Animal trainer and stuntman perseveres despite setbacks

Dwayne Wiley, known in Hollywood circles as Dewey, is a well-known animal trainer and stunt performer whose positive attitude and sheer grit have allowed him to recover from countless injuries.

The dangers of his profession have caused many serious mishaps, but Wiley is proving that little can slow him down.

Tucked away in the rolling hills of Longview, Alta., Wiley’s ranch is picturesque with mountains evenly dispersed across the horizon. His wife Angela, who works as a flight attendant and photographer, says she is very supportive of her husband’s career and often takes photos of him and his animals.

“Dewey’s the toughest man I know — he’s professional and dedicated to his work with his animals,” she says.

The many animals wandering around the land include Apache, Wiley’s famous buffalo. The duo has been involved in many projects together, including the 2005 comedy horror flick, Santa’s Slay.

Despite being seriously injured in horse accidents, Dwayne Wiley says he has no fear being around them.

Photo by Skye Anderson“I trained Apache to do numerous things for film. For Santa’s Slay, I trained him to pull a sleigh, hobbled him so he could stand. There’s a lot of blue screen stuff.”

Although Wiley’s life is full of excitement and has included working in movies with Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman, Robert Duvall, and Gerard Butler, the Alberta cowboy has endured many injuries.

In 2011, Wiley was in New Zealand doing stunts for the movie Spartacus when the horse he was riding slipped, and fell directly on top of him, crushing his pelvis.

In 2012, when he was in Vancouver working on the Metallica video Through the Never, the horse Wiley was riding got spooked and jumped in the air, smashing Wiley to the ground and breaking the veteran rider’s back.

Wiley says he is in pain every time he rides, but that does not stop him from getting back on a horse, or buffalo.

Born in New Zealand, Wiley says he grew up around horses.

“I loved falling off horses. I loved falling horses. I loved rearing horses.”

Dwayne Wiley’s unique connection with animals has allowed him to tame even the wildest animals, like this buffalo named Stan.

Photo by Skye AndersonHis love of taking risks and falling from animals seems to have strengthened Wiley’s business, Dew-it Stunts and Animals Inc. His animals, specially trained to work on television and movie sets, can be seen on the popular Alberta TV shows Heartland and Hell on Wheels. Wiley has also been involved in many different movies including The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, 300, Brokeback Mountain, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Passchendaele.

The Alberta stuntman says while he sometimes worries about anyone hiring him because of the severity of his injuries, his specialty animals provide steady work. Whether performing minor stunts, coordinating his animals, acting or helping a friend out on the ranch, he says he will always find a way to pay the bills.

Wiley illustrates his commitment to his work with one of his favourite sayings —”Don’t talk about it, just do it.”

sanderson@cjournal.ca