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Tanoai Reed is in paradise. It’s a sunny Friday morning in Laie, an area of Hawaii so remote that the nearest public gym is 40 minutes away. Reed is standing inside the garage that he converted into an old-school home gym, his six-three, 260-pound frame hunched under a barbell loaded with 225 pounds. He glances around. “Dwayne has his Iron Paradise,” he says, referring to the gym that Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson famously travels with whenever he’s filming. “I call this my Rusty Paradise.”
He exhales, stands tall to lift barbell from rack, then reps out 12 squats. Reed enters his version of paradise only when necessary—and more often than not, it’s necessary. Life as a stunt double is never easy. And when you make a living doubling for Hollywood’s preeminent action hero, you always have to be ready for, well, action. “I want to keep my job and make Dwayne look good!” Reed says as he replaces the bar on the rack. “He motivates me a lot.”
It’s equal parts bodybuilder work ethic and desire to retain his gig that push Reed to pump iron at least four days a week. The 47-year-old Samoan American has spent the past 20 years as Johnson’s stunt double, an invisible starring role that he plays for the 30th time in the comedic action-thriller Red Notice, which lands on Netflix on November 12. And since the Rock (who also happens to be Reed’s distant cousin) is never out of shape, Reed usually needs to be in shape, too.
Sure, he’ll sneak in a couple weeks off from hard-core gym workouts, instead spending time gardening in his backyard or relaxing with his wife, Suzanne, who’s also a stunt performer. Then the next role approaches and Reed heads back to the Rusty Paradise. Almost always, his focus is on looking the part. Stunt-doubling for Johnson doesn’t necessarily mean performing backflips, and the Rock likes to do his own fight work. (Those WWE days come in handy.) But whenever Johnson’s character slams into a wall or winds up in a car wreck? “Yeah, that’ll be me,” says Reed.
He starts prepping for each film three months before he’s due on set. Right now, he’s just gotten off set, having wrapped up his part in Black Adam, which hits theaters next year. Earlier this year, Johnson promised he’d “deliver the antihero you’ve been waiting for” in his role as DC Comics’ Black Adam, and that meant looking ripped, so Reed followed suit. He’s still in that mode: After his four sets of squats, he blasts through a superset of dumbbell lunges and rear delt flies. He originally drew up today’s workout to prep for 2014’s Hercules, and back then he was already a veteran Johnson stunt double.
How Reed scored his career-defining gig is Hollywood legend. It was 2001 and the Rock was headlining his first film, The Scorpion King, paired with a stunt double who didn’t quite look like him. Enter Reed, then a 27-year-old ex–college football player (sound familiar?) with few stunt credits to his name. He was working as a truck driver on the Universal Studios lot when several stunt guys recognized him and mentioned how much he resembled the Rock. By day’s end, he’d been hired as Johnson’s stunt guy. He hasn’t looked back. “I pinch myself at work when I jump into a character costume,” he says.
Still, the job can be punishing. Reed remembers his second film with Johnson, 2003’s
The Rundown. He spent four days shooting a one-minute scene with a Jeep crashing off a cliff. A few years later, while doubling as a Terminator on Fox’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he flew into a windshield, breaking a rib and cracking his kneecap. “They’re like, ‘Do you have another one in you?’ ” he says. “Those are the words stuntmen hate to hear.” Reed did another take.
Yes, the job’s taken a toll on his body, and he admits that it gets harder to prep for each role. But Johnson’s not quitting, so why should Tanoai Reed? “I love the challenge of doubling Dwayne and the challenge of staying in shape,” he says. “I’ve got abs, and I’m getting paid for them!”
Reed's Road Rules
Blast your chest with this pushup circuit from Tanoai Reed. Do 3 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between each. Don't rest between moves.
Start in pushup position. Lower slowly, taking 4 seconds. Press back up slowly, taking 4 seconds. Do as many reps as you can.
Shift your hands to wider than shoulder width. Repeat the pushup pattern, again doing as many reps as you can.
Shift your hands to just narrower than shoulder width. Repeat the pushup pattern, again doing as many reps as you can.
A version of this story originally appears in the October 2021 issue of Men's Health, with the title "6 AM WITH... THE HOLLYWOOD STUNT DOUBLE".
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