If any one actor had starred in three Bond films, two Star Wars movies, a handful of Harry Potter pictures and the whole blood-soaked multi-season sensation that was Game of Thrones, you’d probably recognise them, wouldn’t you? No? How about if you also added Pirates of the Caribbean and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy to that list? And, for good measure, more Marvel movies than you could shake Thor’s hammer at? Now there’s no way you’re not recognising them.
And yet, you likely don’t know Bobby Holland Hanton’s name. As one of Hollywood’s top stuntmen, the British performer — and former gymnast and semi-professional footballer — is in high demand. He’s doubled for 007, pulled on the capes of Batman and Thor, and even stood-in for Gentleman’s Journal cover star Ryan Reynolds in 2011’s Green Lantern. But how can we tell where the actors end — and Hanton’s work begins? And what has been his most famous stunt to date?
“There are a few iconic shots I’ve been involved in,” reveals Hanton. “I’ve had the honour of doubling for Chris Hemsworth over the last three Avengers films, for Daniel Craig, for Christian Bale when he played Batman — the list goes on. I’d say that Bond movies are always the most full-on. They’re very intense. But I remember watching them as a child and loving all the crazy stunts — so to be a part of them is an incredible feeling and a huge privilege.
“But it’s hard to single just one stunt out,” he continues. “The jumping rooftop sequence in Quantum of Solace was very difficult, as was the fire burn in Game of Thrones. But, if I had to choose a toughest, it would probably have to be my first 100-foot-high fall jump, in The Dark Knight Rises.”
Hanton’s is clearly not a job for the faint of heart. And stunt work is arguably harder than the acting itself — certainly in terms of physicality. Hanton explains that he must convincingly act his way through all of his scenes, and do so while being dropped from a great height, thrown around by other stunt performers or remembering a tightly choreographed fight scene. He tells us that it’s important to work very closely with your on-screen counterpart, learning from them and training them for five or six days a week so they can still do as many of their own stunts as possible.
“But, for safety and insurance purposes, we will obviously step in when the stunt is very dangerous,” Hanton continues. “After all, that’s what we’re there for. Sometimes it’s not worth the actors getting injured for the sake of being brave. But, if I’m honest, most actors I work with are in incredible shape and are more than capable of doing the stunts themselves.”
Which brings us to Hanton’s most famous friendship — not to mention professional partnership. Since 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, Hanton has been on hand to help out Australian megastar Chris Hemsworth punch, fly and fight his way through films including the Thor and Avengers franchises, seafaring adventure In the Heart of the Sea and the neo-noir Bad Times at the El Royale.
“I work very closely with Chris,” says Hanton, “and he is more than capable — he’s a machine! If he wasn’t an actor, he would make a brilliant stuntman. But then he’d be my competition, so I’m glad he’s not!”
We’re not so sure about that. As good as Hemsworth may be, Hanton is widely considered to be the best in the entire bruising business. He’s scooped seven Screen Actors Guild awards for stunt work in films from Inception to Skyfall, bagged two Emmy Awards for Game of Thrones and even holds a Guinness World Record for ‘The most back somersault target throws with a ball in one hour’ — which is as odd and impressive as it sounds. But, with impressive achievements come impressive injuries, and Hanton is all too aware that his work is fraught with danger.
“Unfortunately,” the stuntman admits, “injury has played a big part in my career. I once snapped my groin off the bone when I was playing Thor. I’ve rolled ankles, popped my knee out, and banged my head countless times to the point where my memory goes a bit…
“But my worst injury was probably last year, for which I required back surgery. I had a double titanium disc replacement and spinal fusion surgery — I needed six screws in the lowest vertebrae of my spine. So, both physically and mentally, it’s a job that can be rough — but I always work hard to get back to my best.”
Again, it’s another characteristic understatement from the understated performer. Hanton’s exercise and fitness schedule is intense to say the least, and would put to shame even Henry Cavill’s regime — who, coincidentally, Hanton doubled for in Mission Impossible: Fallout. But the stuntman says that his commitment to fitness is a necessity, born out of a changing industry. Today, Hanton must train up to three times a day to remain in peak shape, and eat cleanly. He’s quick to emphasise the importance of diet.
“Ultimately,” he explains, “we are athletes. And, to keep up with the high demands of these action films, we have to be in the best shape possible. Fitness plays a crucial role in my professional life, which is partly why I’ve become involved with Chris Hemsworth’s health and fitness platform Centr.”
A result of working closely with Hemsworth for almost ten years and 12 feature films, Hanton was brought on board when the Hollywood actor decided to create a personal training app with his wife. Along with Hanton, former boxer Michael Olajide Jr, dynamic yoga expert Tahl Rinsky and chiropractor Dr Eric Goodman make up a team of 13 experts and specialists dedicated to giving you the body of a superhero. (If Hanton could have one superpower, he says, it would be to fly. The app, unfortunately, can’t help with that.)
“But when we were training, Chris really enjoyed my body weight circuit type training, so we would often do that together. And now, I’m lucky enough to have my own section on the app with some of the workouts that Chris and I have done — and I’ve also got some plyometric exercises coming soon!”
Bobby Holland Hanton is a featured expert on Centr, Chris Hemsworth’s personalised digital health and fitness program, which is available from the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch, the Google Play Store for Android or online at centr.com
Join the Gentleman’s Journal Clubhouse here.