AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EXCLUSIVE: Stunt Coordinator Vic Armstrong

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN EXCLUSIVE: Stunt Coordinator Vic Armstrong

While promoting his personal memoir - The True Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman - Vic Armstrong spent some time with CBM editor Ed Gross reflecting on his career. In this portion of the interview he focuses on the approach to stunts taken in the making of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Amazon describes Armstrong's tome, which is available now, as follows: "Think you don’t know Vic Armstrong? Wrong! You’ve seen his work in countless films... He’s been a stunt double for James Bond, Indiana Jones and Superman, and he’s directed action scenes for three Bond movies, Mission Impossible 3, Thor, and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man to name but a few. Counting Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger among his friends, and officially credited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Most Prolific Stuntman, Vic’s got a lot of amazing stories to tell, and they’re all here in this - the movie memoir of the year!"

How would you say performing stunts for these types of films have changed in the years you've been doing it?

It's changed hugely purely because of technology. Man has always been inventive, back to the silent movies -- those old boys came up with fabulous ways of doing things because they didn't have the luxury of the technology we have today. And I say luxury, because it is a luxury at times, and I've been quoted a few times recently saying that a good analogy to CGI would be morphine – morphine is an incredible drug if you use it for what it was intended for, used sparingly, in the right amounts. Overuse and abuse can kill, and I think that describes computer work, because for me as a stuntman, I love it that I can have an airbag underneath someone, I can put a pad on the floor, and that I can fly somebody with tech 12 cable, which is as thick as your finger. When we were doing Superman: The Movie, we had to use piano wires – we had to keep everything in camera.

I did a shot a few weeks back, on Spider-Man, where we had to jump over a 20 foot gap between skyscrapers. He does a somersault in the air as he's going over the 20 foot distance, lands in a somersault, gets up and runs off – we had an 8 inch pad and an Air Ram. We did the shots, and I asked the guy what he needed next, and he said just give me a clean path, take the pad out, take the Air Ram out, nothing left, and we shoot a path like that, and then they can replace where the pad was with the roof – it's a fantastic bonus in that respect, but what I don't like is movies that use it AS the movie. It becomes a cartoon. When the landscape and all the objects in the landscape are totally CG, I lose interest instantly – there's no drama, there's no jeopardy. It's a terrible thing used too much, and overused.

Would you say CGI has had as negative impact in some ways as it has a positive one?

Definitely. It is a bonus for some people, it can help an awful lot, but there is a big resurgence of doing things as real as possible. With this new Spider-Man, there's a lot of stuff on YouTube of Spider-Man flying down Fifth Avenue in New York, from 125th Street where the old Cotton Club is to 137th Street, flying under this beautiful architectural overpass. We flew him up there – you can see, we put in 2 ½ Gs as he changes directions – and he shoots his web, and you see the body stretch out under the stress and then pull up, and bend his knees, and get momentum and kick off. There's something very organic and real about it. Of course there's going to be CG in it, you're going to lead in with CG, he's going to fire his web with CG, and there will be other bits and pieces, but the guts of it is a real man doing real movement.

In the other Spider-Man movies, when it switches over to CG it's obvious –

Yeah, that's what everybody, including the producers were aware of – and this, as well as being a re-boot with a great young actor, Andrew Garfield, they wanted to re-boot the approach to it, saying "Let's think naturally and start again." The thing you do when you get a script, or a problem like that, is you think, "What do we want him to do for real? How much can we do for real?" And then you back yourself into a comfort zone – "OK, we can't do that for real, so we'll use a bit of CG, and then we can pick it up here and do that," and you do as much as you physically can – you don't get lazy and do it in post.

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