I’m stunt expert and film director Vic Armstrong. I was the stunt coordinator for movies like Indiana Jones, the James Bond franchise, I Am Legend, Starship Troopers, Mission: Impossible 3 and the newest Jack Ryan movie, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which is available today on Blu-ray and Digital HD.

I’m in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Most Prolific Stuntman and I doubled for Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones films, Timothy Dalton for Flash Gordon, and Christopher Reeve in Superman and Superman II. I also directed “Left Behind” starring Nicholas Cage and Chad Michael Murray, and am currently directing “The Sunday Horse" with William Shatner and Nikki Reed. I’m here for an hour with Victoria so ask me anything!

proof: https://twitter.com/JackRyanMovie/status/476507845769179136

EDIT: Well, to me it's a great great honor and a pleasure and a privilege. I'm always, ALWAYS happy & pleased when people asked me questions. I would like to stay much longer, but I do have to get up at 5 AM tomorrow for more work. But please do check out Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which is available today on Blu-ray and Digital HD as I think you will really enjoy it. We traveled the world shooting it, we shot in Liverpool and New York and Russia. There's some great scenery and great action and a great performance from Chris Pine. And then in October, please do look out for Left Behind. I think it will be a fun film for everybody as well.

Comments: 86 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

misterblacksheep11 karma

Hey Vic! Huge Fan of the Indiana Jones stunts. Quick Question, have you ever gotten hurt doing any stunts?

VicArmstrong11 karma

Oh yes, you're bound to get bumps and bruises. I've had a lot of injuries over the years, but I think in other sports you get hurt a lot more. We take a lot of care rehearsing to minimize that. I've broken a shin bone, a shoulder, a couple of ribs and an arm, but that's over many years over the course of my career. The worst things are sprains in ligaments, not broken bones. I had a horse fall on me in the 1970's in Morocco, which was dramatic because in the 1970's Morocco was not the best place to go for surgery, but I had a great surgeon who did a great job. I was a young man in those days, and Morocco was a different country.

misterblacksheep7 karma

Wow, nice to hear from you Vic!

VicArmstrong5 karma

That's fantastic, and it's nice to have people be fans!

orangejulius6 karma

We recently had an AMA from Johnny Knoxville - what's your impression of the jackass "stunts"?

Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones films

You handsome devil. What was it like working with Spielberg and Lucas?

Favorite location to shoot?

VicArmstrong10 karma

They are completely alien to what I do. I have full admiration for them, but some of their stunts are just crazy. My work is film work and editing stunts together and creating abnormal, amazing stunts and situations, whereas on the Johnny Knoxville things it's more trying to do it for real and survive, which is completely alien to our approach. I have admiration for them, but I worry they aren't going to have long careers physically as they will get broken up so quickly.

They were WONDERFUL, I must say. In the early days, we were all young people. Everybody is very collaborative, we are inventing new ways of doing things. Indiana Jones was tremendous to work on. Nobody knew it was going to be such a huge film or a successful film, but by the time we got to Last Crusade, we knew what we had to achieve. We had a great sense of confidence going into the film. I have so much admiration for those guys, their brains are incredible.

It all depends on the situation you are in. I've had some wonderful times in Thailand, I've done 14 films there, i think. Some beautiful places there. I did On Her Majesty's Secret Service in Switzerland, I skied every day to and from work. I had some wonderful times in Manzanillo, where they shot "10", that was FANTASTIC - the pina coladas, the fruit, the sun and the sea. So many wonderful places around the world. It also depends on how the crew is, how the film is going, but there are so many great places. I went to South America for The Mission. I would like to go further to the South Seas, that's next on my list.

orangejulius3 karma

Quick follow up -

What's the scariest/ most precarious situation you've been in during work?

Did local governments ever get in the way or did you have weird culture clashes with the locals?

You've had an awesome career.

