Comedy with car chases, fights, featuring Victoria's Mike Hanus

Christmas came early for Mike Hanus this year, and he has Jackhammer to thank.

Although his zany homegrown comedy hasn’t been released yet, his performance as the delusional, bodybuilding male stripper of its title landed him a supporting role in Christmas Bounty, an action comedy filmed in Vancouver.

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The Victoria actor, filmmaker and realtor plays Hawk Bell, the colourful head of a family of bounty hunters, in the vehicle for Mike (The Miz) Mizanin, the pro wrestler apparently being groomed for a film career like his pal The Rock (Dwayne Johnson).

The Miz, who made his debut on MTV’s The Real World, also appeared in The Marine 3: Homefront and USA Network’s Psych.

The holiday television movie, produced with WWE Studios, stars Francia Raisa as a former bounty hunter turned schoolteacher. Determined to keep her bounty-hunting past a secret, she reluctantly agrees to help save the family business by catching one last target while trying to hide her ex-boyfriend, a bounty hunter who hangs around like a bad smell.

“The last couple of weeks of filming were intense,” said Hanus, who shot scenes for the ABC Family movie at a home in Maple Ridge depicting his brood’s digs; at a Coquitlam shopping centre overnight; and at a warehouse in Langley.

“There are some shoot-outs and I get flipped and knocked out a couple of times. My stunt double’s doing the hard stuff, luckily. Everything happened so fast, but I definitely put my diet and training into fifth gear immediately.”

Christmas Bounty was directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate About You), whose professionalism helped immensely, said Hanus, who had to undergo gunplay training.

He also had to affect a New Jersey accent with assistance from Tony Alcantar, dialect coach on the film that is heavy on humour, big fight scenes, car chases and elaborate stunts.

“Tony’s known for being one of the best in the business, so he made it smooth.”

The actor augmented his pre-production training with some other personal initiatives.

“I watched some Dog the Bounty Hunter and some Jersey Shore,” laughed Hanus who, while still -preoccupied with Jackham-mer’s distribution, admits he was relieved just having to wear an actor’s hat.

Hanus was so busy with rolling out Jackhammer after its film festival success here he almost missed out on playing Hawk, he admits.

He credits persistence by Peter Shinkoda (Falling Skies, I, Robot), the Montreal-born actor who appeared in Jackhammer and brought Hanus to casting director Tiffany Mak’s attention, with prompting him to follow through.

After watching a Jackhammer teaser, Mak tried to reach Hanus for an audition, but he was so busy he stopped taking calls.

“Tiffany called Peter in L.A. and he tried to track me down. He said, ‘Mike, you’ve gotta take this role,’ ” said Hanus, who was so wrapped up with his own feature debut he didn’t think he’d have the time to fly to Vancouver to audition.

His audition via Skype was sent to L.A., where executives were impressed enough to suggest he meet Junger in Vancouver.

“I thought it was a callback but, when I got there, Gil was the only one there,” Hanus said. “We worked together for a bit and, later that day, they made the offer. I only packed clothes for one day and didn’t even have the chance to go home.”

He was immediately sent for wardrobe fittings and began rehearsing, beginning a “super-fast” process.

A perk was being able to talk up Jackhammer and a potential TV series to some heavy hitters, including The Miz.

“He was a wonderful guy, lots of fun,” Hanus said, recalling how they watched Jackhammer on his iPad in the green room.

The wrestler even hammed it up when actor Jason Burkart and YouTube star Peter Chao, a.k.a. “Chinese Guy” dropped by.

“Jason made a little iPhone video where Peter and The Miz fight over the last cookie at the craft services table,” said Hanus.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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