007, Andy Lister, interview, James Bond, Skyfall, Spectre, stunt, stuntman
Andy Lister is a stuntman who has doubled Daniel Craig in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’. There is a number of blockbusters full of action in his filmography: ‘X-Men: First Class’, ’47 Ronin’, ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’, ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ to name just a few. Andy Lister on Instagram: listersbox
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): James Bond fans could see you in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ as Daniel Craig stunt double. It was amazing what you’ve done in these films. I’m always fascinated with great stunts. Not many people know when they see stuntman and when actor in a film. I would like to talk with you about your and other stuntmen performances, so more people would see how great is your work. That it is not just CGI, but real stunts.– Andy Lister and Piotr Zajac during the interview
You have been a stuntman for nearly 10 years?
Andy Lister: Yes, that is right. It was September 17th 2010 when I proudly graduated on to the British Stunt Register!
How did you become a stuntman?
I’ve studied a martial art called Wushu since I was young and was fortunate enough to earn a place on the British wushu team and represent my country in various martial arts competitions. Then in 2004, there was a production company asking around different martial art schools for people to audition for a film. My wushu coach Jon Staples put me forward for the audition. I found out that it was for ‘Batman Begins’ and they needed extras for the League of Shadows team. I was so excited!! Even though I was just in the background it was an amazing experience! Seeing the professional stunt men rehearsing and performing on set made me hungry to chase my dream to be a stuntman!! I had always wanted to be a stuntman from watching Jackie Chan movies, and now here I was experiencing it!! Blew my mind!! So when I was on that job I started talking to the stunt performers and they explained to me the process of how to become a stuntman in the UK. You have to complete 6 different sports from a specific selection, have days in front of camera as an extra, to teach you set etiquette and how the industry works and lastly a 5 minute video of you performing your skills to prove you can actually do them! The 6 sports that I chose were martial arts (wushu), Gymnastics, Trampolining, High diving, Scuba Diving and Rock Climbing. Each sport has a different level that needs to be achieved, for example scuba diving is dive master level or above, rock climbing was the Single pitch award and martial arts was brown belt or above etc. You then gather all your sport certificates, receipts from the extra days and 5 minute video off to the British Stunt Register, where they have a meeting a few times a year. They look through your case and if you meet their standard then you’re in! If not, they tell you what needs to be amended and you try again in the next meeting. That’s how I got onto the register back in 2010! It was hard training for sure, but it gives you the right mentality for the industry! It can be tough, but if you work hard it’ll be the best thing ever!
How did you get to do all these movies from your filmography? Did you have to go for auditions or someone was asking you to perform in them?
It depends. Usually when you first get on to register you make a personal page in the Spotlight British stunt register book. It’ll have your headshot, full body shot, action shot, height, weight, measurements etc and some of the skills you can do.The Stunt Register book gets passed between stunt coordinators, producers and directors. They look through the book and they say: ‘I need a guy who is 5’10” – oh, this one looks OK; similar size, can do the physical action we need, let’s bring him in’. They call him up:’ Hey, are you free? You are? Brilliant’. Then they come in for an audition to see their skills and also how they interact with the team. That’s usually how it goes. Or it can be word of mouth when performers recommend you to coordinators, or coordinators to other coordinators.
How did you get into the James Bond films?
My first ever movie was ‘X-Men: First Class’. On that movie I met Lee Morrison. He was doubling a badass character called Azazel. Whilst working with him, he recommended me to Gary Powell (Bond stunt coordinator). I met with Gary and auditioned for the movie he was working on at the time called ’47 Ronin’. I was lucky to get onto the movie and learned so much from everyone on that film! It really started my career off to an amazing start!! After filming had finished, Garys next job was ‘Skyfall’! He pushed production for me to come onto Skyfall with him and be Bond double! It was crazy! It was a dream come true!! It was also only my 3rd movie, I still had a lot to learn and by the end I had learned so much! Really made me the person I am today!! That was an amazing experience! It was tough, no doubt about that, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!!
We could see you in ‘Skyfall’ jumping on train, fighting on train and falling from the bridge. In ‘Spectre’ you were fighting in helicopter and jumping in Blenheim Palace. Did I miss anything?
From memory on camera I did the silhouette fight in Shanghai, Casino fight, some of the ending scenes in the fields and various other bits and bobs.
How many stuntmen double Daniel Craig?
There are quite a few! Lee Morrison, Jean-Pierre Goy and Robbie Maddison on motorbike. Mark Higgins, Ben Collins, Rob Hunt and Martin Ivanov were driving a car. Physical doubles were Ben Cooke, Bobby Hanton, James Embree, Gordon Alexander, Jean-Charles Rousseau, David Grant, Kai Martin and myself.
How is it decided which one of you is doubling Daniel Craig in the scene?
It depends on the scene really. If it’s a motorcycle stunt, car stunt or a fight, that will usually determine who will perform it. Different units will also sometimes have different doubles so two doubles may be filming on the same day.
