Bobby Holland Hanton: A Portrait of One of the World’s Most In-Demand Stunt Performers
Bobby Holland Hanton has been in all of your favorite movies. He’s Batman. He’s James Bond. He’s Thor. Why don’t you recognize him? That’s because he’s a stunt performer.
After beginning gymnastics when he was four years old, he eventually became a National Squad Member and National Gold Medalist for Great Britain before switching gears and becoming a semi-professional footballer for Fareham Town FC. He then began to perform in live action shows, various TV Shows and commercials —some of which found Bobby doubling Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, and David Beckham—and he eventually decided to become a professional stunt performer. More than 35 films later, he’s back in this fall’s biggest blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok, and I talked to him about his monstrous career so far.
The training that goes into stunt work is far more rigorous than anyone might think. You trained for years in disciplines that included kickboxing, swimming, 10m high diving, gymnastics, trampolining, and scuba diving. Where did your interest in stunt work originate?
I was doing live stunt and action shows once I retired from Britain’s gymnastics team and I decided I wanted to figure out the rules and regulations for stunting. We have a criteria in the UK, just like SAG in the US, and there’s a professional line of requirements to become a stunt man. I trained in those skills and my first job was Quantum of Solace stunt doubling for Daniel Craig. I’ve been physically performing my whole life so this made sense.
Is there a particular project that you feel really catapulted your career?
Quantum of Solace, one hundred percent is what catapulted my career for sure. Prince of Persia was after that and it was a good showcase for what I specialize in. Those movies were showpieces for coordinators to see what my special skills are. The Dark Knight Rises is also up there and helped propel my career in the right direction.
Working so closely with the actors, you’ve become friends with many of them. You seem to have a genuine friendship with Chris Hemsworth.
I’ve been working with Chris for five years now and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m in his contract now so I do all of his action movies. He’s a great guy and we have the same sense of humor. We get on really well. You become close to the people you work with when you admire and appreciate what they do. We also share the same interest in training. The same is true with Tom Holland, the new Spider-Man, since we worked together a lot during The Heart of the Sea. You develop great relationships doing what I do.
Which film challenged you the most so far?
Quantum of Solace was because it was my first. I was green then so it was really challenging. Prince of Persia was very physically challenging in that it was very acrobatic heavy. All films are challenging in that you’re doing different stunts in each of them. When I was doing The Huntsman, I did a 45 foot jump onto a rooftop. Then there was a second shot where I had to then tumble down the roof. The sequence came out great and it was the first time I’d ever done that type of thing where shots were put together to create a full sequence. But each movie or stunt has its own challenge to overcome—when I started on Game of Thrones, I was a man on fire in one of the episodes. It’s always different and that’s what keeps me motivated to keep on.
Give me a day-in-the-life of Bobby Holland Hanton.
I get up and go to work in the morning, have a light warm-up and then rehearse for what’s coming up. Maybe that’s a fight rehearsal or shooting our version of a fight to show the director what it would look like. Sometimes it’s wire stuff or falls. After lunch, I go to my first training session of the day, then back to work in the afternoon. At the end of the day, I go back to the gym and train again, have something good to eat that’s high carb and high protein then try to get some rest. That’s kind of how my days pan out when we’re filming. When we aren’t filming, it’s not much different. I still train twice a day.
I’m going to mention some of the projects you’ve worked on and you give me the first thing that comes to mind. Let’s start with Quantum of Solace.
I did a balcony jump in Panama. It was my first ever stunt on film, shot at 2 in the morning and I was jumping from one balcony to another with no wires or nets.
The Dark Knight Rises.
That was my first ever 100 foot high fall. In the scene when Christian Bale (as Bruce Wayne) is climbing out of the pit Bane left him in, he jumps across to a ledge but misses it. That was my first ever high fall stunt.
There’s a little scene where I was doubling Chris Pine. I was chasing a plane, running on a giant running machine and I get closer, catch the ladder and go through the door.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I was a Snatcher running through the woods and I was also a Death Eater with a fake wand, doing a backflip over some stairs after I was hit with a spell.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
I was sitting in a tux at a table when a CGI monster came through the room. I stand up and say, “What’s that?” and get jerked across the room.
Star Wars Episode VII.
I was a Stormtrooper, which was a boyhood dream come true. I had to take a bullet blast and slide down a stone mountain. Those Stormtrooper outfits are hard to even walk in, let alone do stunts in. But still, it was a dream.
You’ve been on the Thor films for many movies now. How is the process different now than it was when you first started donning the cape and hammer?
I have a couple more tattoos now so it’s different in that I have a full sleeve that has to be covered whereas when we started, I didn’t. Chris’ makeup artists are the best in the business and they get me covered in 25 minutes easy. That’s one change, but generally, it’s the same. We grow the beard, the costumes changes slightly, we get the red cape on and do the stunts. We know what to expect now, where the costume can be rough on your body and stuff—so filming is pretty much standard now.
You played double duty on Avengers 2 playing both Thor and Captain America.
I did Cap first because it started filming in January in South Korea. We were on top of trucks and swinging on cars—I even jumped over a car as it drove toward me for the sequence. It worked out in the schedule that I could do Cap first then go back to the UK to train for Thor. I had to change my size from Cap to Thor—you have to be bigger being Thor—and I intensely trained to get ready. I was proud to have worked on such a huge Marvel project and have such a great experience. It was an honor. It’s not easy doubling one character in those movies so doing two was hard, but it worked out I could do both and I consider that a privilege.
How are you creatively fulfilled by doing what you’re doing?
I always want to be the best I can be at what I do. I’m very passionate about succeeding in this craft. I like the new challenges I come across. I trained hard to get to where I am and I train hard to stay there. Keeping that platform is hard and I feel blessed and lucky to be where I’m at. What drives me onward is that adrenaline rush of doing stunts on set.
You’ve won 5 SAG Awards for Inception, Harry Potter the Deathly Hollows, Skyfall and Game of Thrones seasons 6 & 7, 2 Emmy Awards for contribution to best stunt ensemble for Game of Thrones Season 6 & 7, and a 2009 Guinness World Record for the most targets hit with a back somersault throw in one hour. What’s next?
I just finished Avengers 3 in Atlanta, I’m shooting back in London for a while on some projects and then I’ll head back to Atlanta to do Avengers 4. I’m pretty busy until the end of the year but I’m very much looking forward to Thor: Ragnarok coming out.
Interview by Ryan Brinson
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