by Vic Armstrong with Robert Sellers; introduction by Steven Spielberg
He’s doubled for James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Superman onscreen and worked up the ladder from stuntman to stunt coordinator and second-unit director. Now Vic Armstrong can add another title to his résumé: author. Book reviewers usually confer the term “page-turner” on juicy novels, but that’s how I’d describe this breezy and informative volume. I couldn’t put it down.
Armstrong, who now works with his entire family planning major action sequences for such films as The Green Hornet and Thor, has an incredibly good memory about virtually every job he’s had over the past forty-five years and spins fascinating tales about actors, directors, producers, and fellow stuntmen. He doesn’t hesitate to chide himself about mistakes he’s made and discuss dangerous “gags” that nearly went—
—wrong—or did—but he’s generally upbeat and gives us a real sense of how he and his comrades figured out ways to achieve the impossible without breaking anyone’s neck.
Statements throughout the book from such colleagues as Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Richard Attenborough, Harrison Ford, Kenneth Branagh, Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Christopher Lee, Pierce Brosnan, Angelina Jolie, and others testify to his poise and prowess on the job. His filmography begins with Arabesque in 1966 and includes such memorable pictures as You Only Live Twice, Ryan’s Daughter, Roman Polanski’s Macbeth, Barry Lyndon, A Bridge Too Far, The Duellists, Superman II, An American Werewolf in London, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mission, Empire of the Sun, Rambo III, Henry V, Air America, Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Last Action Hero, Starship Troopers, Charlie’s Angels, Die Another Day, Gangs of New York, War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible III, and Salt, to name just a few.
Armstrong discusses in detail the lessons he learned over the years, and how he aligned himself with ingenious people (including a tight-knit group of specialists) to make stunts safer and yet appear more daring to audiences. He drops a lot of names that will be unfamiliar to American readers (although he did get to meet—and profoundly respects—the great American stuntman and coordinator Yakima Canutt) but after a while you’ll feel as if you know this hardy breed of disciplined daredevils. There are many rowdy, funny stories along with fascinating behind-the-scenes snapshots covering five decades of moviemaking.
I had a great time reading this book and give it my highest recommendation.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Vic Armstrong for the latest episode of my ReelzChannel show Maltin on Movies. See the video below.