Michelle Dawn Mooney Conversations

Kevin LaRosa Sr. & Jr. (K1/K2): Father/Son Hollywood Stunt Pilots

June 11, 2024 Michelle Dawn Mooney Season 1 Episode 2
Kevin LaRosa Sr. & Jr. (K1/K2): Father/Son Hollywood Stunt Pilots
Michelle Dawn Mooney Conversations
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Michelle Dawn Mooney Conversations
Kevin LaRosa Sr. & Jr. (K1/K2): Father/Son Hollywood Stunt Pilots
Jun 11, 2024 Season 1 Episode 2
Michelle Dawn Mooney

Michelle chats with Father/Son Hollywood stunt pilots and aerial coordinators Kevin LaRosa Sr.  (K1) and Kevin Larosa Jr. (K2), who share a special bond with a love of flying that was passed on from K2's grandfather.  Collectively, K1 & K2 have worked on some of the biggest tv shows and movies over the last four decades including The Fugitive, Independence Day, Iron Man, Godzilla, The Avengers , Top Gun Maverick and the recently released documentary The Blue Angels, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Thanks for checking out the podcast. If you like what you hear, please be sure to subscribe and leave a review to help more people find the show. Thanks for your support!

For more information on upcoming episodes and new content visit www.michelledawnmooney.com

Show Notes Transcript

Michelle chats with Father/Son Hollywood stunt pilots and aerial coordinators Kevin LaRosa Sr.  (K1) and Kevin Larosa Jr. (K2), who share a special bond with a love of flying that was passed on from K2's grandfather.  Collectively, K1 & K2 have worked on some of the biggest tv shows and movies over the last four decades including The Fugitive, Independence Day, Iron Man, Godzilla, The Avengers , Top Gun Maverick and the recently released documentary The Blue Angels, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Thanks for checking out the podcast. If you like what you hear, please be sure to subscribe and leave a review to help more people find the show. Thanks for your support!

For more information on upcoming episodes and new content visit www.michelledawnmooney.com

Michelle Dawn Mooney: [00:00:00] Hey, it's Michelle. Welcome to Conversations. I'm excited to introduce you to some new guests in the coming months, but in the meantime, this conversation is from the vault. What do movies like The Fugitive, Independence Day, Godzilla, Iron Man, The Avengers, and Top Gun Maverick have in common? Well, for the purpose of this podcast, it's one name, LaRosa.

Hollywood father son duo Kevin LaRosa Sr. a. k. a. K 1 and Kevin LaRosa Jr. , K 2 have collectively worked as aerial coordinators and stunt pilots on some of the biggest TV shows and films over the last four decades. You can watch K 2's latest work in the recently released film, The Blue Angels, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

The Blue Angels was a reunion of sorts. sorts for K2 and actor Glenn Powell, who served as a producer on the film. Powell and K2 previously worked together on Devotion and of course, the mega blockbuster Top Gun Maverick, which was released in 2022. And that's when I had the chance to chat [00:01:00] with both K1 and K2 about their extraordinary family dynasty in the entertainment industry.

Kevin Senior, K1, tell me a little bit about Your background, you're a second generation pilot, and then how did you break into Hollywood? 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): My dad was a pilot in the military. I grew up around airplanes and flying all my life. My hobby was even building model airplanes as was Kevin K2 as he grew up. Being around in aviation, I, , I just been flying as for as long as I can remember.

I got into the movie business totally by accident. My wife and I bought this first old airplane and I was working on it one day and some guy came up and asked me if they could use it in a movie, a TV show. I said, sure. And the money sounded good. Next thing I knew I was flying this airplane on TV for the original incredible Hulk series with Bill Bixby, Lou Ferrigno.

And I'm flying this airplane and heck, I got paid a lot of money, had a good time. And that was kind of my entrance into the movie [00:02:00] business. From there, I started flying helicopters as an LA city fireman. That led to flying helicopters in various TV shows, A Team, Fall Guy, Hunter, all those, and into Airwolf and so on.

And all this time, Kevin K2 was growing up around those things. And that's kind of where I started. And that's where he started. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: K1, I have to ask before I go any further, your wife, what was her thoughts when all of a sudden you're doing television and crazy things in Hollywood? 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): Well, both sides, she was concerned, but at the same time, very excited, very honored and fun to watch things grow.

