For my third and final interview with the legends behind James Bond I chat with Mr. Vic Armstrong. Pretty much every film geek knows his name. But even if you aren't familiar with his name you have most certainly seen his work, as Vic Armstrong is possibly the world's greatest stuntman (if you don't believe look at the title of his autobiography . If you have ever seen Blade Runner, Return of the Jedi, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Live and Let Die, Raiders of the Lost Ark or Temple of Doom. You have seen Vic Armstrong in action as he was the guy doubling for the lead actor when the going got tough or the insurance premiums became too high.
As his name would indicate - of course there is a lot more to a legend like Vic Armstrong, his name is synonymous with Bond stunt work as well as high quality productions that require a man to do the impossible and creatively find away to defy death, not only does he double for A-listers but he has planned and over seen the stunt work for 100s of films - too many to list but you have seen them. He received an Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema BAFTA in 2002 and a Taurus Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 (which is the Oscars of the stunt world). He is known for creating customised stunt devices & equipment that changes the way stunts are done.
As well as directing his own films; he is also assistant director or second location director on many films including; Gangs of New York, Mission Impossible 3, I Am Legend, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Blade: Trinity, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, The World is Not Enough, Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day. Armstrong is now a full fledged director with 2 upcoming films scheduled for released. Also he still says bloody in casual conversation – the man is a living legend!
|Bond in Motion at The London Film Museum|
This exciting family exhibition will transform the entire London Film Museum space in Covent Garden and will allow Bond fans and members of the public to see the most up to date collection of James Bond cars
London Film Museum Covent Garden
45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7BN
Fri 21 March 2014 +
Mon - Sun : 10am - 6pm
Sat: 10am – 7pm
For tickets and more info:
head here or here
|Bond in Motion at The London Film Museum|
Quite the contrary, Vic Armstrong is showing no signs of slowing down at all, the man is unstoppable and crackling with electricity. This even carries through his speech patterns as he fires on all cylinders to deliver volumes of information in seconds, his energy undeniable, his enthusiasm and passion nicely comes full circle when we discuss his attitude to directing and his evolving career.
With his wide smile, cheery laugh and giant light blue 70s producer glasses Vic Armstrong is a larger than life character that has more, much more in store for us.
From across your vast body of work do you have one particular favourite stunt that you can recall, not necessarily the biggest of the best but something you are proud of?
Vic Armstrong: I am very proud of the hundred foot fall I did on the Omen III: The Final Conflict. The horse rears up and throws me off a viaduct. A 100 foot fall for anybody's money is a long way.
At this point renowned Art Director Simon Lamont interrupts our chat to say goodbye, I should mention this was probably the most relaxed chat of the day as we were sitting in the very stylish cafeteria (something along the lines of the Quantum of Solace MI6 offices or Science Department) of the London Film Museum, snacking on canapes as they came past, but still surrounded by pieces from the Bond in Motion collection and just to our right at the next table along Bond Production design legends ; Ken Adams (yes, The Ken Adams the original Bond Production Designer, the man responsible for the iconic design of some of my favourite Bond films (Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent), Peter Lamont (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Top Secret!) and current Bond Production designer Dennis Gassner (Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Bond 24) were chatting.
Which leads nicely into how did you and your wife meet, I heard it was on a film?
[Vic Armstrong is married to Wendy Leech, a renowned stunt woman and daughter of old school stunt master George Leech]
Vic Armstrong: On Superman I was Superman when she was Lois Lane. But yeah I am proud of that fall.
I did love the horse jump on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, off the horse and onto the tank. That was challenging - knowing horses and how unpredictable they are. 99% of my injuries have come from horses and I am a horseman. But they are still unpredictable you can wear a pink shirt one-day and that pisses them off and that's it.
I love all stunts and I appreciate other people stunts, possibly, more than mine. Wayne Michaels' dam bungee jump in GoldenEye is phenomenal, Rick Sylvester's Union Jack ski parachute jump off the cliff edge (The Spy Who Loved Me), in Romancing the Stone where the Volkswagen goes over the waterfall with four people in it. Jesus that is unbelievable!
Are there any stunts that you can re-call from recent films that have impressed you??
Vic Armstrong: I can't even remember the last film I saw - give me some hints. Obviously the recent Bond films really did. I thought the Skyfall motorcycle stuff at the beginning of the film was great, jumping through that window into the Turkish marketplace was bloody good. That was technically very clever.
You have been building up very respectable credentials as an assistant and second unit director, currently you are directing two upcoming feature films, thinking about it now it sounds a bit pithy, but I was wondering if you took any learnings forward from your time on Bond?
Vic Armstrong: Well I've worked with Spielberg (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) I directed main unit on Young Indy for Lucas (The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Adventures in the Secret Service). I have also worked with Scorsese (Gangs of New York)and directed my own film in LA with Dolph Lundgren (Joshua Tree aka Army of One) and I took over, after two weeks, on Double Impact with Jean-Claude Van Damme.
One thing I have learnt - is to do your own thing funnily enough. It is just seeing something and saying that is what I want to capture and how you capture it again is different.
Earlier you mentioned working on your own features, what can we expect from Left Behind, will there be humour or drama?
