Stunt work continues to excite him, especially when they light him up -- with professionals on hand to keep him from turning into a human barbecue.
"Being on fire is probably one of the most scary, but thrilling things I've ever done. It may be weird to hear someone say it, but I've done two full body-on-fire burns and I love doing those."
He's a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, lover of roller coasters and general thrill-seeker, who could not be happier then when he and Marion drop like stones through the air.
"I love that feeling of falling," said Tilley. "It's so weird, kind of like a Catch-22. It's so scary, but so thrilling at the same time."
He dates his stuntman roots to his earliest days in Charleston, watching stunt work on TV at age 12. Then, he and a brother would bolt into the great outdoors to seek thrills of their own.
"We were always trying to get into something. I was constantly jumping out of trees and buildings. We would stage little fights, wrestling matches and stuff like that we would get on film."
Stunt work is the art of manifesting the illusion of serious danger. But there is real danger and genuine injury, as Tilley knows all too well. "I've dislocated my shoulder. I've broken three toes," he said.
While the shoulder injury occurred three years ago, "it still bothers me to this day," he said.
Before Disney World, Tilley worked a Florida dinner theater show called "Pirates." It featured the usual stuff pirates get into -- rope-swinging, derring-do, swordplay.
"I was doing one of the sword fights and a guy hit me with a sword, severed my tendon and came damn near close to taking my finger off," Tilley said.
Yet he perseveres, buoyed by the camaraderie and fortitude of his profession. "We do try to keep each other as safe as possible," he said.
Then, there is the example of his 50-year-old trainer at Disney World. "My trainer is absolutely a machine. He's amazing! He's 50 and does it as good as the 20- or 30-year-olds we have."
Given his life's choices, people sometimes ask him: "Do you have a death wish?"
Tilley's response: "It's actually not a death wish, but a 'life wish.' It's more that I want to experience those types of things where there's a huge risk of not making it through it -- and making it through."
Tilley would love to do stunt work here in West Virginia or to film in his home state a piece of a movie script he is working on.
So, here's an offer you don't hear every day: Tilley would be willing to work for next to nothing on a Mountain State film or TV project, and set himself on fire for the old homestead. Or some other cool stunt.
"If someone up there wanted to do a fire burn, we could put something together with a little bit of nothing. I would definitely be very interested in helping anyone put together something if they wanted to talk to me."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.