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Bobby Holland Hanton, stuntman to the stars

About the author

After careers as a classroom teacher, preschool director and fiction writing professor, Brett now writes about the two subjects on which people are least interested in receiving advice from a childless gay man: kids and cars. Visit him at brettberk.com or follow him on Twitter at @StickShift_VF.

Hanton on set, standing in for Chris Hemsworth as Thor. (Splash News)

Hanton on set, standing in for Chris Hemsworth as Thor. (Splash News)

Do you enjoy getting thrown through plate-glass windows, falling off buildings and generally smashing things up? Bobby Holland Hanton does. That is why Hanton is a stuntman and 99.9% of humanity is not.

In his time in Hollywood, Hanton, 30, has faked injuries, havoc and near-death for A-listers including Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, Ryan Reynolds, Channing Tatum and Jake Gyllenhaal. The Brit’s resume includes work in a series of blockbusters, including The Dark Knight Rises, Quantum of Solace and films in the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. At present, he is abusing himself on the set of directors Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest movie, Jupiter Ascending. 

Bobby comes by his skills naturally – meaning through an impossible regimen of monomaniacal task-oriented achievements, including a 2009 Guinness World Record for the most targets hit with a back somersault throw in one hour. (His impetus was partly fed by sponsorship deals with Dove Mens + Care and Nuffield Fitness Gym.) BBC Autos chatted with him about his time spent driving, diving and dying for a living.

Brett Berk: What kind of training does one have to undergo to become a stunt double? Do you begin by jumping off roofs and bridges as a child and then just work your way up (or down) from there? Do you train with a master stuntman? Do you attend danger school?

Bobby Holland Hanton: Becoming a stunt double requires training in certain disciplines, such as kickboxing, swimming, high diving, gymnastics, trampolining and scuba diving. I trained full-time for nearly four years to master each discipline. It helps fundamentally if you have a skill that you've acquired from a young age like martial arts, trampolining, vehicle experience. In my case, it was gymnastics. These activities and trainings always put you in good stead for a stunt career.

What was the first vehicle you stunt-drove in a movie?

Though my driving experience is limited, I had the chance to film as a driver in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. Everyone talks about the Bond cars throughout the franchises’ various instalments, so to be behind the wheel of one of these iconic vehicles was one of the many surreal moments in my career. 

What was your favorite of all the vehicles you've stunt driven in a film?  

Of all the notable cars I’ve been around in filming, having the opportunity to sit in the Aston Martin and simulate driving on Quantum of Solace. At 23 years old, not many people can say they’ve driven James Bond’s car and I’m so glad I had the chance to film that shot.

Doubling for Christian Bale in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. (Dave Castillo)

Doubling for Christian Bale in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises. (Dave Castillo)

What was the biggest mistake you ever made while driving on set?

There’s always a certain risk in stunt-doubling. It’s the nature of the job – otherwise the position wouldn’t be available. In my limited on-camera driving experience, I’ve been lucky enough to have not made a mistake in a vehicle or cause any accidents.

Have there been any actors you've worked with/doubled for who were really great drivers?  

Aside from being an incredible actor, Daniel Craig is a great driver. I remember watching him film a scene on Quantum of Solace that had him driving down a very narrow tunnel in the dark. That kind of driving takes precision and he nailed it every time.

We're familiar with the term "busman's holiday". What does a stunt driver drive on his days off?  

I'm very lucky to own an Aston Martin DB9, which I recently bought as a 30th birthday present to myself. Previous to that I owned a Range Rover Sport that I dearly miss, and an Audi A4 before that. Whether I’m doubling in a film, or even playing myself it’s very important for me to have a comfortable car to show up on set relaxed and confident.  

Hanton's '007 edition' Aston Martin DB9. (Bobby Holland Hanton)

Hanton's '007 edition' Aston Martin DB9. (Bobby Holland Hanton)

(Skyfall image: Honda Motor via Newspress)