Never one to back down from any stunt, no matter how dangerous or ill-advised, Armstrong has earned the respect of many of the greatest filmmakers and actors working today.
The cover of The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman shows beloved movie icon Indiana Jones jumping off a rickety rope bridge into some unknown danger. The character Harrison Ford created is one of the most recognizable in Hollywood history, but even the most loyal and diehard fan will have to take a second look at the book’s cover to see it’s not Ford in the picture but his stunt double Vic Armstrong. The similarity is remarkable, but that is only a fraction of what truly makes Armstrong the greatest stuntman in the world.
While he has earned the title of the world’s greatest stuntman, he is also the world’s most prolific. According to IMDB.com, Armstrong has performed stunts in over 80 films and has worked as Second Unit Director or Assistant Director in nearly 50, many times pulling double-duty. Never one to back down from any stunt, no matter how dangerous or ill-advised, Armstrong has earned the respect of many of the greatest filmmakers and actors working today, all of whom can attribute some part of their movie’s success to Armstrong’s capabilities.
The book is not the greatest piece of writing ever put to paper as Armstrong’s narrative skills are lacking, to say the least. True film lovers won’t care, though, because the stories he tells are so fascinating, as he gives almost unheard of accounts of what filmmaking is all about.
Armstrong traces his humble beginnings in England as the son of a horse trainer to his first (almost accidental) stunt work in a small film that just happened to be shooting near his home. A natural when it comes to riding horses, the young Armstrong was exactly what the production needed in order to get some of the more challenging action sequences completed. From there, Armstrong is bitten by the stunt performer bug and soon builds a reputation as the most eager and willing stuntman working in England.
Soon, Armstrong is working with huge directors like Lord Richard Attenborough, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and many more. He talks about how he grew as a stuntman and how he eventually began working as an A.D. or stunt coordinator because often the directors liked his suggestions so much that they just said, “Okay, you do it.” The most impressive part of the book are the special contributions from Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Martin Scorsese and others that give first-person accounts of how integral Armstrong’s on-set contributions really were.
More unbelievably, at 65 years old, Armstrong is still making movies. His work as Second Unit Director and stunt coordinator can be seen in theaters right now in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and next year in the comic book reboot The Amazing Spider-Man. Apparently neither broken bones nor old age can stop Armstrong and Hollywood, and lovers of cinema, are grateful. | Matthew F. Newlin