EXCLUSIVE: Stuntman Rick English Talks GHOST RIDER 2, TDKR And WOLRD WAR Z
Rick English has been a member of the British Stunt Register since 2001 and has been fortunate enough during that time to work on some of the world's biggest movies with the greatest directors and stunt coordinators, doubling actors such as Nicolas Cage, Gerard Butler, Hugo Weaving, Jason Flemyng, Stellan Skaarsgard, Michael Fassbender, Mark Strong and Alan Rickman. Coming from a background of Martial Arts and Motorcycle Racing, Rick has now developed into a successful all round stunt performer, and continues to push himself to develop his skills further and deliver the best possible performance every time.
What exactly did your job as a stunt double for Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance involve?
I was over the moon when I got the call for GRSOV. I don't care what some other people say. I really liked the first movie. I wasn't that familiar with the comic character so had no preconceived ideas about what the movie should be. I thought it was good entertainment with bikes and a guy with his head on fire... what's not to like???? We started prep on the new film and it meant a lot of time on the bike for me, exploring it's limits and seeing what we could get it to do. We also started putting together potential fight moves to give to the character, with and without the chains. We knew that Nic was gonna bring his own style to the character in this movie which was pretty exciting but it was also good to have an arsenal of basic moves we could draw from.
Once we started working with Nic, he really brought in some cool ideas so we tried to gear the fights to suit his perception of the character and it was great to have his feedback and input. We spent some time experimenting with some wild stuff in the early days and we knew this movie would be different from what people had seen before. Once we got into filming, I was pretty busy as when I wasn't performing myself, I would be involved in helping Nic with safety. I did most of the high speed bike stuff, the moving vehicle fights etc and most of the wirework, although as seen in the behind the scenes stunt vid, Nic was game for jumping into the harness himself on occasion!
Did the fact that you're doubling for a character like Ghost Rider mean you needed to wear any prosthetics or is that a fully CGI process?
It was kind of cool doubling Ghost Rider as I knew I didn't have to worry that my hair looked ok! Haha.. No - It was pretty much a CGI thing as far as the head went. The have a cool LED light rig that you wear which creates the reflections of the flames on clothing, vehicles etc... For the super - dangerous stuff I would wear a safety helmet and for the high speed bike stuff I would also wear safety glasses to stop my eyes watering and protect from stones etc. Even an insect or bug in the eye isn't great at 100+ mph!!! Nic would wear his own skull make-up and blacked-out eyes including black contact lenses as the Rider. This really helped him stay in character and gave him a uniquely cool presence on set I thought.
What was it like working closely with Nic Cage and the other cast members?
Nic is great to work with. He is super-professional, patient and picked up all the fights really quick, whilst adding his own flavour and although he had his own ideas about what he wanted from a scene, he would always listen to and consider the advice and opinions of the directors, stunt coordinator and even myself! Outside of work he was also super-cool. He is a big MMA fan and we had fun hanging out at the hotel and watching the UFC. He also loves his bikes and is an extremely competent rider which meant we had some cool bike-related discussions in our down-time. He knows what he likes and came up with some wicked ideas for some of the bike sequences.
There was a great vibe between all the cast and crew on this film. We were all away from home for a long period of time and just got together and made it work. Johnny (Whitworth) was a fun guy to hang out with. He had a habit of introducing me to the whole room whenever I'd walk into a restaurant or bar - "Rick English, everybody!!!!" Haha - embarrassing. He also had very strong ideas about how his character should be portrayed and so was keen to help with input into the action and Blackout's style of fighting. All the cast were game when it came to throwing themselves into the action scenes, which I guess is a pre-requisite of taking a Neveldine/Taylor film!
And how did you find working with directors Neveldine/Taylor?
Working with the directors was awesome! I liked the feel of the Crank movies. They were fast paced, action packed and didn't take themselves too seriously. It was so refreshing to have young, cool directors who were so passionate and enthusiastic about the action. Although they were obviously keen to capture the dialogue and acting to tell the story, sometimes it was just like - "Ok, let's blow some sh#t up now!!!" They would get super excited about stuff and that really helps us putting together the sequences. It also helped that they would want to be right there amongst the action. Mark Neveldine loves laying it all on the line to get the shots and this makes his style really unique and the shots just have such energy you couldn't fake... If he wasn't directing, he would definitely be a stuntman I reckon. His philosophy is like, "if you're not living, you're just dying...." They are both really funny, witty guys and amazing fun to be around and work with. I would work with them both again in a heartbeat.
Is there anything else you can tell us about your experiences working on the movie?
The movie was definitely not all plain-sailing. We were working in a very challenging environment. The days were long and the weather during rehearsals was shocking! We spent many a long day out in the rain on an airfield rehearsing the vehicle sequences. Although we were made very welcome everywhere we went, even things like accessing some equipment can be difficult in Eastern Europe. When it came to shooting, it all came together and I'm very proud of the results.
Anything at all you can reveal about your time on The Dark Knight Rises set?
To be honest, I only did a small amount of work on TDKR. It just came about at the wrong time and I had other projects going on at the time. They had a great stunt team on there and I know they were really pushing the envelope with the action. They've had pretty much the same crew, director, DOP, ADs etc for all three films and there's always a really good feel to shooting those movies. Chris Nolan is very clear about what he wants and he expects 100% from the whole crew at all times. I have no problem with that...the way I feel about any job is that it is on film forever and you can't get away with anything less than perfection.
Can you tell us about doubling for Brad Pitt on World War Z? How is work on the movie going?
I finished on WWZ at the end of last year. For me it was another dream job. The second unit director and stunt coordinator on this movie were responsible for some of the most iconic screen action ever seen and it was amazing working with them. They really care about putting something great on film, something people have never seen before. We were determined that we weren't just remaking existing zombie movies. Obviously I can't go into much detail about the movie yet but we have shot some awesome action. Brad was a pleasure to work with. He loves action and is a very capable physical performer. Definitely look out for this one...
What else do you have coming up?
I'm not sure what's gonna happen this year. I have a couple of potential jobs coming up and there are allegedly a few big fantasy / superhero films kicking off later in the year which I would love to be a part of. I love doing the fantasy stuff because you don't have to keep it realistic. You can throw guys 80ft across the soundstage and he can shake his head, get up and carry on fighting. Everything can be that much bigger and more spectacular. I'm also doing a few bits for TV at the moment which is great because it means I can pretty much get home every night, see the family and ride bikes... ;o)
A big thank you to Rick for taking the time out of his hectic schedule to take the time to talk to me about his work. Last year, he was kind enough to chat with us about doubling for both Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving on Captain America: The First Avenger, and you can find that interview by clicking HERE. Also, you can learn more about Rick and his work by clicking HERE to head on over to his official site, and follow him on Twitter HERE.
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