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Getting Fit with the Stuntman Behind Bond, Batman, and Thor

Think your job is tough? For stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton, saving the world and taking a punch are all in a day's work. Find out how the action star bulletproofs his body, and what that can teach us about training for everyday life.
Getting Fit with the Stuntman Behind Bond, Batman, and Thor
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Photo: Bobby Holland Hanton / Quantum of Solace

Quick! Name the actor who's appeared onscreen as James Bond, Batman, Thor, and the Prince of Persia, all before the age of 30. Here’s a hint: He does all his own stunts.

Stuntman "Bobby Holland Hanton" might not be one of the biggest names in Hollywood (yet), but he’s making a name for himself as the movie industry’s go-to guy for death-defying feats. The 29 year-old Brit grew up competing in gymnastics and started performing in live stunt and acrobatic shows when he was 19. In his early 20s, Hanton decided to make the leap to film. That meant passing the Joint Industry Stunt Committee’s qualification standards, a grueling series of tests where applicants must demonstrate proficiency in fighting, falling, driving, agility, and swimming — all movements required of any budding action star or Batman-to-be.

Since becoming an officially licensed stunt pro in 2008, Holland has appeared in more than 20 movies and snagged awards for his stunt performances in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Inception.

Were you blown away when James Bond threw bad guys through doors in Quantum of Solace? That was Hanton. Remember when Batman fought Bane on the steps of Gotham Courthouse in The Dark Knight Rises? Yep, that's Hanton fighting as the iconic caped crusader.

To prep for some of his films’ most famous scenes, Hanton, who is also a consulting expert for Dove Men+Care's high-impact line, has learned to morph his appearance to mirror leading men. That means constantly changing his physique for the next big roll. We sat down with the action star to talk functional fitness, "bulletproofing" his body, and transforming into superheroes on a daily basis.

Interview with Stuntmant Bobby Holland Hanton
 

What's your athletic background? How did you become a professional stuntman?

I grew up involved in gymnastics and have been highly physical since a young age. I competed at a high level and have always loved the intensity of the sport. As for my career choice to become a professional stuntman, I am very lucky. It truly came to me, and I ran with it. The adrenaline and high-energy aspects of the job come naturally. 

What was your first film as a stuntman?

My first film was Quantum of Solace, where I doubled Daniel Craig as James Bond. I received the call where they initially needed me for five weeks; it turned into six months. To be honest, those six months were kind of a blur. At the time it was all so new to me; however, I do believe [that] without me knowing... it helped shape me for films I’m shooting now. That experience put me in a great spot for a career path and has helped me grow in the industry.

What's been the most challenging role to prepare for?

My most challenging role I’d say has been Thor. Chris Hemsworth is naturally a very large and muscular individual, and I had to work out twice a day for months in order to reach his capacity.

Audiences have seen you battle alongside superheroes and dive through cars. Are any stunts especially more demanding?

The first that comes to mind is the 100-foot free-fall in The Dark Knight Rises. I think one of the most mentally and physically demanding stunts was a balcony jump in Quantum of Solace because it was the last shot of the day at 2am in Panama. The dive through the car [for a 2012 Ford commercial] was also an exciting experience because it was very different than anything I’d done, but it was not something I do every day!

A lot of people see stunts in movies and take them for granted. What steps do you take to prevent injury, and how does that factor into your training?

I agree that it is taken for granted. The stunt department is one of the departments that is on a film set the longest, from beginning to end. We begin rehearsing and practicing eight to 12 weeks prior to filming. It’s the nature of the beast. It is dangerous — but that is why we do it. If we were not passionate about it, it would not be what it is. We spend hours, days, weeks with trial and error, rehearsing and practicing every stunt detail in order to get it right and not get hurt. It is a skill set to be able practice these stunts over and over again, and then wake up the next morning just to do it again.

What does "functional fitness" mean to a Hollywood stuntman?

Nowadays, functional fitness has become more and more important. If you properly take care of yourself, and maintain a strict workout regime, it leads to longevity in this career. I think it is important to start your day with the same routine from the moment you wake up. I begin my days with a shower and follow this with a high-protein meal before I head out. I think a strict routine is necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

You have to duplicate the look of actors you're working with. Do you ever train with them? How long do you have between roles to morph your body type?

Yes, I train and work with the actors for weeks at a time. I have to mimic and mirror these actors precisely, therefore we do movement and fight exercises together. I have to study the actors and understand just how they move. My friend Buster Reeves, who doubled as Bane, was incredible to learn from in The Dark Knight Rises. He picked it up so quickly, and was fantastic to watch. The time between roles varies drastically; sometimes I will have no time, sometimes I will have weeks. Right now I have been working straight for a long period of time, and do not foresee much time off, which is great.

What lessons do you take from other athletes?

This job is so exciting because it changes all the time and depends on the role I am playing and what I want to achieve. Each skill learned can build onto the next one, even though it may not seem that way. I could learn a movement from a swimmer, or a movement from a Formula 9 [race car] driver that could potentially benefit me in scenes. That is why I love this job.

What's an aspect of your career a lot of people overlook or might not be aware of? Any surprising industry insights?

Many people overlook how much time goes into making a film, from beginning to end. A normal person will go into a two and a half hour movie, and talk about how long  it was. What people don’t recognize is that movie took nearly nine or 10 months to create. It is still amazing to me how much time and energy goes into these films.

Any cool upcoming projects?

Currently I am working on Jupiter Ascending, working with Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. We began work at the end of January, and will go until the end of August. I can’t talk about any other projects, since it’s always subject to change, but I can say that one movie I’m scheduled to work on in 2014 will be absolutely huge and I am honored to be a part of it.

What are your favorite movie stunts? Sound off in the comments below and tweet the author @d_tao!

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Photos courtesy of Bobby Holland Hanton.

 

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