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Triple amputee seeking dreams in Hollywood
By Robert McCoppin | Daily Herald Staff

Triple amputee Bryan Anderson, who tells his story in an HBO documentary airing Sunday, still skateboards and dreams of a career as a stuntman.


Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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Published: 9/6/2007 12:02 AM

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Bryan Anderson would love to show people what it's like for a wounded soldier to get back to normal life -- but he can't.

As he puts it, "I wouldn't call this a normal life."

It's not losing limbs in Iraq that skews Anderson's life, to his way of thinking.

It's his whirlwind schedule of television shows and films, meeting celebrities and constant traveling that's unusual for a 26-year-old guy from Rolling Meadows.

Almost two years after a roadside bomb blew off both of Anderson's legs and his left arm, he tells his story in "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq," at 9:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO.

He predicts the documentary will hit home with audiences wondering what life is like for soldiers suffering traumatic injuries in the war.

For Anderson, he hopes the appearance is one of a series of steps toward a career in Hollywood.

Realizing his calling as an adrenaline junkie, Anderson's dream is to become a stuntman.

His first role in a dramatic series was a small speaking part in an upcoming episode of the HBO drama "The Wire." He traveled to Baltimore for filming at a hospital that stood in for Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he spent more than a year in rehab after he was wounded in a roadside bomb explosion in October 2005.

Anderson played a wounded soldier who just got his new prosthetic legs. When asked how he was doing, he replied, "Outstanding!" or words to that effect. He also improvised accidentally falling down while walking, but doesn't know if the producers will use that.

Back home, members of Midwest Stunts, a Chicago-based group of professional stunt performers, learned of Anderson's interest in stunt work and took him under their wings.

Anderson hopes to use his connections through the group to land a precision driving gig on "The Dark Knight," the new Batman movie being filmed in Chicago. That role would be as a traffic "extra," driving a car at a predictable pace in the background so other drivers could do stunts nearby.

He's also gone to Beverly Hills to promote the HBO documentary and hung out with "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, who produced the film and interviewed Anderson for it, and has attended fundraising parties thrown by Beyonce and Carmen Electra.

Off camera, Anderson is always trying something new: water skiing, snow skiing, even whitewater rafting and rock climbing in the Grand Canyon.

Back home, he goes skateboarding with his buddies. They push him down ramps fast enough for him to get air. He occasionally wipes out in the process.

A former state finalist in gymnastics at Rolling Meadows High School, Anderson is used to falling and getting up. If he falls out of his chair, he does a handstand to get back in it.

He says he doesn't dwell on his injuries. He can feed himself, shower himself and dress himself. It just takes a little longer, using a special tool for buttons, for instance.

Once you're used to it, he says, life is not exactly harder -- just different.

Just as when he joined the Army, he loves trying new challenges.

"I'm on a roller coaster, and for now I'm just taking it for a ride," he said. "I have no idea where I'm going."

He does know one thing: "I don't want to live an average life."

There's no danger of that.