October 6, 2008

Master of Many Deaths Turns His Hand to Coffins


STUNTMAN Andrew Stehlin has died a hundred deaths in some of the biggest Hollywood movies, so his latest venture should come as no surprise -- designing and building kitset coffins.

The 38-year-old Kiwi has been shot, blown up and minced in movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and 30 Days of Night.

"Experiencing death so many times -- so to speak -- is pretty much an everyday experience for me."

During the past five months he has used his background as a builder to design and manufacture eco-friendly kitset coffins that slot together without the use of nails, screws or tools.

"The kitset nature of Back To Earth coffins means I can pre-make the pieces when I have some down time from film work."

Mr Stehlin became a stuntman more than 10 years ago after he worked as an extra on TV shows Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

One of his biggest on-screen moments came in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, when he became the first in an army of marching Uruk-hai warriors to die when he was shot in the throat with an arrow.

But his most inventive "death" came in the recent Kiwi vampire movie 30 Days of Night.

"In the movie there is this thing called the Mutton Monster. It has steel plates which rotate into each other which can crush helicopters and cars. I got pushed into that."

And if the stunt had gone wrong and he had really ended up as mincemeat, he would have been happy to be buried in one of his own affordable coffins.

He also worked on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest alongside Johnny Depp.

"He is a lovely gentleman. He gives you the time of day."

His next movie is likely to be The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is being shot in Mexico next year.

Mr Stehlin's eco-coffins are available in untreated pine or Italian poplar, which sell for $500 and $700 respectively. About 10 have been sold through companies promoting natural burials.

The caskets can be lined with recycled woollen mattresses. The Auckland-based family company also makes kitset coffins for pets.


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