After having interviewed a number of DJ’s and producers, I thought that it would be a good idea to interview someone from another profession. So after hearing about a stuntman from someone I know, I thought that it would be great to interview him.
Through typing his name into Google, I was surprised by the amount of films that he had been in. were not small films, they were Hollywood blockbusters and included many of the films that I have enjoyed watching. Which include: Captain America, Thor, Skyfall and The Clash Of The Titans.
Ben retired from top level gymnastics at 21 and moved into the Entertainment industry, embarking on training as a stuntman and building on his unique acrobatic talents. For over 12 years he has taken various roles, from Top Hollywood Movies to a world renowned Male Revue show.
Ben has always been fascinated by the ancient ways of martial arts and he has furthered his education in the modern science of human anatomy and sports rehabilitation. With reference to new and old, his knowledge of the dynamics of the body's needs to function at optimal performance is second to none. He has used his background as a professional athlete and the discipline and dedication it instilled in him to coach and inspire others.
Q: How Did Your Life Begin?
A: Well, how far back do you want me to go? My mum and my dad started the local gym club, so, I guess that was the first step into what I do now.
Q: What Motivated You To Become A Stuntman?
A: A few things really, I liked school but not sitting in a classroom. I couldn’t imagine doing a job where you have to sit down. Early in my years at school I wanted to do something different I wanted to be able to enjoy everyday I went to work, I see too many people live unhappy work lives.
At the age of 7 Jeff Davies a very accomplished British gymnastic champion taught me how to back flip he always talked about becoming a Stuntman which he did and an awesome one at that. Later in my life about 13 I started Kung Fu and one of the occasional members was the Stuntman David Foreman who played one of the teenage mutant ninja turtles. I think between the two of these guys was my motivation for being a Stuntman.
Q: Tell Us About How You Feel The Moment Before You Perform A Stunt?
A: That depends on the stunt. There is normally a little bit of fear in there, but controlled fear. You go over everything that was rehearsed. So sometimes, some of the biggest stunts have been weeks or even months in rehearsals. So we have drilled it, inside and out. On the day there will be variables; conditions, weather, where they put the cameras, what else they put into the shot. In the rehearsal room, it is the stunt in its rawest form and then when they take everything to the movie set, we have to put everything else into place.
It’s a good feeling, it’s a really good feeling. When the cameras start to roll for me there becomes a euphoric calmness, like the calm before a storm. You want to do a really good job and you want all the hard work that everyone has put into the rehearsals to make the stunt happen to come together. It is now that you have to pull it all together to draw on the time spent training and rehearsing but most importantly from experience.
Then add a little bit of fear to keep you on your toes, because you know that it’s dangerous, you know that it could go wrong, but you also know that if you do everything right that you have rehearsed, you going to be fine.
Q: How Do You Do Deal With The Fear?
A: Gymnastics taught me that, you really break it down. There is fear there but it’s definitely controlled. In the fact that, on one hand I know what I’m doing and what could go wrong but on the other, I know that I have the belief in my capabilities and the work that we’ve done to overcome that outcome.
Q: How Do You Prepare For An Upcoming Stunt?
A: The immediate preparation for a stunt is me taking myself off just before and going through the rehearsals we have done, checking the system we are using and talking to the others involved. The slightly longer term preparation for an upcoming Stunt is training and rehearsals. If the action has changed on the day because the director wants something different then its drawing from my experience running through the action in my head and getting on with it. All good Stuntmen train hard, practice and rehearse, it is from that pool of hard work that we can achieve what is asked of us.
Q: Your breakthrough Came in 2002 When You Were The Stunt Performer In The Film ‘Dog Soldiers’, How Did It Feel To Land Your First Role As Stuntman?
A: That is definitely the greatest memory. Funny enough, it was just after the New Year that I had the audition and I was really hung over, wasn’t feeling my best. Went into the audition, didn’t feel great and then just was like ‘fuck it’, gave it my all. I left the room thinking there is no way I have the job, there was much better (I Thought) creature performers there.