VicArmstrong8 karma

I was up in Alaska, years ago, on Bear Island, with Donald Sutherland and a lot of actors - Lloyd Bridges and Vanessa Redgrave - and we were working on a glacier, and I just skied to the edge of the glacier, and I looked over, and turned around to ski back and I saw a hole in the snow i just skied over - and we were very worried about the glacier crevasses - and I crept forward and looked in this hole, and it was as big as a cathedral down below, just an ice bridge over it that was only about a foot thick, you'd be gone if you fell down it, so we went back and RACED over it and got out of it.

I've been up in Alaska again when we landed up on top of the movie to test out a machine for a movie, and suddenly a storm came in, and suddenly our helicopter wouldn't start, and obviously we couldn't go anywhere, we were there for nearly 3.5 days with no food, no communication, and luckily someone spotted us with radar during the storm. We've had precarious moments, but flying around with helicopters around Thailand, we've had near misses where the engines stall out or you nearly crash. When you're living in the jungle in South America on the Mission - you're on the edge of a waterfall, you're one step away from disaster.

Obviously it's difficult when you go to some countries. Depending on the size of your film, you normally have permissions, but I've worked in Iraq in late 70's or early 80's, I've worked in Lybia in the early 80's, so there are going to be culture clashes. Some people object to filming in their cities, mainly because they're not the ones getting paid, their neighbors are getting paid...

WickedExcited5 karma

Is it harder working with animals or fire?

VicArmstrong6 karma

That's a good question. I think fire is the hardest, because it does the most damage if it goes wrong. Animals are notoriously difficult to work with, in fact today I had to work with a young foal and its mother, and the foal was only 2 months old, but at least it's not as bad as fire. It's not as bad if it goes wrong. I prefer working with animals to fire, I must say.

beernerd5 karma

Do you have one of those shirts that say "I do all my own stunts"?

VicArmstrong5 karma

Hahaha! No. Somebody might ask me to do one!

beernerd2 karma

That never occurred to me, but I can totally imagine people who find out what you do saying something like "you're a stuntman? do a trick!"

VicArmstrong5 karma

They would do, if they had any idea of what I did, but I never tell them! It's like asking a brain surgeon to show them how to operate on somebody's brain. I never get into that situation because I never tell anybody.

communiqueso3 karma

Craziest stunt?

VicArmstrong5 karma

They are all calculated, and I direct as well, so they are all broken down into shots & cuts. I like them to look crazy on film, but all of them have to be totally controlled because you don't want it to be just crashing a car or blowing up a house - you have to be ready to do them again and again. To me they are never crazy, they are calculated and worked out to the final detail.

communiqueso3 karma

Follow up! Maybe I should've asked, most intricate stunt?

VicArmstrong7 karma

So SO SO many. Every stunt is intricate! Even Jack Ryan - the fight in the bathroom lasts 2, 3 minutes, but we had weeks of rehearsal - even when he smashes his head on the bidet, it's probably 2 weeks of rehearsal to get the right texture for the ceramic of the bidet so when he hits it it doesn't crumble like eggshell but not smash his face - then we have to figure out what causes the fall - every fight is very very intricate, none more than others. Or the boat chase on Die Another Day, a boat going through London on the Thames, one of the busiest rivers in the world - or the chase in Iceland, where we did the chase across the ice - we had to drill the ice to make sure it was thick enough, we had to make all the cars all Four Wheel Drive, which cost 1.7 million dollars (1 million pounds), all stunts are very very intricate, but you have to have confidence and make it work. Imagine if we'd spend $1.7 million dollars and the chase had looked like nothing- that's where the pressure is, you have to deliver the goods in addition to the intricate planning.

waitfor_ittt2 karma


VicArmstrong3 karma

If it was an older guy, same as me, it would be Harrison! We work well together, so I think he would be a great guy to play me and he has a great sense of humor. I would say Harrison all told, we are good buddies, we have the same sense of humor, and he would be my man.

kyleisonabike2 karma

Mr. Armstrong! Thank you for your amazing work.

