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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2006

Hollywood taps local trainer for 'X-Men' stunts

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Nito Larioza hangs with beasties on the set of "X-Men: The Last Stand."

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Age: "Just say 'thirtysomething' "

Hometown: Wahiawa

Current home: Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Current projects: "Yoga Aloha" video, incorporating yoga with his Island music; a new film he can't discuss

Notable 'n' quotable: "I love to mix the arts whenever I work on a job."

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As a kid growing up in Wahiawa, Nito Larioza read comic books and relished the action-hero escapism.

Now he's leading a charmed Hollywood life, working with and training movie stars Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Kelsey Grammer, who are principals in "X-Men: The Last Stand," the third installment of the film franchise, opening today.

"It's a dream come true," he said in a phone interview.

He spent six months last year in Vancouver, British Columbia, working with the fight and stunt teams and serving as movement choreographer for "X-Men." "For a local boy from Hawai'i, it was awesome, telling actors what and how to do it, to be part of a movie with a $175 million budget."

It also was a reunion with Berry, who plays Storm. Larioza helped the Oscar-winning actress attain feline traits in her earlier "Catwoman" flick.

"The first time, it was a lot more loose; we had fun, we hung out together, she and I joked around, acting stupid," he said. "This time, my bosses made sure we were still professional (and) respect our jobs. She was still cool."

Jackman, as Wolverine, was a joy to align with and a swift learner. "People don't understand that he comes from a dancer background, which was a plus," said Larioza. "With movements he had to do, he picked it up quickly. There was one instance where Wolverine and Juggernaut clash, which was difficult (and dangerous) but no one got hurt. Hugh was really nice; he'd see me dancing during the down time and tell me, 'Do it again; I want to see it.' "

And Grammer, the Beast, displayed courage as he tried his stunts. "Most of my work was trying (to make) him look good with the stress, since he was not a physical guy. He surprised me, where he did a flip off the wall himself."

Over the last decade, Larioza has evolved into a Hollywood behind-the-scener. A onetime boy-band singer here (Bad Boys Club, then The New Generation), he has danced with Madonna on tour, toured as the Blue Power Ranger and battled with The Rock.

He's earned his stripes to the point where he's frequently tapped for projects. "It was cool to work with 'X-Men' director Brett Ratner, who will do 'Rush Hour III' next, and I'd love to be part of that, too."

Biggest thrill? "That I've managed to tap into Marvel (X-Men) and DC (Catwoman) from my past and be part of them as an adult."

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.