Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond: Vic Armstrong’s life in stunts

July 11, 2011 | 8:44 a.m.
vic harrison Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond: Vic Armstrongs life in stunts

Harrison Ford and Vic Armstrong. (Vic Armstrong)

There were plenty of offers through the years, but Vic Armstrong, Hollywood’s most celebrated stuntman, had no interest in writing a blow-by-blow account of his career in mayhem. “Every time someone hears you’re a stuntman and you’re chatting away about what you’ve done over the years, they say, ‘Oh, you should write a book,’” he said. “And the moment they start talking about the book, they want to concentrate on all the crashes and broken bones.”

To the 64-year-old Armstrong, being a stuntman isn’t about bad accidents; it’s about doing the job right. Armstrong says asking him about getting hurt is like asking professional race-car drivers how many times they’ve crashed. He’s more interested in recounting stories of achievement — and there are plenty of them, considering he has taken lumps for Indiana Jones, James Bond and Superman up on the big screen. Armstrong finally found a collaborator who agreed — writer Robert Sellers — and after six years of work the two have delivered the Titan Books memoir “The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman.”

The life of Armstrong is a vivid one. He initially wanted to be a jockey but  found himself in the world of stunts, racking up enough work to earn an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. His skills with horses helped get him hired for 1966’s “Arabesque” with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since then, Armstrong has worked on more than 200 movies, first as a stuntman and then increasingly as a stunt coordinator and action-unit director. With his brother, Andy, he’s launched a family stunt business, Armstrong Action, with more than eight family members on board and recent assignments such as “Thor,” “Green Hornet” and the upcoming film “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

The book talks about Armstrong’s childhood, how he got involved with stunts, and the movies he’s worked on and the people he’s worked with. Part of the reason for the book, Armstrong said, was to leave his words for his grandchildren.

stallone Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond: Vic Armstrongs life in stunts

Sylvester Stallone and Vic Armstrong. (Vic Armstrong)

“I wanted to give some people the idea that it’s not all about getting up in the morning, putting my crash helmet on and crashing into things,” he said. “There are weeks and months of talking, flying around the world, meeting fascinating people, going to places you’d never go in any other walk of life.”

The memoir includes stories about working with such people as Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski, Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Naturally, there are details about the many stunts Armstrong pulled off, including famous ones like jumping from the horse to the tank in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

When speaking about his biggest hits — Indiana Jones, Bond and Superman — he draws a comparison to his early love for horses, which  continues to this day. “There’s rarely an opportunity, if you’re a racehorse trainer, to have one champion. To get three champions [Indiana Jones, Bond and Superman] in your career, in your lifetime, is amazing. To me, to work in those iconic movies is fantastic. I started out on Bond, ‘You Only Live Twice,’ at £65 a week, so $110 a week. And in the last three Bond movies I did, I spent millions of dollars of Bond’s money creating sequences and directing sequences. I’m very proud of that arc of success.”

Now that he’s  just finished his job on “The Amazing Spider-Man” as a second-unit director and stunt coordinator, Armstrong is hoping for a few months off from movie work to relax and advertise his book. He doesn’t expect to slow down anytime soon. “I like to keep busy, I must say.”

— Danica Davidson

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Comments


2 Responses to Indiana Jones, Superman and Bond: Vic Armstrong’s life in stunts

  1. what do u call a family of stunt doubles, a train wreck!

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