hydrationI recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Bobby Holland Hanton about his exciting career as one of Hollywood’s top stuntman. Bobby has performed stunts in many Hollywood blockbusters including Thor, Quantum of Solace, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers, and he’s doing stunting for the new season of HBO’s Game of Thrones as well. It’s a fascinating interview, so make sure you check it out:
M: How and when did you decide that you wanted to become a stuntman, and at what point did you transition to movies and TV
BHH: I decided I’d like to get into the stunt game when I found out that friend of mine who was an ex-gymnast was working on Casino Royale as a stunt performer, stunt doubling one of the actors on there. Because I had given up competing in gymnastics for Great Britain when I was 17, and I was making a living doing live stunt shows, acrobatic shows, and TV commercials, free running and parkour commercials up until I was 23. Then I got my first job as a stunt performer in Quantum of Solace stunt doubling Daniel Craig. So I knew around about 21 that was what I wanted to do, so I started to train and got my skills in place to be able to do that.
M: When you do this training, obviously you have to maintain a certain shape, but do you find yourself having to keep a particular build, perhaps not get too muscular in order to get yourself at the level that most actors are at?
BHH: Massively. I try to generally keep in shape depending on what the role is. If I’m a stunt double for Chris Hemsworth, I’m on his contract for his movies now, so when we do Thor, the training program is grueling and the diet is full on. It’s like a job in itself. I try to keep to routines, and even when I’m not working on a film, I try to stay in generally good shape and eat well so if I get a phone call to double someone where I need to put on weight or lose weight, then I wouldn’t be too far away. So I try to maintain that through routines, which is what works, and what keeps me focused, and help me try to achieve what I can achieve, and that goes for everything. In food, training, and grooming. That’s a massively important part of it and I’ve been lucky enough to be working with the Dove Men+Care guys now since 2011, just after I finished The Dark Knight Rises and I stay sticking to routines.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I’ll do is jump in the shower and use the body and face wash from the Dove Men+Care range, the new Hydration Balance, which is full of micro moisture, and there’s no dryness when I use it because I work on set as you can imagine for sometimes fifteen hours a day and have makeup put on me to cover up tattoos or certain makeup I’ve got to wear for a scene. So by the time I get home I’ve got maybe five or six layers of this makeup on that’s quite difficult to get off believe it or not. So then in the evenings I’ll use the Dove Men+Care deep clean body and face wash which basically gets all that crap and dirt and makeup off with no irritation. There’s not many products I could find that could do that and leave your skin feeling fresh and not irritated or bring you out in a rash.
So I think the timing of it worked out perfectly for me and if I’m traveling like I have been now and I’m here in New York, having interviews with the team, there’s a new Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Body and Face Bar that has just come out. A quarter of the bar is moisture and it’s great for traveling, so as you can imagine, it helps with dryness, so that works perfectly hand in hand with the job and what I do, and I’m constantly working with actors very closely, and when I’m with Chris doing these fight routines and rehearsing, and it’s stop-start, stop-start, and it is when I’m filming as well so you get pretty sweaty then it dries, so I also use the Clean Comfort Dry Spay Antiperspirant from Dove Men+Care, giving me 48 hour perfection, no irritation, and that’s quarter moisture as well so I don’t have to worry about an actor turning around to my boss and saying “I don’t want to work with this guy any more because he smells.” That’s the last thing you want to hear, so I apply it once a day, and I forget about it. I don’t get any sweat patches or anything like that. So as you can imagine with wearing wigs all the time, with Chris he’s got a full head of hair, and I haven’t got as much of a mane as him, as much as I’d like to try and grow it I don’t think I could, so I’m constantly wearing wigs for fifteen hours a day with clips in there and there have been occasions where I’ve taken the clips out and hair has come out as well so that’s quite upsetting for quite a young guy, so I’m lucky enough to have the Dove Men+Care Thickening Fortifying Shampoo that makes my hair as thick as possible. Especially in this job and this industry where, it’s all about appearance and how you look, and the more I use these products the longer I can keep working, doubling these young actors and you know. They’ve also brought out a new fortifying styling paste hair product that gives you a thick look for styling as well as a matte finish, so across the board I use the range and that’s where my routine starts from the beginning of the day to the end of the day, and that keeps me in the right frame of mind for training and also my diet.
M: You mentioned that you work with Chris a lot. When you work with an actor, do you find that there’s a comfort in that consistency of working with the same actor on one franchise or a bunch of different movies? Do you adapt how they move into your stunt routines and do you find that easier when you work with the same guy over and over again?
BHH: Yeah definitely, I think on both fronts, I have that with him and he has that with me. You work with someone, you get on well. I try to look after him as much as I possibly can. We’ve got a great relationship. We’re super close friends, we’re the same age, we have the same sense of humor, and it’s just nice to work with someone who’s so humble and so down to earth and who is regarded so highly at what he does, and is so good at what he does that to also just be a down to earth guy who looks after his team, and thankfully I’m a part of that team. Now I go with him from show to show because hopefully and thankfully he’s happy with the work that I do for him and how I make him look, and how I help him with certain fight scenes for example, or a stunt that I might do for him. It’s important for an actor to be happy or find someone they happy with and go “Ok, I’m gonna keep hold of this guy” and luckily I’ve got that relationship with him and now we’ve done five movies in a row!
M: When you’re conceptualizing these stunts, how much characterization goes into creating the movement? Would Chris have a lot of influence over how you perform? Do you guys talk about, say “How would Thor move in this scene or how he would fight?” How much of that process is there, and how much of it is just your technique and expertise?
