Royce Of All Trades Lives Life To Fullest

PAYSON PEOPLE

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Royce O'Donnell has battled ninjas and clones, slept with rattlesnakes and been hurled off of a speeding motorcycle.

Sound unbelievable?

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Royce O'Donnell

O'Donnell, a genuine Arizona cowboy, lives the stories he writes and acts.

"If you're good at telling lies, you'll be a good actor," said O'Donnell. "You get to live a lie. You can be somebody of whom you would normally be ashamed or embarrassed."

O'Donnell boasts more than 30 years of acting experience, performing both live and on the screen.

His latest role is an extra in "Jake's Corner."

As a stand-in, he rehearses a rough version of another actor's motions before formal filming of a scene begins.

"It's been a real eye-opener for me," said O'Donnell, who has had his own stand-ins, but not yet experienced the position. "I just go through the actions. I don't have to learn any lines."

O'Donnell said he grew up "in an adobe house surrounded by cotton fields" in Coolidge.

While running a construction business in the early ‘70s, he built a cabin in Payson on a ranch formerly owned by Zane Grey.

"There was a log shortage, so I built the house out of concrete logs," O'Donnell said.

After being discovered while doing stand-up comedy, he ventured to Hollywood on and off for 10 years, taking mostly small parts.

"Over there, it's a game, not a life," said O'Donnell, shuffling his boots in the dirt. "I had too much cowboy in my blood to make it in the big city."

Yet, as a former racecar driver and stuntman, O'Donnell has by no means lived a quiet country life.

He said he has well over 50 racing trophies "drawing dust." The rest he dispersed between his seven children and 13 grandchildren.

O'Donnell said he quit racing after injuring his back in ‘64 and was "laid up" for the better part of seven years.

"Like a dummy, I started doing stunts, as soon as I was well," said O'Donnell, who retired from stunts a few years ago. "When you get hurt, you find out life's short, so you start reaching for everything you can."

O'Donnell describes his craziest stunt as being jerked off of a motorcycle at 35 mph in "Dragon Fight," a movie shot in northern Arizona.

O'Donnell has also fallen from roofs, been dragged by horses and set on fire.

"You learn how to breathe when you're in the smoke," O'Donnell said.

His passion for acting still strong, O'Donnell continued to take various roles in commercials and television shows while doing stunts.

For more than two years he was featured on "The Wallace and Ladmo Show," the longest-running children's program in history.

During the past three years, O'Donnell said he has "kicked back," working on only a handful of films along with his third book, a Western novel. O'Donnell's adventurous spirit transfers to the subjects of his writings, which delve into new, unrelated territories.

"That's the kind of guy I am," O'Donnell said. "Everything I do is different."

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