Liam Neeson's Stunt Double Wants You to Know the Importance of Stretching

(Image credit: Unknown)

How did you get into being a stunt performer?

I was a competitive waterskier when I was younger, and I did a lot of live water stunt shows travelling around the United States and Europe. Lots of the disciplines you perform in those kind of shows – using fire, big jumps, hang gliding – develop transferable skills that you can use as a movie stunt man.

Did you have to go to a stunt school?

There are a couple of smaller schools in Los Angeles, but you mainly just pick things up from other stunt men as you go along. So if you work with a guy who’s a martial arts expert, he’ll give you tips on how to fight, or a guy who’s great with motorbikes might give you advice about bike-based stunts. The older guys tend to help the younger guys along and everyone shares skill sets.

Is their anything specific you do in the gym to prepare and protect your body for a tough film role?

Having good flexibility and range of motion through your muscles and joints is crucial when you’re taking a fall, especially if it doesn’t quite go to plan and you encounter a problem you weren’t prepared for. If you land and your body can move naturally with it, you’re far less likely to get injured than if you’re rigid and stiff. That’s when things snap, tear or break. So I always make sure that on top of the fitness stuff I’m doing – be it running, swimming or CrossFit – I spend plenty of time stretching to keep myself loose, especially around my knees and lower back.

You’ve worked as Liam Neeson’s stunt double a lot in recent years. How did that come about?

We were a good match physically, which really helps. He’s just a fantastic guy to work with – I’ve done 16 movies with him now, including A Walk Among The Tombstones. He’s a natural when it comes to action scenes and the choreography involved – standing in the right place, moving the right way, handling a weapon properly, throwing a good punch without actually hitting the stunt guy on the nose. It’s amazing to watch. He can do it all.

What’s the craziest stunt you’ve ever done?

It was on a movie called Seraphim Falls, which was with Neeson, but in this particular scene I was doubling for Pierce Brosnan. I was going over a waterfall underneath a helicopter. When you’re dealing with nature and it’s tat powerful, you can’t always dictate what’s going to happen. It had been raining for 30 days straight beforehand, so the water flow was immense, and we couldn’t be sure what debris was under the surface – plus the fog was coming in and there’s always the risk that the rope can go slack or get caught around your neck. So there were a lot of dangerous elements involved! Fortunately it went fine in the end.

Of all the A-listers working in Hollywood, who’s most famous for doing their own stunts?

Harrison Ford is a classic for that – he gets right in there. I worked with him on the last Indiana Jones movie and got to do a fight scene with him. Standing there, looking right at him throwing a punch was an all-time career high.

A Walk Among The Tombstones is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 19th January, courtesy of eOne

Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.