And as I matured in the movie industry and the things we were doing and seeing our name on TV and in the movie screen, it's pretty exciting, but it's a dangerous job and she was concerned, but she supported us all the way. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: So, K2, what are some of your earliest memories of what your father was doing, and when did you really come to realize what it was that your dad was doing for a living?

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): I mean, I, [00:03:00] my earliest memories are kind of growing up on an airport, watching dad fly. I think when my mom first started taking me on movie sets and started seeing what he actually did on set. Those are the memories I think stuck with me, and I was kind of like, man, that's exactly what I'd love to do. I want to be just like him.

Michelle Dawn Mooney: K2, a follow up to that, I heard that Top Gun, the original movie, almost derailed you from following in your father's footsteps, and there was another thought that briefly came in there. Could you tell us about that? 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): I mean, I grew up with the Top Gun movie, watched it hundreds of times, had this very one track vision.

I just wanted to be a motion picture stunt pilot and aerial coordinator just like him. Nothing would get in my way except there was a moment where I was like, man, I'd love to fly F 14s and be like Pete Maverick Mitchell. That looked awesome. But I stayed the course and some full circle of events, managed to work on the new Top Gun, and that's as good as it gets for me.

Michelle Dawn Mooney: It really is so awesome. So I have to backtrack a bit though for K1, knowing that K2 was looking [00:04:00] to fill your shoes, so to speak, and follow in your footsteps with the awesome things that you were doing, you talked about it's very dangerous and it has to be super competitive in that field. So what were your reservations?

And how did you handle them? 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): I think what K2 learned growing up, which I tried to instill in him, which he absorbed very well, was that it takes a lot of concentration, a lot of planning, and a lot of good sense. This is not, not showing off. This is serious business. People's lives are counting on you doing the right thing at the right time.

Doing the right planning, thinking ahead, making sure all the safety issues are covered. And this is one thing that Kevin Jr. excelled in as we grew up. He absorbed all those things. And every time I've seen him work, he has put every one of those considerations into play. And I, I couldn't be prouder. I am actually so impressed sometimes watching him work.

He's better than I ever was. 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): You never told me that. 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): I don't want your head to get [00:05:00] out of control. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: We have it on tape. We have it on tape. Well, it is before Father's Day. So maybe an extra big gift coming up in a few days. Let's flip that question for K2. Did you have any reservations? Because obviously, your father doing so well.

Did you ever shy away with the thought of how do I live up to what my father's already done and his name preceding mine? Am I up for it? 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): My dad gave me great advice at one point when I was working in the industry with him when I was a teenager and he said look, you gotta become your own man, own aviator, own pilot, you can't just be my son and follow in my footsteps, nobody will trust you.

And I did that, I did a lot of other aviation jobs, jet flying, helicopter flying, until I built a bunch of time and experience before I came back fully. And I think the answer to your question is, is instead of trying to fill those footsteps, which are unfillable, I think he's a legend in this industry and always will be.

Just put my own twist on it But I had his foundation and his teachings and his lessons and everything. He gave me to help me be successful [00:06:00] 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: If this interview doesn't give people the feels I don't know what does because you guys are awesome But I love what you're saying. It's just it's a really cool story of father's son and also following your dreams as well So let's go back to 2015 K2 You were recognized as the youngest aerial coordinator in Hollywood at the time and then seven years later Your name is connected in a very big way as the aerial coordinator and camera pilot for Top Gun Maverick.

And to top it off, we're talking about how big a part your father played in what you're doing now and what a role model he was. You get to work with him on this movie. What was that like? 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): Well, Top Gun Maverick is a pinnacle movie. It's the biggest aviation movie that I think will ever be made. And I'm pretty fortunate that I got to work on it and getting to work on it with dad is a pretty once in a lifetime experience.

See our names rolling the credits together on a movie that'll live in history, be an iconic historic film. And it's not just about aviation. It's an incredible story. So I think we're pretty lucky and [00:07:00] fortunate to have gotten to work on it. And it'll live on forever. 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): There's no greater honor to a father to work with your son, but to do the work that we do.

And for me to watch him. do his job so well, and then put out the kind of footage in this movie that is beyond belief. Most people couldn't believe it was really happening, but I watched it all physically happen for real. His thoughts, his visions of what equipment he would use to get these shots for Tom and Joe, and it was phenomenal.

I couldn't be prouder. There's not enough words. His mom and I are, we tear up. So I got to stop talking cause I'm starting to tear up. Take it away, big, softy. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: Yeah, this is such an incredible movie. And without getting too technical, K2, I know that when the idea to have this movie come to life happened, there wasn't a way to [00:08:00] actually get the shots that were needed.

