Sabretooth, Michael Myers, Ajax, El Vampiro Interespacial are all characters that wrestler turned Hollywood actor; Tyler Mane has brought to the silver screen. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native has played roles that have become a part of popular culture and been in some of the biggest movies of the last 20 years and it all started with wrestling.
Mane, born Daryl Karolat, was a tall, skinny, dyslexic kid who also wore glasses and had braces growing up. He was picked on at school and found relief from all of his turmoil on a Saturday morning television show that captivated the youth of Canada’s western provinces. That show was Stampede Wrestling featuring the heroic Hart brothers battling the nefarious Dynamite Kid, Cuban Assassin, and The Stomper Archie Gouldie. These larger-than-life characters soothed Mane’s soul and sparked his imagination.
“I dreamed of becoming a wrestler someday,” Mane recalled fondly for Slam Wrestling. “Then I’d watch action movies all weekend long and I dreamed about becoming an action movie guy. It worked out for the best.”
In his late teens Mane travelled to Calgary where he was briefly trained by the patriarch of the famous Hart family Stu Hart. “I actually went to the Harts and started my training there,” said Mane. “I was trained by Stu Hart down in the Dungeon. That was pretty intense.” Recalling those early training sessions was not necessarily pleasant for the 6-foot-8, 295-pound Mane. “Stu takes his wrestling seriously. Let’s just leave it at that.”
Soon after Mane was redirected to Red Bastien in 1986 and was further trained in the art of professional wrestling. Another one of his trainers was Mando Guerrero “He had me doing flying head-scissors and everything and I was pretty agile from the martial arts. For a big guy that just takes a toll on your body,” said Mane.
Within a few months of training, Mane’s career started with a bang. In 1987 he participated in his first foreign wrestling tour of South Africa and while there was asked to come and ply his trade in England for the famous Joint Promotions. “I went to England after doing a tour in South Africa,” expressed Mane with fondness. “It was around November, December that I went to England … I did not have the proper clothing to go to England. There was no place for a 6’8″ guy my size to find clothes in England so I froze my ass off over there. But it was a great experience working with all the guys and made a lot of good friends over there.”
The English style of wrestling is based on rounds like boxing. Mane remembered that he chalked it up as a great chance to learn his craft. “It took a little bit of time to get used to,” explained Mane. “Once you get used to it and get the feel of it, it’s not that bad.” He took that experience in England and learned to go into new wrestling situations with an open mind. “I wrestled in Germany under the rounds and England’s also that. You just get used to it. It’s like you go and wrestle in Mexico everything is off the other side, you know. You just adapt.”
With such a short time in the wrestling business, Mane was having the time of his life traveling the world. The following year found Mane accepting his first bookings with New Japan Pro Wrestling. With only two years of ring work Mane was amazed to be wrestling for one of the world’s biggest wrestling promotions.
Looking back Mane feels that it was not his ring skill that caught the eye of New Japan, but rather his impressive size. “I was over there with some really great guys,” said Mane. “Some veterans like Steve ‘Dr. Death’ Williams, [Bob] Orton, [Terry] Funk and them, and the Bulldogs and that. So I had some really good guys who took me under their wing. They helped to show me the ropes.” The Japanese fans and wrestlers prefer a harder hitting style of wrestling. Mane chuckled at the memories: “Yeah it is a different ball game over there. It is a fight for your life over there.”
In 1990, he wrestled in Puerto Rico and did a tour for All Japan Wrestling. Soon he headed to Mexico for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), the world’s oldest wrestling promotion. Mane had little trouble adjusting to the Lucha Libre style as Mando Guerrero had brought him up to speed in his training days. “I would go in for six weeks, go out for a week or two, go back. So I was still getting a good dose of reality coming back to the States,” recalled Mane. “It was a great place to wrestle. The traveling there sucks. You were traveling by bus and whatever.”
He was by far the biggest guy in the promotion. Just like his tours of Japan, Mane had a group of wrestling veterans who helped him out in Mexico. “There was Vampiro, a bunch of guys came through there. Von Erich came through, it was Kevin in there. Haku came through there. It was a good little place to be for a couple of years.”
It was in Mexico in 1992 when his life would start to change directions. “I always wanted to do film and there was a Mexican wrestling movie and they said we want you to be this intergalactic vampire. I said, ‘Okay,'” Mane said. Lucha Libre films had been a popular genre within Mexican cinema for many years. Wrestling stars such as El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras were featured in dozens of films for their adoring fans.
There was a pretty significant problem for Mane — the language barrier. “I couldn’t read the script and couldn’t speak Spanish. They said, ‘Don’t worry we’re going to dub it; it is going to be great.’ I said, ‘Okay great.'” In the film he mostly wrestled a girl and beat people up and found that to be very enjoyable. “From there I realized I wanted to transition into the films for sure.”
Soon, the big leagues of North American wrestling came calling for Mane’s services. World Championship Wrestling signed Mane in 1993. “I went and met with Ric Flair. He brought me in and the rest was history,” observed Mane. “I was in there for a while and tagged with Kevin Nash and had a great time.”
