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Interview with action and superhero stuntman Bobby Holland Hanton

Thor: The Dark World
Thor: The Dark World
Bobby Holland Hanton

Everyone loves a great action adventure film, especially the superhero genre that is dominating the box office as of late. While all of these movies sport their familiar stars in the lead roles without the stunt performers behind the scenes none of the action would come to life and hence the characters themselves wouldn’t work. One of the premiere stunt men in the industry has not only been tearing up the industry for years, but he has found his calling in the superhero world doubling in The Dark Knight Rises, Green Lantern, Thor: The Dark World and the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few. I had the chance to sit down with this real life stunt superhero to discuss how he became the go to guy in the industry.

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Bobby Holland Hanton

Bobby: How did you get started in the stunt world?

Bobby H. : I got into the stunt world at the beginning of 2008. My background is gymnastics and I have been doing that since the age of 4 so I have always had a physical knowledge of my body and how it works. I stopped competing and my gymnastics when I was 17 due to a back injury. I started playing football, what you guys in the states call soccer and saw an ad in the paper for a high diving show at LEGOLAND in Windsor in England, it was like a stunt high diving show. I auditioned for that and got it and then went from show to show after that and decided I wanted to try to do stunts in films. In 2008 I auditioned for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace and got that and have been working in films ever since.

Bobby: With any craft, especially the stunt world everyone seems to have their niche. You have kind of made yours the superhero films doubling for just about all of them in some capacity now.

Bobby H. : A lot of that comes down to your size and build. The general rule for these superheroes seems to be 6ft plus and a certain kind of athletic build. I think that helped a lot in that choosing stage and also you skill set. Gymnastics is all about controlling your body and those superheroes are about jumping about, their flying and acrobatics so it’s kind of perfect for what my niche in the market. I am very lucky and humble to get to do what I am doing and grateful for the opportunities.

Bobby: You did work in the first Captain America; did you double Chris Evans for that one?

Bobby H. : I did work on the first Captain America, but I came into it very late because I was actually in New Orleans filming The Green Lantern where I was doubling Ryan Reynolds. I got a back injury out there and came back to the UK and had an operation as well as one out there and was just trying to recover from that, then I got a call to come in for Captain America to double him, but I was still recovering and didn’t want to let the team down and wasn’t ready to get into that suit and start doubling him so I ended up not actually doubling him on Captain America 1, but I did double him in the new Avengers doing all of his stuff in Korea.

Bobby: Well you do Chris Hemsworth as well, so do you ever have to double down if they have scenes together?

Bobby H.: Chris hadn’t started the movie yet, so spent a month in Korea doubling Chris Evans for Captain America before Chris ever started filming. I am under contract with Chris Hemsworth and do all of his Thor stuff, so he is my boss if you like so he comes first, but he hadn’t started the movie yet so I was allowed to go away and get into shape for Captain America and double his stuff and then before I left Korea I started training like a mad man, bulking up getting ready for the Thor stuff because the size change is a pretty big change. So when I got back to England, I upped my diet and eating like 6 meals a day, 3 protein shakes a day and training twice a day to get to the size of Thor. That was a difficult thing for me to do and it has never been done before and it was a challenge, but I am happy to say that it all went well and I am not long away from finishing the Avengers now.

Bobby: You mentioned that you are now under contract with Chris Hemsworth as his stunt double. You have done it at least 3 times now, how do you get into the position to be the go to guy for him?

Bobby H. : I met him first on Snow White and the Huntsman when I worked on that film for the last three weeks; I was working on the Dark Knight Rises at the time doubling Batman. When I finished that movie the stunt coordinator called me and asked if I could come in and work on Snow White for the last three weeks, so I came in just to play a soldier I didn’t actually double Chris on that, I just met him. We got to know each other properly and then the next time it came about was for Thor: The Dark World and the same stunt coordinator that did Snow White, was working on that called me and asked me to come in to possibly be a Thor double. I started training to get to the size I would have to get to and went in and the boss was happy with me so I was made one of the doubles for Thor at the time. I got to know Chris very well working very closely with him and we trained, I did his fights and stunts for him and helped him through his side of the fights and stunts to where we got along really well. We have a great relationship inside and outside of work and he just asked me at the end of the movie if I wanted to come to his next movie with him and I have been with him ever since. It’s great to be working with someone who is such a lovely guy. We are the same age, same sense of humor and we get along so well it’s great to work with someone who is such a great craftsman at what they do, but also very good friends.

Bobby: Going back to the training you had to do to get to look like Captain America and then transform into Thor in regards to your regime and your diet? A lot of people just don’t know what the right balance of diet and exercise is to get into some shape.