And there is a particular creation, I guess you could say, the L 39 Cinejet that came about because there was a need and it needed to be filled. So can you tell us about 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): I've been doing jet based camera jet flying for probably a decade before Top Gun. I was very lucky to be able to do that. I think there's very few individuals in the world that do that.

But the platforms that existed were great, and they were fun to fly, and we got amazing stuff with them, but they just didn't fly the latest and greatest camera tech. They didn't let us have the best clarity and I also couldn't fly in a way I needed to still create a stable shot. So I went to work kind of dreaming of a platform and a camera gimbal that I could put together and make a new platform to help tell this incredible story that I knew was coming.

And I chose an L39 and the shot over camera gimbal. Put those two together and that made the L 39 Cinejet halfway through the movie, another platform came in, the Phenom camera jet. My friend Jonathan created that. That's a bigger private jet that carried two shot overs. And we [00:09:00] also used a helicopter, which is an existing camera based platform.

Between the three of them, we just chose the right platform for every shot. And I got to tip my hat and give credit to the both aerial DPs on the movie, David Noll and Michael Fitzmaurice. These guys worked hand in hand with us. I only do 50 percent of the job when I'm flying, putting the aircraft in the right spot.

And they're framing the shot and composing it and making that image that we see on the big screen. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: Let's get back to the emotion because you growing up with this film, it almost made you want to do what Pete Maverick Mitchell was doing. And now you literally are there right next to him. What was that like?

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): Every day was pretty special. And there was a lot of pinch me moments of going, man, I can't believe what we're doing right now. And there's one day in particular, I remember after a briefing, I was standing on the ramp next to Tom's F 18, or Maverick's F 18, and he comes out of the PR shop, which is where they get their helmet and their parachutes.

I just looked at him. 

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Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): He was wearing his full getup and I was like, that's Pete Maverick Mitchell [00:11:00] in the flesh real time. This is, I feel like I'm in the movie and I got instant goosebumps and he looked amazing and he hopped in the F 18 and that's a moment I'll never forget. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: What would both of you say was the best part of not only working on such an iconic film but being able to do this together?

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): I think for me, I went into the briefings in the mornings that Kevin was having with the Navy. I got to tell you that the Navy were the pilots, Commander Ferg, and those people were so respectful of Kevin's abilities and what he could bring. And they were more than willing to cooperate in anything that he and Tom and Joe wanted to do.

But everything he did, was within this huge realm of safety, but it was so impressive to watch Kevin conduct briefings of what the movie needed and how the Navy could do it. It just blew me away. I was so impressed. Everything was taken into consideration, weather, winds. Locations, the equipment, [00:12:00] the, everybody that was involved in the shots were in these briefings and to sit there and watch Kevin pretty much run these things just blew me away.

If you will. 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): The best thing for me is when I mean, Top Gun Maverick, we had so many things going at once, so many different elements and I could be focused in one area and be able to send that into a whole different area or run a different unit and he's been doing it longer than me, knows everything I knew and more.

So it allowed me to focus on the task at hand. And essentially almost have another one of me and he'd go run a ground unit or fly a camera helicopter for me. And that was, that was great. But more so than that, just getting to work with him on a film like Top Gun Maverick is huge. I was pretty proud of that.

I wouldn't have been there without everything he gave me. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: And the super duo, maybe there are more movies in the future. K squared, I guess would be the duo team name. If you guys do a few in the future, right? 

Kevin Larosa Jr. (K2): I like that. New slogan. 

Michelle Dawn Mooney: So Father's Day just a few days away. I have to ask K2, I know [00:13:00] you are a dad as well.

Any plans to celebrate? 

Kevin LaRosa Jr. (K2): The biggest thing for us is we do so much traveling and working and just being home with the family. Just turning the phone off and having us all together in one place, wherever we are. That's really what we look forward to. Hanging 

Kevin LaRosa Sr (K1): with grandma and my grandkids, couldn't be better.

Michelle Dawn Mooney: Thanks for listening. Really hope you enjoyed this conversation. If you liked this episode and if you want to hear more conversations like the one you heard today, please subscribe to the podcast. You can always visit michelledawnmooney. com for more info on new podcast episodes, videos, and more. Until next time, remember one person can make a difference and that difference maker could be you.

We'll see you soon.