BHH: Massively, you know the way he moves as Thor is not the same way he moves as The Huntsman, so we do talk about that. Before a film starts and before I start rehearsals, which I start a lot earlier than Chris would. Sometimes I’ll start a film ten weeks before him because I’ll start rehearsing and prepping all his stuff and get it ready for him when he turns up. So we’ll talk before and he’ll say “Ok this is the style I want to do, I want to do more of this in this film or that” so we’ll try to incorporate that into the choreography and I’ll speak to my team and my boss, and everyone works together. So when Chris comes in he puts his spin on it, so he’s very much involved in the character and how he moves and I think that’s something that for me as a stunt performer, whatever he comes up with I have to mimic and copy that as much as I can.
M: When you’re working with someone with someone like Channing Tatum on Jupiter Ascending, who already has a background in dance which I’d assume to a certain extent is very similar to stunt work, I was curious if there’s any form of conflict between who gets to perform those stunts, is it an insurance thing or is it just whoever is willing to perform when somebody is that proficient at the movement stuff already?
BHH: Working with Channing was another guy who was a real pleasure. He’s such a good dude and as you can see super physical. You know I say to a lot of people “If he wasn’t an actor he would be a great stunt performer.” He wants to do everything himself and I worked with him very closely and he picked stuff up super quick, so it makes out job a lot easier. However, there are certain things that he wasn’t allowed to do, and he wanted to do them but the production, the directors, and the producers say “Ok, this isn’t worth you doing it” because if he gets injured then the movie goes down and there’s a lot of money at stake. Unfortunately, as horrible as it sounds, we’re replaceable. If we get injured they’ll get someone else in. We’re not the face. So although Chan would get frustrated because he wants to do everything, and he’s more than capable of doing everything, he did a great job, there are certain things, and it is an insurance thing. It does come down to “look we don’t want you to risk yourself because if you do get hurt the movie has to stop” so that is definitely a part of it and some actors want to do it more than others.
M: I just wanted to say that I know that movie gets slammed around a lot but I thought you guys really did a spectacular job when it comes to the physical stuff with that character, I thought it was awesome.
BHH: Thanks very much! It’s nice to hear because it hasn’t got the best reviews and I thought our stuff did look great, and Chan did a fantastic job. We worked super hard and it is nice to get praise from that because the movie hasn’t done too well so thank you, I appreciate that.
M: No problem! Moving to Game of Thrones, who exactly are you doubling for? You haven’t worked on Game of Thrones yet, have you?
BHH: This is the first time I’ve worked on Game of Thrones, and I actually wasn’t doubling anyone, I was just part of the generic stunt team there. I just finished Avengers: Age of Ultron, where I was a stunt double for Captain America in Korea and obviously Chris as Thor. So that was a real achievement to double two huge superheroes like that in one movie. But in Game of Thrones I literally was part of the stunt team, which is nice to do as well. You don’t always have to be the stunt double, it’s cool to help put stuff together. We did generic stuff, water stuff, fire stuff, we did fights. It was a good opportunity to work on a show that I’m a big fan of anyway and it’s such a popular TV show it’s nice to add that to your CV.
M: So are you appearing on screen? Are you one of the extras? Or are you just coordinating with them how everything’s gonna work? Cause I’d imagine on that there’s a ton of extras and a lot of craziness going on so I’d imagine that they’d need someone like you to help coordinate as well
BHH: I wasn’t an extra, we’re stunt performers on it. There were a lot of extras, action extras as well but we did some really big things that are quite pivotal to the story, that I obviously can’t talk about because it’s not out yet. However, there’s some stuff on there that I’m very proud of, and I can’t wait to see it on screen once it’s been edited because it was exciting, and it was nice to add some strings to my bow because I’m always learning, you can never learn too much, especially in what we do. So working on Game of Thrones was such a great experience and my boss on that, the stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam, I’ve known him for a long period of time, he’s a good friend and I love working with him anyway.
M: As for Avengers, I was wondering what your process was in portraying two different characters physically, when you’re trying to manifest both of them individually so it doesn’t look like there’s guy playing both characters.
BHH: That’s a very good point. I had to change in physical appearance massively because I started with the Captain America stuff and then I had five weeks to get to Thor size. So that was something that was going to be very difficult from the start anyway but I was up for the challenge and I hope that I did myself proud. I’ve obviously done Thor before, so I know that character and I know how Chris moves. But I’ve also worked on Captain America: The First Avenger. I wasn’t the stunt double for Chris Evans on that, but I’ve met him and I’ve worked with him before. So to be different in both roles was a challenge, but I’d like to think I did the best I could and I’m looking forward to seeing the end result, but you do have to think about that totally. Think about, the physical acting side, you have to portray something that’s very different and try to act like the actor would. So that’s mimicking and watching the way they move really.
M: When you’re working on something on that scale, this huge $250 million movie, does that affect the way that you work or does it still remain intimate? Does it help or hinder when you have so many people in your face all the time, with the constant sensory overload of this massive production?
BHH: No, I don’t think it does because we’ve always got a job to do, and it doesn’t matter how big the budget is, our stunt work is always the same. We don’t care about it less or not try as hard because it’s not as big a budget. The stunt industry is very dangerous and if you don’t give it one hundred and ten percent and go through the safety procedures on everything there’s going to be an injury. It’s not like other avenues where you can afford to do that. We were working on location in Korea, we were on the streets, so there’s a lot of footage and photos being taken, but you’ve just got to get on with it. We rehearsed it, we knew what we had to do, and we went in there to execute it.
Thanks to Bobby Holland Hanton for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us!