Film Interview: Hollywood Bulldogs – Stunt Casting, Or The Attraction Of Action

March 8, 2022

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Hollywood Bulldogs, available on Britbox, is a documentary that explores how, from Bond to Batman and Star Wars to Superman, a small community of British stunt performers kicked, punched, crashed, and exploded their way through the blockbusters of the 70s and 80s. The film is directed by Jon Spira and features interviews with, among many others, stuntman Rocky Taylor.


Rocky – the most obvious question: why aim to make a living out of almost certainly getting badly hurt?

Rocky Taylor (RT): I sort of fell into it. My father was an acting stuntman. One of his friends was in the film The Young Ones and needed to teach Cliff Richard some judo throws. I had a black belt, so I was asked to come down to the studio. I met everyone and told them what I could do and then spent the next week or two teaching Cliff some throws – he got it pretty well. Then they made me the guy that Cliff threw in the movie – they had to sign me up with Equity to make it all happen! To begin with, I was just doing stuff other people couldn’t do – I didn’t think I was doing stunts. Then I did The Avengers for five years, and started realising I was now a stuntman. I had to learn how to fall, how to drive really fast, how to roll a car with a cannon roll… I had to crash a car in The Spy Who Loved Me – that was an experience. Had to judge the timing, the speed and the size of the explosion and the avoid the car coming down on us as we drove into the water. Adrenaline!


The lure of film: what were the specifics of the art or the industry that drew you in – or which kept you there?

RT: The passion came from my father. I learned from other guys in the industry, though – how to land properly so I didn’t hurt myself; all of that.

Jon Spira (JS): I’ve always loved film. I made my first one when I was four or five with my dad, on a Super 8 camera. I went to film school; worked in video stores as a kid; owned some video stores later on… I was interested in the history and promotion of films while I was making them. Then I made a music documentary, and ended up with a career in this part of the industry. Each one gives me a means of funding the next one.


There have been so many changes in the industry between those earlier films and now, with stricter health and safety regulations, CGI and more meaning that the role of the stuntman is quite different now

RT: I actually think it’s good. It makes the industry safer, so I agree with it. I mean, it can all get taken to ridiculous levels, but it is safer. CGI has really changed everything. Now we can make a 10-foot fall into a 300-foot one.

JS: Someone said that “normal” is what you expect aged 0 to 15; “exciting” is what happens from 15 to 35; and “too much” is 35 and over. I think there will be a kick-back to all of this eventually. The scale of the stunts is so much bigger now, which means that you know it’s fantasy, so your heart doesn’t leave your chest. You’re not sure which stunts are real anymore. My memory of watching films is that you knew it was a real person doing it.

RT: That’s how you knew you were involved in a great movie!

JS: For me, the definitive moment in stunt history is the parachute scene in The Spy Who Loved Me, where the parachute is a Union Jack. Crazy skill, but also a lot of humour.


Hollywood Bulldogs is a celebration of an under-appreciated sector of the film industry. How was the response to that aspect of it inside the industry, where people were happy to be acknowledged?

RT: It brought us all together again, which was a great feeling. And which makes me look forward to promoting it.


Jon, how did you track all these guys down and what were their initial responses like?

JS: I had already connected with Vic Armstrong [stuntman and stunt co-ordinator], so I started there. People put us in touch with other people, so we got pretty much everyone we wanted. Sadly, none of the women from the Hollywood Bulldogs want to be on camera, and not having them in the film is a bit of a regret.


Rocky Taylor’s book, Jump Rocky Jump, is available now.

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