I am getting more into film as I would like to eventually direct, but I would love to do stunts as well and possibly some acting. What is the best way for me to acquire some stunt rolls? I raced motocross, ride motorcycles, and drive cars. I am considering making a stunt type reel but I am not sure who to send it to.

VicArmstrong2 karma

The whole idea of getting employed is people have to know you are out there, so yes to a reel, and then you have to use your initiative and you have to find stunt coordinators, phone up studios or look in the papers and do your detective work, and then send them the reels and try to convince them you are the right man for them to employ.

misterblacksheep2 karma

What's Timothy Dalton like? I watched License to Kill last night and am wondering if he is a "Bondsy" type of chap off the screen.

VicArmstrong4 karma

Tim Dalton is an absolutely WONDERFUL man. I've known him for 40 years. I was actually doubling for Tim when I broke my shoulder on Mary Queen of Scots. And then I worked on Bonds with him, and he came to my house to learn to ride, and he came to ride at my house. And I just finished working with him on Penny Dreadful, I was in Ireland doing stuff on that. But Tim is a real gentleman, a lovely man and a great actor.

misterblacksheep2 karma

Ahh that's very interesting! And when you say ride, ride horses correct? Do you have a stable at your home?

VicArmstrong4 karma

I do, yes, in England. I've got a house in Los Angeles and a farm in England. I have 36 stables and indoor riding arenas. My daughters & sons ride, and one of my daughters is a champion show jumper and she's acting in my current film Sunday Horse that we're working on now. She's represented Great Britain whilst jumping in Australia.

Frajer2 karma

What's the best experience you had with Nicolas Cage?

VicArmstrong4 karma

My best experience was directing him on LEFT BEHIND. He was absolutely wonderful, and i think the film will be very successful. It's a faith based film based on a series called Left Behind that's sold more than 5 million copies, a very very popular series of books. He was very professional, came completely prepared, and he's good fun, has a great sense of humor. I like him very much.

wabysaby2 karma

What is one stunt on film even you were involved with that you were surprised was able to be pull off?

VicArmstrong6 karma

I think the jump act in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade was really amazing - there was a lot of difficulty in teaching a horse to run straight against the side of the cliff, for example, and the distance I had to jump and trust the horse to not duck out from under me in case I didn't make my jump. But they're all very difficult, I did a 100 foot fall into an air bag in The Final Conflict, that was quite exciting. I invented a piece of equipment called a fan descender - I jumped off a 400 foot building, and it lowers you at a given speed, it's a piece of equipment that I designed so you don't have to do a free fall, that way you could come down at any speed over any height, and I got an Academy of Science & technology award as a result. When you're first given a problem, it's quite a challenge to come up with a solution that will work very well.

wabysaby2 karma

Wow bad-ass inventor; your life sounds incredible...

VicArmstrong4 karma

It is! It's been wonderful, I must say, it's not without its drawbacks - I was out until 5 o'clock this morning, and I just got in before this call, and working in 90 degree heat in Atlanta, so it's tiring, but it's a fun job as well.

WickedExcited2 karma

What was your favorite stunt to perform?

VicArmstrong3 karma

I think the jump onto the tank in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. Because it's working with horses, it's working as Indiana Jones (which I loved in the 3 movies that I did), I loved the costumes, and I have a great still photograph of it- It's very satisfying because of the complications of training the horse, and I'm very proud of it. It's a long time ago, as a fit younger man in those days, it was unique & unusual, no one had seen anything like it before. I worked EXTREMELY close with Harrison Ford, because the rest of us are trying to support his character, and everything about his character that makes the film so successful. So I worked very closely with him to make sure he was comfortable - so the fights had to be ones he was comfortable and confident doing, but we worked very very closely on it, and when we shoot, we're totally confident in what we're doing.

dragonfly19932 karma

What are some things about you people would not expect?

