Harrison Ford and Vic Armstrong
'I'm being Harrison Ford today'
By Linda Serck
If you're a fan of Indiana Jones films and marvel at all the daring stunt scenes - it's not Harrison Ford you're looking at, but his stunt double Vic Armstrong from Binfield in Berkshre...
"That for me was one of the most technical and difficult things I've done in my career."
Binfield stunt double and BAFTA-winning film director Vic Armstrong remembers a particular scene in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade that is so thrilling it's been voted as one of the top ten film stunts of all time.
"I had to train that horse to gallop in a straight line," he says. "When I dropped the reins and stood on the saddle to jump he had to keep running at the same pace in a straight line. He couldn't swerve away.
"We couldn't get him too close to the edge because it's a 12-foot drop to the tank on a crumbly cliff edge.
"I had to travel about 18 feet laterally to land in the spot where I wanted to land. So technically it was quite a difficult job."
Vic and Harrison as Indiana Jones
Scroll down below for a dramatic action shot of the stunt Vic describes.
But it's all in a day's work for the six-foot 61-year-old, who's also been hailed as the world's most prolific stunt double by the Guinness Book Of Records.
As well as doubling for Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones films, Vic has also filmed stunts as Timothy Dalton for Flash Gordon and Christopher Reeve in Superman I and II. The latter even leading to romance.
Vic and his wife Wendy Leech in Temple Of Doom
"I met my wife who is a stuntwoman in her own right on Superman I and II," says Vic. "She was doubling Lois Lane and I was co-ordinating and doubling Christopher Reeve."
His wife, Wendy Leech, has also starred alongside Vic in Indiana Jones as the doubles for leading ladies Karen Allen, Kate Catterall and Alison Doody.
So how do you start out in such a perilous career?
As an infant, Vic's love of throwing himself off his pony - "cowboys and indians-style" - was a precursor to his stuntman days.
Though it was through his teenage career as amateur steeplechase jockey that led to his first stunt stint.
Vic Armstrong in The Omen: Final Conflict
"A man who used to come and exercise our horses for us was a stuntman called Jimmy Lodge," Vic remembers.
"He asked me if he could borrow a horse we had because the horse was a really good jumper and he had some fantastic jumps to do in a film called Arabesque, with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren down at Newport Pagnell."
"I rented him a horse and he came back the next day and said 'we need another rider, do you want to come and ride?'. So I went down and rode and got £20 a day, which was a week's wages."
He adds: "I very quickly got up a good resume of work because there were a lot of horse pictures around at the time. Success breeds success and I went on to bigger and better things."
Figures In A Landscape: Jumping from a helicopter
And indeed Vic has gone on to bigger and better things, running his own company Stunts Incorporated and enjoying success as a famed stunt coordinator and action unit director, notable for (among others) the action sequences of several James Bond films, War Of The Worlds, and I Am Legend.
So what does it take to become a good stuntman and director?
"You have to have belief in your own abilities," says Vic, "which is why a stuntman must have a special discipline he's fantastic at.
"Whether you're a motorcyclist, a gymnastic, a swimmer, a rider - you have to be above and beyond everybody else's ability at that one thing and you must be able to trust your own judgement.
Harrison Ford and Vic Armstrong
"Then you have to be calculating, you look at what risks lay ahead, how you can allay those risks, what safety precautions you can put in.
"And that's where experience comes in - knowing how to break a stunt down. We all know you can't jump off a 100 foot building on fire and hit the ground and walk away, but you can in the movies if you know how to edit it properly and make it look realistic."
Vic Armstrong as Indiana jumping onto the tank
Above is the dramatic shot of Vic in action in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.
last updated: 09/05/2008 at 19:32