Portraits by contributor Dominic Neitz
Trampas Thompson grew up the son of a cattle rancher on the Texas panhandle. This doesn’t explain why I’m meeting him for lunch at a vegan diner in Brooklyn today, but it’s the perfect beginning to the story of this thrill-seeking, Hollywood stuntman who has worked on everything from blockbuster films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Resident Evil and National Treasure to popular television series like Alias, Charmed and Star Trek.
Life for Trampas is a never-ending adventure, full of all the scars to prove it. He’s been lit on fire, repelled face-first from the Hollywood Bowl, crashed cars, had sword fights with some of the greatest heroes and villains in Hollywood, plummeted down a mineshaft, jousted with kings, fallen from buildings, been thrown down stairs and more. “My leg’s a little swollen today,” he says when I arrive. “A horse stepped on me during the shoot yesterday”. Ouch.
His adventure into veganism started with a jolt; he crashed to the Earth at seventy miles-per-hour in a terrible skydiving accident, breaking both legs and shattering his femur and knee. “I knew the parachute wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. I was sure I’d die”. He survived, and while rehabilitating, developed an interest in an equally daring exploration of philosophic and existential concepts, with the goal of broadening his consciousness while maintaining his levels of adrenaline. This included reading The China Study and watching Earthlings. “A lightbulb went on, and I was determined to change. At first I was concerned with the quality of protein I’d be eating, and thought I needed to eat fish as a stuntman and athlete”. Like many active people, he was a victim of powerful marketing forces, but soon realized he could be a strong, fearless daredevil on a completely plant-based diet.
The stunt community is full of “conservative cowboys”, as Trampas puts it. This culture of machismo, which is often showcased by eating things that are bloody, doesn’t stop him from voicing his opinion and point of view, or leading by example. Growing up, Trampas was an avid comic book collector and he credits the influence that heroes stopping at nothing in pursuit of truth and justice had on his life when it comes to his desire to be a warrior for animals. Part of that is being physically strong. He trains in LA with John Pierre, a vegan trainer, fitness and nutrition expert, and his favorite protein is Vega Sport chocolate.
Animal advocates are often faced with situations that require compromise in order to make a greater impact or have more influence. Being a puritan and being effective are not one in the same. Obviously, there are ethical conundrums with being a vegan stuntman. “There’s things outside of my control like a costume designer using leather or a film involving animals like horses. I avoid working with animals when I can, but can’t always be consistent. On a shoot I won’t name, there was an animal who wasn’t doing what was required and the wrangler took him behind the barn and did what he thought he had to do… Animals aren’t actors in the sense that it’s not consensual, they’re not compensated, and I disagree with the assumption that this is what they’d prefer to be doing. But sometimes I compromise my ideals to keep my job.” It’s not just work that requires a delicate balance of ideals and compromises; when he visits his childhood home, the cattle ranch, he and his father try not to ruffle each others’ feathers.
Trampas, a sake aficionado, is based in Los Angeles where he recently opened the shop Satori Sake. While in New York, his favorite spot is the Shojin restaurant Kaijitsu, and he frequents Decibel sake bar, and shops at Sakaya for his favorite brands Koji and Biho.