VicArmstrong2 karma

Maybe they wouldn't expect me to not particularly like action films? Because I work on action films so often , I'm not drawn to watching just them in the cinema, I just like good movies in general. I'm not a very good golfer. I'm a pretty normal person really, and I like normal things. I don't live a crazy dangerous life, I'm just a pretty normal person.

Supermansadak2 karma

Do you ever get scared?

VicArmstrong3 karma

I do! I was always nervous before any stunt, strangely enough, not necessarily because you feel you're going to get hurt, but the fear of failure makes you very nervous, because when you do a stunt on the movie, it's normally the big focal point of the day or week or month, and everyone is expecting great things to happen, and if they don't everyone thinks you're a failure. If you're an actor who gets your lines wrong, no problem, we'll do another take, but if you're a stuntman, you're expected to get it right the first go. So the fear of failure is one of the most common fears for a stunt man.

dragonfly19932 karma

Favorite snack?

VicArmstrong2 karma

My favorite snack is almonds. Because on a film set, if you're not careful, there's chocolate and cakes and all sort of things, and it's nice to eat something throughout the day to keep your energy up and I like almonds and the taste of them. Otherwise you'll eat all the chocolate and all the bad stuff.

shibbyman2332 karma

Hey Vic, whats the most dangerous/exhilarating stunt you've performed?

VicArmstrong3 karma

They're all dangerous until you succeed in doing them. I do think the 100 foot fall was a very dangerous one, because you're falling when you actually hit the object you're going to land on - what we call the crash pad - from 100 feet you're probably doing 65 miles per hour - and your body stops within 3 feet. So you can imagine the inertia if you're within a car doing 65 mph - imagine the force on your body. If your body is in the wrong position on a high fall stopping within 3 feet, you can do tremendous damage. These are very scary things to me. I think that's probably the worst. But they all seem very scary & dangerous until you've completed them and then afterwards you say "what were you so scared about?" - it's very anticlimactic.

PointOfFingers2 karma

I had three favourite movie stunts when I was a kid, back when stunts were real and not CGI:

  • The aerial twist car jump in the Man with the Golden Gun.

  • Indiana Jones in Raiders when he goes under the truck and uses the whip to drag himself back.

  • Back to the Future when he hops off his skate board, runs through the car and jumps back on the board.

Can you tell us anything about the Indiana Jones stunt? How fast would the truck have been travelling?

VicArmstrong6 karma

I didn't do that stunt, that was a very good friend of mine called Terry Leonard, I was doing the fight around the revolving ring while that was going on. The truck was going very fast, there's a little groove in the ground made for the body to go in, but if there's anything that causes the truck to move slightly from side to side, you go through a pot hole or lower ground, then the truck could crush Terry underneath it. If you get under any vehicle, you realize how close the back axle is to the ground. It's very very dangerous, it's been rehearsed and tremendously well photographed by Mickey Moore. I wish I had done it, it's one of the classic stunts.

t_dubbin2 karma

Long time lurker here but when I saw Vic is doing an AMA had to make an account. I've got a couple of questions for you Mr. Armstrong.

  1. I have always wanted to be more involved in the stunt aspect of filmmaking, I have a degree in film production, just I'm not much for pen pushing. How would you suggest going about getting gigs to become part of the union and getting real work? Is the route of getting small SAE work in the beginning to get to know some coordinators, a fair way to go? What is an appropriate way to go about an introduction with a stunt coordinator without being annoying.

  2. I am a kidney donor and want to know your opinion about how this may or may not effect becoming a stunt performer. I read that Jeannie Epper had donated her kidney back around 2000 I think, to a colleague, and continued to work afterwards so I don't believe it is impossible.

  3. Lastly, this is not so much of a question but a compliment. I love the work you have done and all the stories you tell in your book "The Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman." You have created quite the legacy for yourself and I hope to one day be half as great as you.