Vic Armstrong: We are editing at the moment and doing the music in two weeks in Budapest. Left Behind is based on a series of books that sold 165 million copies. It should make you think about higher powers, life, how unfair life can be sometimes and whether there is a God or not. It's a very interesting story. It has got some great performances with some gripping drama pieces in it.
|Left Behind Film Poster ZOOM|
When you think about it Clint Eastwood was the one who started to changed things. For example with a car chase predominantly you go right to left, so you would have to find lots of locations that you could shoot right-to-left, sometimes when you get a great location - it wouldn't work because you can only shoot right-to-left. Clint Eastwood came along and said no we'll shoot left-to-right here, straight on here, right-to-left here - he said it makes everything more interesting, more real and last longer.
20 years ago we learnt that from Clint Eastwood and Jack is his DP as well. So I'll learnt all sorts of different coverage it's a strange thing to say and I know I sound like I am a greenhorn but it's wonderful to come away from a movie and feel like I have learnt a lot, that to me is the most exciting thing in the business - is the things you learn, or the things you think are written in the manual - it's not really you can write an addendum to the manual. It's great and still fun.
I look at it and I would say to Jack I want to cover it like this, I would outline the choreography, they would come from here and they will come from there, this is our master angle the coverage would be that and we just went through it 10 hour days, nine hours overtime. Just brilliant and efficient.
And the film you'll be working on after, Left Behind, The Sunday Horse seems to be a return to your first love horse riding what can you tell us about that?
[Vic broke into stunts because of his horse riding skills. Warning potential spoilers below.]
Vic Armstrong: It is a true story about a girl Debbie Weldon, a little bit like my daughter who can't afford a real show jumping horse, a Sunday horse, as they call it - which competes on Sundays for the championship, so she gets an old racehorse like my daughter has got, who has been winning in America with it now.
As the girl competes, she gets another horse and they qualify for the 84 Olympics. She has a terrible fall, nearly dying and has to sell one of the horses because it has qualified for the Olympics, the horse ends up being voted the top female athlete at the Olympics. This is a true story.
When Debbie comes out of her coma she gets fit, rides again but develops epilepsy brought on by the fall, she eventually overcomes that and wins the National Championships in America.
So it's a wonderful story and a real heart-wrencher, like Old Yellar at the end. It's a real tearjerker.
Was moving from stunts into directing always part of your plan or was it something that evolved organically?
Vic Armstrong: It was part of a plan but I had to let it evolve, you can't force it. If I'm not directing the main unit, then I would rather do a nice big 30 or 40,000,000 Dollar Bond second unit or some other second unit and work with quality people shooting quality sequences, it keeps you on your game, it keeps you inventive and gives you toys to play with as well as things you can learn to use on your own films - if you are lucky enough to get one.
Vic you seem to have a very good relationship with the Bond crew. Do you think you might be back on Bond at some point?
Vic Armstrong: I don't know, I like to think I would, but Sam Mendes has his own crew ,as Martin Campbell did - when I shoot I like to take my own people with me so there's no hard feelings about it. That's what happens when a football manager comes in and thinks other players are better, all you can do is try not to end up as David Moyes.
For my last question Mr Armstrong which is your favourite Bond, both professionally and socially?
Vic Armstrong: Professionally I would say Sean Connery, visually as bond, maybe because I grew up with him and he set the standard. Socially it would be Pierce.
Do you get on with Pierce?
Vic Armstrong: Oh yes, my son is working with him right now in Bulgaria on Survivor, I think
As you are now a fully fledged director working your own films would it feel like a step back to work second unit all back on stunts?
Vic Armstrong: It wouldn't worry me at all I would be quite happy to. I have just been over in Ireland working with Sam Mendes and John Logan on Penny Dreadful with Tim Dalton and Eva Green.
Oh wow! I'm really looking forward to Penny Dreadful it looks absolutely amazing
Vic Armstrong: It's going to be really great. I took it because A - it was a challenge, B- I was getting bored, because I'm only looking at visual effects over the Internet for my film and doing a bit of editing.
It is very near the knuckle, the dialogue, the visuals - it's going to be ground breaking and I had such fun and have no qualms about doing it. It's not a step backwards it's about creativity and making movies. I just adore it.
A little more info on Left Behind and The Sunday Horse from IMDB
A small group of survivors are left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Nicky Whelan
More information can be found on the official site at: http://www.leftbehindmovie.com/
This exciting family exhibition will transform the entire London Film Museum space in Covent Garden and will allow Bond fans and members of the public to see the most up to date collection, including for the first time in the UK, the 1/3 scale model of AgustaWestland’s AW101 helicopter used whilst filming 2012’s Skyfall. BOND IN MOTION will also feature a wide range of vehicles, miniature models, action sequence boards, vehicle concept art and props from all of the James Bond films.
Tickets are now available from www.londonfilmmuseum.com and www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
21 March onwards
The London Film Museum Covent Garden is located at 45 Wellington Street, Covent Garden London, WC2E 7BN.
Exhibition will be open 7 Days a Week* 10am - 6pm (last entry 5pm) Saturday - 10am till 7pm (last entry 6pm).
The Museum Shop and Cafe is open during Museum opening hours. Tickets can be purchased at the venue on the day but to avoid the queues, we recommend purchasing your ticket in advance from www.londonfilmmuseum.com and www.ticketmaster.co.uk,
Telephone 0207 202 7043.
Tickets priced as follows: adults £14.50; child £9.50, family ticket £38 (2 adults 2 children under 16) and under 5's go free.
|Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.|
When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime.
A list of his 133 favourite films can be found here! If you would still like to contact Craig please use any of the buttons below: