Wednesday, 14 May 2014

When the going gets tough...The tough get a stuntman... An interview with Vic Armstrong.

He's been Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond, but you won't find his face on the poster or his name headlining the artwork... This is Vic Armstrong unsung hero of these movies... He brings drama and danger to the set... he is the stuntman... and the world's most prolific according to the Guinness Book of Records. 

Reportedly, Armstrong looked so much like Harrison Ford that the crew members on the films were constantly mistaking him for Ford. This proved useful when Ford injured his back and had to sit out for filming crucial action sequences in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Armstrong filled in for him. The stunt where he jumps from a horse onto a German tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was voted one of the Top Ten film stunts of all time by a panel of experts and Sky Movies viewers in the UK in 2002. On a private
photograph taken on the film set, Ford wrote to Armstrong, "If you learn to talk I'm in deep trouble!" Armstrong was unable to work on the fourth Indiana Jones film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull due to commitments to The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. However, he had discussed possible action sequences with Steven Spielberg during production of War of the Worlds.

And we got to chat to him...
You've worked with so many fabulous people but who is your favourite person to body double for?  - "I don't do it any more because it is a young mans job but it when I was it would have to be Harrison Ford."
....And the best director? - "There are so many and its like asking a parent who is your favourite child, but right up there are Marty Scorsese, Ken Brannagh, Paul Verhoven, Steven Spielberg, Rob Cohen."
.... And the hardest to work for?  - "Thats for only me to know!"
Now you've double for Harrison Ford a number
of times, does he request you?  - "Yes he used to request me and he is great to work with he is a real collaborator... 
And does he ever want to do his own stunts?  ... and yes he ALWAYS wants to do his own stunts and is certainly capable of doing them it is just an insurance thing."
Have you ever had an actor do their own stunts when you've been onset ready to do it? -  "This happens all the time and is no problem you discuss it and decide on the best course of action." 
What's the most dangerous stunt you've done or co-ordinated? - "They are all "dangerous" when you plan them when you have completed them they are history and you move onto the next most dangerous one" 
So, what's the worst injury you've had while 'on the job'? -  "Probably breaking my shin bone in Morocco and having a plate and 8 screws put in it."
Ouch! 
Now, what do you think of Early actors like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd who coordinated and performed all their own stunts? What do you they would think of actors today, are they 'wimping out'? - "I think they were incredible because they were doing and inventing what we do nowadays, but it was a different time then and if they were around today they would be in awe of some of the things actors do today."
On many occasion I have refused to jump of a high wall, or eaten a hot chilli... I bet this is childs play to you, but have you ever refused to do a stunt? Or have you ever had to tell a director that it can't be done? - "No never "NO" but have had to suggest a different way to achieve a similar effect."
What do you think is the greatest stunt ever performed? Is there a stunt you wish you'd done? and do you have a stunt hero? - "That is like asking what is the best song ever, what is the best film ever, there are too many to mention, my stunt heroes would be Hal Needham, Joe Powell, to name just 2 of man many."
Now, people die doing your job... Have you ever been close to death?  - "Obviously there have been times when things could have got worse but that happens in everyday life as well."
Actors train for a long time to get into character, how do it?  - "It happens naturally when you are working on a movie and totally involved."
And have you ever dreamt of being an actor or are you just happy doing their dangerous work?  - "I did until I tried it once and hated it, i have the utmost admiration for actors it is a very difficult job and something you must have a gift for." 
Has anything ever gone disastrously wrong?  - "Not that I care to talk about."
Or have you ever laughed when you shouldn't have?  - "Always"
Do the directors give you free range to design a stunt, or do you work with them? - "I am just a cog n a big machine and I work very closely with directors to get what THEY want in THEIR movie."
How are CGI effects and green screens effecting demand for stunt doubles?  - "It makes little or no difference in fact it creates a lot of work because the computer usually has to have an example to copy and imitate and stunt people are employed during most of the CG photography."
Was the Fall Guy an accurate portrayal of your job?  - "I wrote the original Fall Guy it was based on me and Doug McLure was going to play me but it got away from us as things do in this business. They made a great show of it though and it is great fun, not really accurate ours would be a bit too boring, the TV show is much more fun."
How do you get paid? Is it per stunt or how dangerous they are? - "We get paid a weekly salary and then an "adjustment: for doing a stunt based on degree of difficulty and and danger."
Has there been a stunt where you think "surely the actor could do that themselves?" - "No it is money in the bank for a stunt man to do it."
And who is the most daredevil actor you know? And the biggest wimp?  - "Tom Cruise is amazing the things he will do and has no fear, Biggest wimp? if you think I am going to answer that you are crazy."
Any funny or memorable onset stories? - "Read my book!" 
I shall Vic... I shall...  

His book is available from Amazon  at http://www.amazon.co.uk/True-Adventures-Worlds-Greatest-Stuntman/dp/0857689142

Or for more info just Google him... There's loads!!!

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