VicArmstrong3 karma

1) That's very difficult. The only way to get started is if you have a very very good ability at something that's really special. The only way you're going to be employed is if you are better than everybody else. You can't just show up and say I'm a stuntman and they will give you a car to crash. You have to come in with an existing talent - be an extraordinary driver, an expert swordsman, an expert horse trainer - an ability that the stunt coordinator will then employ YOU on the film before anybody else. You have to have a talent for it, there's no way of just showing up and expecting to get employed.

2) I don't really know what the consequences are. I think one is better than two, but I wouldn't let it interfere with my occupation, so I certainly think you could do it, yes.

3) That's very flattering, I feel blessed and I've just been lucky to be in the right place at the right time many many years, and worked in 3 franchises that are fantastic - from Bond, to Indiana Jones, to Superman- I was lucky enough to be in my peak when they were in their peak. So a lot of it is timing.

machinehuman2 karma

Thanks for participating! Any explosion that scared - pardonnez mon anglais - the shit out of you?

VicArmstrong6 karma

Oh yeah! Whenever an explosion is asked for, you don't know what's going to happen. You can talk about it, you can go through all the details, but the moment you push the button, you have to hope it's all been coorindated perfectly.

I did an explosion in STARSHIP TROOPERS, it was one of the longest explosions ever, it was more than 1/2 of a mile, the scene with the ants charging at the camera with explosives being detonated at them. The explosions started half a mile away and started building towards us you could could the oxygen being sucked out of the air. It's a very frightening thing, and you hope that you haven't made a mistake, because if you have, it could be your last.

chooter2 karma

What is your favorite thing about your job?

VicArmstrong2 karma

I love to travel. And in my career, I've worked in over 65 countries, lots of them over and over again. But also the other thing I love about my job is the creativity of it, it's wonderful to be able to move cameras and create something exciting that people remember for years to come, and create enough interest that people come up on and ask about it, so it's the most flattering thing I could have hoped to achieve.

chooter2 karma

What inspires you?

VicArmstrong3 karma

I think just ambition. I have to say. I wanted to be a steeplechase jockey, then when i became a stuntman, I wanted to become the best stuntman I could, so I think ambition was the inspiration.

dragonfly19932 karma

What drew you to Jack Ryan?

VicArmstrong3 karma

I wanted to do Jack Ryan because I love working with Kenneth Branagh, he's a great friend of mine, and we've worked together a long long time. Our first film together was Henry the Fifth, and I just enjoy working with him. I love the Jack Ryan series. And it's always fun to do a spy movie, especially with a fun up and coming actor like Chris Pine. The stunts were a challenge in their own right, as he had never ridden a motorcycle much before, let alone a lengthy ride through New York City without a helmet and my brother trained him in America with another man called Gary Davis (who coincidentally used to double Chris Pine's father in CHIPS - it was a full circle). I had another stunt guy in England called Lee Morrison who did all the motorcycle stuff on Skyfall, and he taught him in England, and it was very intensive training and Chris did a amazing job.

We had some intensive fights as well, we had a fight in the bathroom with Nonso Anozie (who's a very big, full actor) and we wanted to make the point that Chris was not a trained assassin or agent, just a young man caught up in a situation, so that it was just his survival instincts that took over. We did not want him to look like James Bond or anything, so that was a big challenge, but I think it came over very well.

WickedExcited2 karma

do you believe in luck?

VicArmstrong3 karma

100% yes. Luck, fate, somebody tried to tell me there's no such thing quite recently and I just do not agree. I know the harder you work the luckier you can get, but luck is an amazing thing. I've been blessed in my career and I believe it's fate. I'm not sure what the difference is between fate and luck, but being in the right place at the right time, I definitely believe in it.

darthbat1 karma

Would you rather fight 300 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?

gotta ask this, it's customary for AMAs

VicArmstrong3 karma

I think the 100 duck sized horses. I think I could take them out one by one, maybe. The duck would be too big, it would overpower me.