Forrest Gump once sat on a bench and lovingly recalled his mama’s wise words: “Life is like a box of chocolate; you never know what you’re going to get.” You truly never know what kind of adventure awaits once you open yourself up to all that life has to offer and stop stressing along the way. Former NYPD officer, Steve Stanulis, thought he committed to a life of protecting and serving. Nevertheless, serendipitous events corrected his trajectory and catapulted him into the entertainment industry, where he eventually found his love for creating. The executive producer has worked on many great projects. His journey to success is colored with tales of adult entertainment, working security for mega superstars such as Leonardo DiCarpio, and a feud with Kanye West that seems to follow his every move. So much so, that he’s decided to make a documentary about the surreal two weeks he spent with the rapper, and the experiences that sparked this fascinating feud.
Industry Rules sits with the bodyguard to the stars, turned actor/producer and steps into his “Forrest Gumpian” story to success.
RA: From NY police officer to bodyguard to the stars, to film producer. You have lived many lives in your lifetime. Did you find that there was a commonality among these different professions?
SS: Well over the years I’ve had a very Forrest Gumpian type of life, where I’ve always been at the right place, at the right time. I was working [security] one night in Chippendales, and this guy came up to me and asked me to come back to his penthouse to dance for these girls. At first, I blew him off, then told him I’m a cop, but he insisted. So, I eventually go, and I dance for these girls. As I’m leaving, he tells me Leonardo DiCaprio stays with him when he comes to New York. He asked if I would be interested in working security for him. I’m like “okay, call me.” The very next day, he called me to tell me Leo wanted to meet me at 8pm. I was working a bachelorette party that night and ended up getting there at 9:30. Leo is there waiting, and again I have no aspirations to be in the movie business. He just did Titanic, so he was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood at the time. But while speaking, he found out I tore my ACL and wanted to see my scar because he also tore his ACL on Basketball Diaries. I of course agreed, [showed him the scar] and just like that I was in.
Since I was with him, everybody wanted me as security in the 90s. With acting, it was very Forrest Gumpian again. I happened to be at a party and met this guy who was producing a film called The Replacements with Keanu Reeves. He asked me if I played football, stating that I would be great as a backup quarterback in the film, and I agreed. Two weeks later I’m in Baltimore, Maryland in the Baltimore Ravens stadium and I’m the backup quarterback to Keanu Reeves, and the rest is history. I just happen to be at the right place, at the right time. I guess being a police officer and doing security went hand in hand, but everything happened to fall into place.
RA: You’ve mentioned that making connections with the right people is one of the things that has made you successful in the entertainment industry. How were you able to foster those relationships?
The biggest thing I tell anybody who’s on a set, whether they’re an actor, producer or director, is to always treat everybody with respect. You can be the top guy today and then tomorrow it’s like who are you? Today’s PA could be tomorrow’s Steven Spielberg or tomorrow’s Dylan Sellers. When networking just be humble. Asking people how they’re doing or even taking a few seconds to remember someone’s name goes a really long way. There are people I’ve worked with and have casted in my films that go on to do some pretty big things. I’m blessed to say I’ve worked with them and I’m still friends with them because we had a very organic, natural relationship. I think a lot of people in this industry can be phony and are worried about helping themselves, and I think that comes out. Getting out there and being transparent, honest and humble goes a long way in this business. Lastly, follow through with what you say. People think as you grow in this business it gets bigger, but on the contrary, it gets very small. As you get higher, everybody knows everybody so if you’re known to have integrity that goes a long way.
RA: You are also working on a documentary on Kanye West, will it be based on your experience with him?
SS: The documentary is based on my experience with him. There’s absolutely no slandering of Kanye at all. You’re not going to watch this documentary and say I don’t like Kanye anymore. It’s just my perspective on the 15 days of working with him, and all
the crazy experiences he and I shared. I wanted to address the elephant in the room. So that next time I get asked the question, I’ll say “you know what, you should watch the documentary.” It’s actually finished, and most people would say this is the perfect time to release it, with all the stuff going on with him right now. But I’m not the type of person to pile on. It would be the perfect opportunity because everything I said back in 2016 is actually what everybody is seeing now. I was just the first one to bring it to light. I discovered the Titanic and now everybody’s coming to see it and what’s behind it. It is finished, it’s just a matter of when it will be released.
RA: Are you nervous at all about the pushback you’ve received from Kanye and his team?
SS: All the pushback I’ve received is frivolous. They allegedly sued me for 30 million dollars. They never sued me; however, they gave me a cease and desist. If they were able to sue me, they would have. It was all based on the confidentiality report which I never signed. I have the messages that asked me to backdate the confidentiality agreement, which is proof that it was forged because I never agreed to do so.
RA: What is the ultimate goal with everything you do?
SS: Just to keep creating, I’m always thinking about the next project. The goal is to keep growing in all 3 fields: acting, directing, producing. The ultimate goal would be to never go backwards, and to keep outdoing myself.
You can follow Steve on Instagram @SteveStanulis.