What made you become a stuntman?
I was a gymnast from the age of four until I was 17 and competed for Great Britain. But when my coach moved to America and I began having lower back pain after a big growth spurt, I decided to stop and began performing in live stunt shows.
Then, through the British Equity Union, the union for creative practitioners, I discovered what qualification I would need to qualify as a stuntman. I began training to be a stuntman at 20 and by 23 I had my first role.
My first job was on James Bond Quantum of Solace 11 years ago. When I got the call to be on the film I thought it was a wind up! To go from training to be a stuntman to getting one of the best jobs in the business was amazing. I was only supposed to do five weeks on that movie and ended up doing six months.
Do you have a particular favourite film you've worked on?
I’ve been so lucky to work on some of the biggest blockbuster movies to date so that’s a difficult question.
I have had a lot of stunts over the last 11 years but some of the standout stunts were on Quantum of Solace. I was involved in the roof top chase sequence in Sienna as well as the balcony jump where Bond is getting chased through a bar in the slums of Panama which was pretty cool.
I also stunt doubled for Christian Bale in the Dark Knight Rises. I did my first two big falls in that film, one was 90ft and one was 80ft. I’ve also worked on Game of Thrones and was involved in the full fire burn where Khaleesi rides her dragon into the gladiator pit. I was one of the people who got torched.
Tell us about your hardest stunt?
The balcony jump in Panama was very difficult. There were no wires, mats or safety nets and all the elements to it were really challenging. It was just one balcony to another but the balcony I was jumping to was at a slightly lower level. The jump was around seven metres and everything had to be perfect footing wise. It certainly stands out as one of the most difficult jumps I’ve had to do.
Any narrow escapes on set?
We take the safety very seriously. Safety obviously takes precedent over everything else and it’s very important for us to rehearse everything. We develop each stunt in increments and make sure everything is as safe as it possibly can be. You always have that element of danger though and sometimes it does get a little hairy, but that’s just the way it is and it’s what we’ve signed up for. But we spend a lot of time rehearsing each stunt.
Is it hard performing stunts for CGI-heavy blockbusters? How has CGI affected the role of the stuntman?
No, not at all, If anything I think it’s helped. You always need the element of human movement to shoot. I don’t think anyone in the industry is worried about CGI taking our jobs and personally I think the way CGI is going is incredible because it makes everything look so realistic. You’re always going to need stunts and stunt teams to put together everything so there isn’t any real worry about jobs.
Best part of your job?
Everything is very different and no day is ever the same. Each stunt you do is very different so you never get stuck in that rut of doing the same stunt and getting bored. You’ve always got to be on your toes.
Worst part of your job?
Sometimes the hours are very long and it can put a lot of pressure on your family. When I’m working I get up and leave the house at 4:30am and won’t get home until 9:00pm and you can be doing that five, six or seven days a week. Obviously when I get back my kid is in bed so that’s the down side. But it’s part and parcel of the job and it’s something I knew when I signed up for it.
What's the biggest misconception about being a stuntman?
It’s a lot harder to be a stuntman than people think. The stunt performer community has progressed and developed so much and now we’re essentially athletes. We train every day and when I’ve worked with Chris on Avengers films I’m training twice a day. You always have to eat well and make sure you’re on the right diet so in that respect we’ve become athletes.
You need a lot of different skills to become a stuntman. You have to be qualified in six different disciplines out of a possible 10 or 12 and that can sometimes take people the best part of six years. There are elite tests for each skill and it can take two years to become qualified in one skill. I was very lucky that I already had three skills; trampolining, high diving and gymnastics, following my career as a gymnast, so I had a head start in that respect.
The training doesn’t even make you a stuntman, it just gets you ready to be one. I’m constantly training to keep my body as strong as it can be. I’m currently out of action for 4-5 months following a back operation and I’m still training and rehabilitating my body to ensure my core is strong. It’s not easy but it’s part and parcel of the job.
How did you get involved with Chris Hemsworth?
I met Chris on the set of Snow White and the Huntsman. I’d just finished doubling for Christian Bale in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and I got a call from a friend who was working on Snow White. It was the last four or five weeks of the shoot and they asked if I wanted to help out. I met Chris there and went on to stunt double for him on Thor: The Dark World and we hit it off. That was seven years ago and now I’m his contracted stunt double and we’ve now done 11 movies together.
Do people ever mistake you for Chris?
The make up and hair department do such a good job of making us look so alike but no, I don’t get that at all. It’s quite nice to go to work and be a superhero and then come home and be with the family. You get the best of both worlds.
Be honest – could you take Chris in a fight?
I’ll have to answer that question in four months’ time when my back is sorted. I recently had major back surgery and had a two titanium disk replacements so I’m in rehab at the moment. Hopefully I’ll be a Bionic Bobby in four or five-months’ time. So I’ll answer that question then.
How did you get involved with Chris’ new health and fitness app Centr and what does it offer users?
He actually gave me a call and said I want you to be a part of Centr. It’s great to join him and so many other experts on the app. We’ve been close for seven years and it’s amazing to know my skills are valued by Chris.
There’s so much good information on the internet these days but I don’t think there is quite an app like Centr where it’s all under one roof. This app has everything you need on one platform.
Chris has been very clever and taken the best bits from each trainer he trains with and put them under one app. You can train in boxing, MMA, yoga, with or without weights and at home or in the gym. There’s also a lot of nutritional information with some great chefs and recipes and you can count calories and measure food amounts. You can also tailor the app depending on whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or a meat eater and there are blogs and extra features too. It’s also got a lot of extra content and some meditations and podcasts that are really useful.
In addition, there’s even a section on the app for training when you’re injured which is fantastic for me right now.
Chris Hemsworth’s personalised digital health and fitness program is available from the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch or online at centr.com