Bobby H. : It really is a balance. When I am not playing either of those guys I am kind of in the middle so I can either drop it or put it on, but I find that’s what works for me. Being a stunt performer you may get a call from a stunt coordinator asking you double this person, what shape are you in and you have to send them a photo or go in and see them so I think my body is conditioned from the gymnastics and putting on and taking off the muscle that it knows what it needs to do. I know what I need through trial and error from doing it so long, so for example when I was training for Captain America I was training 5 times a week once a day for maybe 40-45 minutes with a lot more cardio circuits and eating probably 4-5 meals a day with smaller amounts and lower carbs. When it came to Thor stuff I upped it to training twice a day for 45 minutes each day doing circuits, but with no cardio but isolating certain muscle groups that would be seen outside the costume. The meals would get up to 6 meals a day with three protein shakes and high intake of good carbs like sweet potato and brown rice. It was kind of knowing what I needed to do at the time and as mentioned it was really trial and error finding what works for me. When I first started training to get in shape to double Ryan Reynolds, he was a big guy in Blade II, but when I got out to New Orleans for Green Lantern I had gotten too big because he was very lean at the time, but still pretty yoked. Everyone’s body is different and it really just depends on the person and trying to find what works for you.

Bobby: You mentioned staying in shape in between films. Most people won’t or don’t have the commitment to get out there and really push themselves to get in shape. How different are your meal intakes and workout routines during your day to day life?

Bobby H. : I don’t really know that much different right now. I have been working non-stop since I got my first job in 2008 on Quantum of Solace. The last two years I have only had 6 weeks off, so I haven’t actually had that much time off. When I finish the Avengers I am actually taking a bit of time off in the middle of the year, which I have never done before. I will still eat very clean, train 4 or 5 times a week at least, swim, and do cardio. I will be keeping my body in very good shape so I am ready to go bulk up or lose weight when I get a call. My day to day I still work on touching up on skills in the gym like acrobatics, so my day to day life is still very physical anyway.

Bobby: I know your main background is gymnastics, but with these roles they require lots of fighting. Do you have any martial arts training in your background at all?

Bobby H.: Yeah, I took up Thai kickboxing when I had to train and get registered for the stunt register. You have to be elite in six disciplines out of a possible twelve in the British government, so I trained in kickboxing with a European kickboxing champion who was a friend of mine. When I am working I am always honing those skills working the bag which is part of our training as well to keep our martial arts skills pretty tight. So it is a pretty wide range of skills across the board.

Bobby: Being a martial artist myself I love seeing when it is obvious there is a lot of time put in to not just making the fight, but doing it right. When you have trained in martial arts, you can tell when something looks wrong, so I appreciate people like yourself who clearly work so hard to make not only the best, but accurate.

Bobby H.: Thanks, I have been very lucky to work with some of the top martial arts guys in the business. A very good friend of mine, Ben Cooke who is James Bond’s stunt double also has done the fight choreography for the last three Bond films. The knife fight in Quantum of Solace in the hotel room I was doubling the baddie and Ben was doubling Bond and we smash through these doors and then he throws me through these other doors, that was my first ever on screen stunt fight with someone. I was learning from him and it was such a blessing in disguise to get to learn from one of the best like Ben. In the Batman stuff I was working with Buster Reeves who was a 5-time world champion kickboxer who was doubling Bane and I was doubling Batman, but he doubled Batman on the first two movies. So learning from those two guys, in my eyes, are the two best around martial arts guys around in film. You work with them constantly for 6 to 8 months on a movie you learn a lot, so I have just been very, very lucky to get to work with those types of people.

Bobby: Outside of your already busy world in the stunt industry, did I hear correctly you are the spokesperson for Dove as well?

Bobby H. : Yes I am, I am the spokesperson for Dove Men+Care. They look after me with all of their products across the board. That’s what I use and they work fantastic for me.

Bobby: I know you are fixing to wrap up Avengers: Age of Ultron and then you are going to take a break, but is there anything else you have finished or going to be working on that you can tell us about?

Bobby H. : I did Jupiter Ascending, where I was doubling Channing Tatum which was quite acrobatic and it was supposed to come out this month, but got pushed out to next year. Next year I actually have three movies coming out all at once. I’ve got Jupiter Ascending, obviously Avengers 2, and Heart of the Sea that I did with Chris Hemsworth and Ron Howard. I also have a few movies in the pipeline that I will start before the end of this year. I am taking, hopefully 4 to 5 weeks off after Avengers and then have those few things coming up, but can’t really talk much about them right now. Then I start another big project at the end of the year with Hemsworth so there are a lot of things that will hopefully lead into another busy year.

Bobby: Do you have any kind of website fans can go and check you out for autographs, convention bookings or anything else they may want to find out about you?

Bobby H. : I do, my website is www.bobbyhollandhanton.com and if they want to know any more information about Dove Men+Care they can go to www.dovemencare.com and see everything there on the sites.

Bobby: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.

Bobby H. : Thanks it was lovely to speak with you and what a fantastic name you have.

Bobby: It is a powerful name.

Bobby H. : It is (laughs)