but never really worked another job again,” he stresses.
My goal was to finally retire by 50 after all those years on film sets. And it happened. Now I do the projects I want to do like this film and a book, and chill out at home and travel. Feels so right!”
“This is my story of what it was like, being the man in the shadows under an A-list actor in Hollywood from 1994 to 2004. We worked together on 20 films in total.
“There’s so many more stories to tell and not all of them are fun. Long hours… gruelling locations, a million setbacks and lots of drama…”
Kyris admits he quit his role due to exhaustion as the long hours and constant travelling took a toll on personal life, relationships and physical health.
“The main challenges for me were the very long hours and obscure locations. The hours of morning, then split shifts, then overnight shoots, time zones, dusty towns to work in with no amenities. I was so not into that at all. I am Gappy [Greek for Jappy]. I like comfort kai to kafedaki mou.”
“But the film biz is a grind, and ridiculous amount of work, lots of it quite tedious; so it really challenged my natural agitated state of being. The best parts were that I became more disciplined. Kind of like in the military. Regiment and routine became the norm, and I learned how to be patient on a job site, and to learn how to work with hundreds of people daily in different departments. Things I never understood before. A great learning challenge for an unschooled blot like me.”
However, it was always about a compromise when working for an A-list Hollywood actor. Same hair colour, same skin tones, same everything.
“I could not go to the beach to tan if he wasn’t. I could not grow my hair or dye it black again while working. I had to lose or gain some weight for films,” he says.
“I had to keep a professional profile outside of the set, too. Not to be seen as a wild man drunk in bars, or driving crazy. I had to have a clean record on all accounts. And I did, the entire time, without fail!”
Does he miss it?
“No, I do not miss the stand-in gig at all,” he replies. “I am done and doner with it all from the last Cage film. I do not regret being gone from it at all!”
Before Kyris takes on the demanding project of turning his decade as a stand-in into a feature film, he reveals that there is also an upcoming book project about his life.
“This short documentary is like a teaser. Now I’m the man who’s coming out of the shadows. Because I feel like I am worthy and I am good enough, like anybody else.”
*The short’s Australian Premiere will screen at Venue Cinema Nova (380 Lygon St, Carlton VIC) on July 19, 11:00 pm. Duration: 11 Mins.
For more go to: http://mdff.org.au/films/