25. May 2011 15:13
Think you don’t know Vic Armstrong?
Wrong! You’ve seen his work in countless films...
He’s been a stunt double for James Bond, Indiana Jones and Superman, and he’s directed action scenes for three Bond movies, Mission Impossible 3, Thor, and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man to name but a few.
Counting Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger among his friends, and officially credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Most Prolific Stuntman, Vic’s got a lot of amazing stories to tell, and they’re all here in this - the movie memoir of the year!
I also read Hal Needham's Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life and I have to say Vic Armstrong is much more modest when describing his accomplishments (Hal claims to have invented just about everything stuntman related - and perhaps he did - but he comes accross as extremely arrogant and very in your face about it. For example, as an "I told you so", he took out a full page ad in a Hollywood trade publication that showed himself outside a bank with a wheel barrow full of cash, after Smokey and the Bandit came out).
Of the two books, I found The True Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman: My Life as Indiana Jones, James Bond, Superman and Other Movie Heroes to be the more interesting read. This is partly because Hal's career spanned from the 1950s to the early 80s and with the exception of the Burt Reynolds movies, most of his stunts seem to have been for old westerns, many of which I have never heard of, let alone seen. I don't doubt that the stunts were spectacular, it's just that I have seen so few of them that it was just not as interesting to read about as Vic's career, which is so much more mainstream, and more relevant to anyone born after 1970 - he worked with Steven Spielberg, Scorcese, and the book included references to a lot more of the films that I have actually seen and enjoyed.
Vic Armstrong worked as a stuntman on You Only Live Twice (1967), On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Live and Let Die (1973), and Never Say Never Again (1983), he also helped with casting for The Living Daylights (1987) and directed the action on Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), and Die Another Day (2002). Armstrong devotes a chapter to each movie, or to a series of movies worked on in a short period of time, and the chapters on Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough are broken down by the big action pieces of the movies - the pre-credit sequence, the car park chase, etc. As Vic describes directing the action on these last three movies it becomes clear to us why the Brosnan era of James Bond was so awful (I'm sorry, but it was! To clarify, Brosnan himself was not awful, in fact I can't think of any other actor who looks more like James Bond than Pierce Brosnan. It was the "plots" - if you can call them that - which let him down.). Vic Armstong dreamed up the action sequences for these movies, and as action set pieces they are very entertaining, and perhaps more important in a forty year old franchise, they are also both new and original while still managing to wink at Bond's past, so they deliver exactly what James Bond fans want, humor, gadgets and escapism. Full marks to Mr Armstong then - without him these movies might have been unbearable, because it often seems like the entire movie was made around these stunts: Rather than starting with a story and adding action only where it made sense to do so it seems like they came up with the list of stunts and then created the story to link them all together.
But that's just my opinion on the films.
Anyway, overall, a very interesting read.
The True Adventures of the Worlds Greatest Stuntman B+.