Veteran stuntman Ernie Orsatti, known for his iconic fall in The Poseidon Adventure, has passed away at the age of 80. His character in the 1972 Irwin Allen disaster film was a casualty, but it gave birth to a long career doubling for other actors and working as a stunt coordinator.
Ernie Orsatti Has Passed Away
The Hollywood Reporter reported on Orsatti’s death. His son, Noon Orsatti, confirmed to the publication that the senior Orsatti had passed away on September 12 in La Quinta, Calif. after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.
Orsatti was born in 1940 to well-known parents, Inez Gorman, an opera singer who appeared in Singin’ in the Rain, and Ernie Orsatti, Sr., who played for the St. Louis Cardinals and doubled in the movie Sherlock Jr. for Buster Keaton. Poseidon’s director, Ronald Neame, asked Orsatti, who played the love interest of Pamela Sue Martin’s character (Susan), to do the fatal fall Terry took after the massive tidal wave turned the cruise ship upside down.
It was a 30-foot fall from a table — that was bolted onto the floor, which, as fans of the movie know, had become the ceiling. Terry famously meets his maker after plunging onto a skylight.
Orsatti dissected the iconic movie stunt in the 2006 short film THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE – Falling Up With Ernie. He mentioned that he had to be prodded into performing the frightening move.
The actor/stuntman recalled being nervous on the day of the shoot and he wore white socks along with his black tuxedo, which the director chided him for doing. Orsatti had bigger concerns. He was told not to lean back on the way down or when he landed or else he’d break his neck.
The landing, not surprisingly, hurt. “It knocked me [out] colder than a cucumber,” Orsatti recalled. The director wanted Terry to be terrified and Orsatti was sure he delivered. “I was scared to death,” he said.
The Poseidon Adventure earned $84 million worldwide and scored four Academy Award nominations according to Box Office Mojo. Composers Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song for The Morning After. Carol Lynley (Nonnie) sang the song in the film. Maureen McGovern performed the song at the Oscars. (Kasha died two days after Orsatti did, on September 14, in Los Angeles at the age of 83.)
“We are saddened to hear of the passing of legendary stuntman Ernie Orastti,” wrote the Stunt Players Directory in an Instagram post. “His impeccable work and contributions to the stunt community will live forever.”
Orsatti continued to act after Poseidon in films like The Towering Inferno, Viva Knievel!, and The Swarm. However, most of his work was in the stunt world — thanks to his performance in Poseidon. He was stunt coordinator on the series The Practice, Big Love, Charmed, and Entourage.
Orsatti is also survived by his wife Lynda of 46 years and grandson Rowbie Orsatti, a stunt performer, who appeared in the films Escape Plan and Avengers: Endgame. Entertainment Hub sends condolences to Orsatti’s family at this difficult time.