I first heard the name Vic Armstrong in a television special called Great Movie Stunts & The Making of Raiders of the Lost Ark back in 1981. I was 10 or 11 when the special first aired, and I remember watching it in our house while we were living in Kingston.
Even at that age, I was already intrigued by how the magic of movies was created, in my estimation, knowing how something was done increases my appreciation for it.
The special not only covered the incredible stunts that Raiders brought to the big screen, it gave a brief history of stunts from the dawn of cinema, and introducing me to one of the most famous stuntmen of all Yakima Canutt. He was amazing!
Vic Armstrong is the modern day Canutt, but also an accomplished action director. Whether you know the name or not, you know his work, Armstrong has done stunts for James Bond movies, he doubled Christopher Reeve as Superman, and of course Indiana Jones, amongst countless others, he’s had an unparalleled career, working for some of the best and brightest, and by his own admission, some of the not so great.
I was very happy to dig into his autobiography, from the moment that I had stumbled upon it at my local Chapters I wanted it. But what with Christmas coming, I knew I would be better off asking for it. Christmas came around, and Vic’s book went right to the top of my pile.
From his early days working with horses, a love he’s fostered all of his life, he got involved in films, and made a name for himself as one of the most professional and talented men in the business. It’s amazing to read some of the things he’s done, jumping out of a helicopter 35 feet above the side of a mountain with nothing but a life jacket to cushion the fall.
He’s done falls, fights, transfers (in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – he’s the guy who does the jump from the horse onto the tank – a distance of 18ft!)… He’s worked with the biggest names in the business, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Robert De Niro, Robert Downey Jr. Van Damme, Angelina Jolie, Donald Sutherland, Liam Neeson, and J.J. Abrams. He won a technical Oscar for his creation of the fan descender, used in high jumps, and he’s the only action director/stuntman to have a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.
As an action director, he crafted and shot the ice car chase in Die Another Day, the helicopter chase sequence in Mission: Impossible III in addition to countless others. He crafts incredible sequences, and it’s thrilling to read how they were designed.
It’s an amazing story of a brilliantly lived life, from starting out, to making it a family business. The tales he tells are so entertaining, and as always, simply give me more appreciation for the magic of movies, not only his work as a stuntman, but the work of all of them.
If you love behind-the -scenes books and love the magic that brings movies to life, you owe it to yourself to read this one – it’s incredible.
Vic Armstrong is one of those people that I would be absolutely gob-smacked to meet, that being said… Mr. Armstrong if you read this, and you ever get to Toronto, Sue and I would love to have you on our show!
Until then, I’m gonna be watching some of my favorite adventure movies again, and watching the work of not only Vic but his fellows with a whole new level of appreciation…