And I obviously did something right, because about two days later, I got the call saying that I got it. It was an amazing feeling because it was something I had wanted to do for such a long time. I had no idea about the journey I was about to embark on. I couldn’t even comprehend, what to expect. So I was going in really blind, but it was a good, an amazing experience. There was a great Stunt team out there that took me under their wing. I worked a lot with them in Luxemburg, I owe a lot to those guys
Q: At The Beginning Of Your Career, Who Were The Most Supportive People Around You At The Time?
A: I guess because of the age I was, my mum and dad. They were always great supporters, because I wanted to do something that wasn’t the run of the mill. The school career advisers were like ‘what are you doing? Get yourself a proper job’. And that’s one thing that would be a good change, for schools to support people that want to go into slightly different careers, whether it’s: acting, stuntman, writing, artist. Those sort of creative positions are not pushed.
Through out my life I have had lots of help from very talented people, my gymnastics coach, my numerous martial arts instructors but above all now it has to be my wife. She supports me in everything I do the long days at work and the long hours I spend training out of work she really is the rock in my life, she is also the one that kicks me up the butt and tells me to man up !!
Q: What Has Kept You Going When You Have Experienced Setbacks?
A: I don’t think any stunt man wants to fail, we are normally are own worst critics. I think that’s what separates our industry from a lot of others. Get up, literally dust yourself off; mend a few broken bones if there are any and just keep going, trying harder. I have made mistakes but I have learnt from those mistakes, I am confident to say I don’t make the same mistakes twice.
Q: Where Does Your Drive And Passion Come From?
A: I guess my drive comes from the fact that I just want to be a better person and a better performer than I was yesterday. I surround myself with passionate and driven people it rubs off on me by association.
Q: Do You Believe In A Higher Power?
A: I do believe in a higher power; I don’t know what it is. But I am a great believer in that we all vibrate at a frequency and that everything at a molecular level vibrates. We are communicating all of the time even if we are not saying anything.
Q: Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
A: I am lucky enough that since joining the British stunt register, I get to work with some of the most talented performers and individuals in the world; we have numerous world champions in different martial arts , gymnastics and rally drivers. I am working with a group of people that are so uber talented, that, you have to raise the bar. From what I did in gymnastics in my teens, to what they do now, the difference is phenomenal. The younger performers starting in the industry have amazing skill sets!
That is inspirational because I have to keep training to try to improve myself, otherwise you get left behind. Definitely some of the great stuntmen that have been before me and more for me the ones that are around now. I don’t think its one individual, its lots of them.
Q: What Do You Think Are The Most Important Elements To Being Successful?
A: Not giving up. If you can pick any one, not giving up. Don’t listen to people that tell you that you can’t do it. I honestly believe that what you believe you can do, you can achieve. It’s from a great book by Napoleon Hill. Dedication, I think that successful people just go that little bit further. I think that at the end of the day, when they come home from work that their drive doesn’t stop there.
For us when we do a job, we will be on set all day, but I still have to keep my training up, depending on what it is. I still have to go to the gym, do gymnastics. I still have to practice on a motor bike, in a car. Whatever the skills are that you need; obviously you have to prioritise depending on the job that you do. And I’m lucky that I get to do things that I love.
Q: What Are Your Future Plans?
A: I’m definitely not done in the stunt industry; I still want to carry on performing. I would love to move on to coordinate. As for any further in the industry from coordination, I don’t have any plans yet, maybe 2nd Unit director.
When I joined the register I didn’t want to be a coordinator, but the longer I have been in the industry now and seen what I have seen, I do want to coordinate.I guess that sees me for the next ten years. And I’m sure that as I get closer to achieving that, I will reassess my goals and implement some more goals.
The secret I believe is to be continuously moving forward, ever growing increasing your knowledge and skill set. Who knows 2nd Unit director in the grand scheme of things doesn’t seem that far away.
Prolific writer, thought leader and coach, Oliver JR Cooper hails from the United Kingdom. His insightful commentary and analysis covers all aspects of human transformation; love, partnership, self-love, and inner awareness. With several hundred in-depth articles highlighting human psychology and behavior, Oliver offers hope along with his sound advice. Current projects include "A Dialogue With The Heart" and "Communication Made Easy."
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