WCW provided Mane with another chance to not just be a player on their weekly show, but to try acting again. “When I was with the WCW the second time and was getting ready to leave (the promotion) the Universal Action Pack was looking for a wrestler for the Smokey and the Bandit series,” remembered Mane. “The guy who was doing the P.R. for WCW hooked me up with that. They wanted a tall, blond wrestler and I ended up getting that. I did a couple more things and then landed the Sabretooth gig.”
Upon leaving WCW, Mane wrestled sporadically and decided to try his hand at an acting career full time. “It is hard to explain how the transition happened. I have been very lucky and was in the right place at the right time,” said Mane. “I just had some great opportunities you know with doing the X-Men, and it was kinda funny how I got that. They were wanting me to do the stunts and I didn’t really consider myself a stuntman. You could do the fight stunts but they were saying, ‘Well, you know you would need to do high falls,’ and I was like, ‘Holy sh–! This is crazy man.'”
Not wanting to be a stuntman Mane was able to get an audition with the movie’s director, Brian Singer, about the role of the iconic X-Men villain Sabretooth. Mane went to the comic book store and bought up as many comics featuring Sabretooth as he could find.
“So I did all of my research and even got fangs and put them in,” said Mane. “Went into his office and there was this young guy sitting on the couch. I went in … and put these fangs in and said I was here to see Brian Singer. He had his head down typing on his laptop and put up his hand to say just a minute and didn’t even look up.”
Mane was a little put off by the “little kid” giving him the brush off. A short time later the young man lifted his head up from the laptop and introduced himself as the director Brian Singer. When he looked at Tyler Mane, Singer exclaimed, “Oh my God! Come over here.” He then stood on the glass table and had Mane choke him for his audition. “I ended up getting it so it worked out good,” recalled Mane with satisfaction.
Being in a cast that featured an Academy Award winner and famous Broadway and classical actors didn’t intimidate Mane. “It was a great learning experience to be able to work with all of them. The opportunity to work with Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, all of them, it was just amazing. They have their Shakespeare but we have our theatre in the round so to speak with wrestling.”
These days Mane isn’t noticed by fans very often for his wrestling career. Instead, he often gets recognized for another one of his early roles. “Everybody recognizes me from Joe Dirt. ‘Hey, you’re the guy with the apple core,'” said Mane with a chuckle.
While his success may seem to outsiders to have come quickly, Mane disagrees. “If you are sitting in my shoes it hasn’t come that quickly. I have been very lucky and very blessed.” Recently he has stepped into the management side of the entertainment business. “I had some great opportunities and now starting my own production company it’s just all evolving and moving in the right direction. It’s just been fantastic.”
Another role that Mane is known for is that of Michael Myers from the recent Halloween movies. Mane feels blessed to have been linked with iconic films and roles. “Having those opportunities to work with Rob Zombie on The Devil’s Rejects and both the Halloween films. With all the people I worked with on X-Men and Troy it has been a fantastic career when you look back on it and I kinda go, how the heck did that happen?”
Just because he is in the acting world does not mean that wrestling doesn’t jump out at him every now and again. Mane worked on WWE mega star, The Rock‘s breakout movie The Scorpion King. “I was coming in, getting ready to do the opening up of the film. I was supposed to play a different character but I was doing How To Make a Monster at the time so for one reason or the other it didn’t work out that I could play one of the main characters,” said Mane. “So then they were going back and doing reshoots and said, ‘Hey do you want to be the barbarian chieftain in the beginning?’ I said, ‘Hey I’d love to.’ It worked out great.”
Little did Mane know that a face from his past would greet him that day. “I went in there to Universal Studios and Rocky Johnson came walking out of the studio as I was coming out of my trailer all dressed in my garb getting ready to go in. He just looked at me and points, ‘What are you doing here?’ I go, ‘I’m getting ready to work with your kid, old man.’ I had done a tour with Rocky in Yugoslavia probably 15 years before that. So he took me in and introduced me to The Rock the first time there. It was kinda nice being with two generations there.”
Today Mane runs his own production company, Mane Entertainment, with his wife Renae Geerlings. “I just wanted to expand on my career,” said Mane. “To be able to do different roles like the role in Compound Fracture (Mane Entertainment’s first film) is a lot different then anything I’ve done.” It can be difficult for a person who is 6-foot-8 to get different or more challenging roles other then being big brute number one, so Mane decided to change that. “I figured I’d just create the opportunities and start my own production company. We have Compound Fracture which is being released on May 13th North American release. We are going into Penance Lane (second film) and we have a great for that one. Being in acting all of these years I’ve made a lot of friends and have been able to call on a lot of friends to help me with my production company.” One of those friends who will be in Penance Lane will be his old tag team partner Kevin Nash.
One of the ways Tyler Mane is trying to raise awareness for his fledgling production company is to attend fan events. From June 6-8th, Mane will be a featured celebrity at the Niagara Falls Comic Con in Niagara Falls, Ontario. “It is a great way to connect with the fans and to let them know about our projects,” said Mane. “This is the first one I’ve done in Canada. I am excited to come back to Canada. It is a great way to interact with the fans and hear their thoughts on the projects you worked on and a great way to connect and build the fan base.”
Tyler Mane has had an amazing career in the ring and in front of the camera. The star-struck dreamer from Saskatoon has been able to live out his fantasies from the rings of Japan to the movie screens of Hollywood.