Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

Student Profile

Steven DeRelian

Steven DeRelian

Full-Time Day Program

Director Robert Zemeckis needed an actor to yell at Tom Hank's character, "Forrest Gump." He chose Steven DeRelian from a group of extras to play a fellow wounded Vietnam vet in the VA hospital scene where Forrest watches TV and gave him five lines of dialogue.

"When the cameras started rolling I couldn't remember any of them," DeRelian recalled. "So I just said the first thing that came to mind - 'Gump how could you watch that stupid (expletive)? Turn it off!'" Zemeckis loved it and DeRelian had his first movie role.

DeRelian knows that life can take you in as many directions as an epic movie. A part time stuntman in film and TV, he realized he didn't want to take physical risks forever and entered law school with plans to be come an entertainment attorney.

And although he relished the challenge and depth of Professor Robert Lind's copyright class the most so far, he now wants to focus on family law, bankruptcy and perhaps even become a political strategist one day.

DeRelian believes the best lawyers are those who bring a lot of their own life experience to the table. And he's got plenty of that. Raised in Santa Cruz, he began his undergraduate career at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon to study space physics, but he said it was "very 'granola,' just like home," and he wanted something different.

He transferred to USC and earned his business degree in 1992. During his senior year, he became a father. Two years as a junior broker in investment banking made him yearn for some adventure. "I decided I wasn't really going to reach 40 without living life so I pursued a career as a stuntman. All you have to do is look at my hook to know that I was a risk taker in the past," DeRelian said.

His right prosthetic arm, the result of an amputation, hasn't stopped him from pursuing a variety of jobs, including a brief stint as a "repo man," which proved too dangerous to stick with longer than six weeks. Contrary to common perception he did not lose his arm performing a stunt. And he hopes that Hollywood might eventually evolve and cast a character that just happens to be an amputee, rather than the lost limb being the basis for the character.

Law school was a bit scarier than some of his stunts - or so he once thought. He was intimidated when he sat in on a lecture at Southwestern two years ago, so he enrolled at Whittier Law School. But Southwestern's beautiful campus, provocative faculty and strong connections with its Los Angeles alumni intrigued him too much. Various note takers for each of his classes help him keep up with his course work, so his biggest challenge is lugging around all the books. But he loves to read them. "I like the law business. I like that it's a 'thinking man's game.' You can be 70 and still do it."