You mentioned body shape. Do you have the same suits as Daniel Craig or maybe different with some inserts or something like that?
It is usually pretty similar. We have differently shaped heads but widthwise we are pretty similar. My frame is wider, but he has bigger muscles haha, so it usually evens out under the suit. But I think out of all of us I’m the one with the least similar body haha!
On a film set there is a director and a stunt coordinator. Is there also someone responsible for choreography of the stunt?
Yes that’s right, it was Roger Yuan on ‘Skyfall’ and Olivier Schneider on ‘Spectre’.
Do you perform stunts that they’ve created or do you discuss with them and co-create choreography of stunt fight?
Usually the fight coordinator has the idea of the overall fight and they work out the skeleton of it. If they need an extra move or something that will help, we add it. If they have the idea of crazy stunt that the person can’t do, they will adjust it. We try to bring their ideas to the performance on camera.
How long does it take to get ready to such big scenes like your fights in opening sequences in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’? Do you train it before in the studio?
Yeah, for example on ‘Spectre’ the whole helicopter scene was choreographed and rehearsed a lot! We rehearsed countless, countless times with Olivier Schneider, his team (Yves & Patrick) and Rob Cooper with whom I did the fight. We started rehearsals in Pinewood studios in a steel frame simulating the helicopter. The fight team came up with the fight and Olivier filmed us performing it for the Pre-Viz. Pre-Viz is a previsualisation of the scene. It’s shot like the final shot in the movie so the stunt & fight coordinator can put their ideas across to the director. The director would have changes so we would add, change or take out various aspects of the choreography to fit with their plan for the scene. This process can take a long time, up to even the day of filming sometimes haha! Then from the studio rehearsals we flew out to Mexico! We went to rehearse in the actual helicopter we would be using on the day. The size was slightly different with the seat configuration, so we altered the fight a bit and rehearsed until we were all comfortable with it. Rob and I also tested out the rigging safety lines that would be attached to us while we were fighting on the outside of the helicopter, making sure we wouldn’t fly up into the rotor blades! Huge thanks to the riggers Marc Mailley, Tolga Keenan, Sam Trimming and Kev Lyons for keeping us safe up there!!! Then the next stage was testing up in the air! We did various tests to see how the helicopter reacted to us rolling around in it, us jumping on and off it, fighting on the side and making sure everything was safe! Gary Powell, Craig Silva and Olivier Schneider did such an awesome job in bringing that scene to life!!!
Were you doing those stunts in the helicopter over a group of extras?
The people directly underneath were created with CGI. There were people in the square just not under the helicopter… Just in case something would happen and the helicopter went down.
What did it feel like fighting in the air?
I loved it so much!! It was awesome! Total dream come true! Fighting on the outside of a helicopter!! It was one of the best moments in my career for sure!!!!!
You must have trusted the helicopter pilot a lot.
Oh yeah!! Chuck Aaron was awesome!! To fly a helicopter normally is difficult. To do it with two guys hanging on outside of it jumping up and down and a camera helicopter flying super close is next level difficult!!! Then on top of that add a few 360’s and barrel rolls and you got a dude with superhuman skill as a pilot!! Out of all the people in the world I trusted him with my life! In the movie there are actually two people playing the pilot. In the exterior shots Chuck Aaron was doing it. Back in Pinewood studios they filmed the interior on a gimble rig. We had a stunt guy (and also Bond double himself) Kai Martin play the part of the pilot for the movie. The Studio Gimble rig was the body of the helicopter put onto a special effects rig that rotated. We could then put Daniel and Alessandro Cremona inside safely and let them perform parts of the fight while the helicopter spun 360 degrees!
How are the dots for CGI placed on your face?
Usually they have an image where they should roughly place them, usually parts of the face that don’t move too much. They just put them on with either a brush, makeup pencil or small stickers that are glued on. For face replacement they use either dots, a rubber mask or facial prosthetics where they stick rubber segments onto the performers face so they look more like Daniel.
How long did it take to shoot the whole fight?
It took quite a while. We had a few days in Mexico and then I think it was a couple of weeks in Pinewood. I don’t remember exactly, but it was huge operation!
How was it with ‘Skyfall’ opening sequence? Did you also have preparations in Pinewood Studios?
That was another long prep! We started at Pinewood Studios in a rehearsal space and trained on mats with taped out sections to mimic the exact measurements of the top of the train. We went through several, several different versions with me fighting Damien Walters who was doubling Patrice. That went for a couple of months or so. Then we went out to Turkey and rehearsed on a stationary train. The top of the train was prepped specially for the fight with added grip and some sections with matting too. We then tested out the wire rigs that head rigger Diz Sharpe put in place to keep both us and the actors safe while the train was travelling at speed.
In ‘Skyfall’, before the fight, you jumped on the train. Was it also you on a motorbike?
No, that was the bike genius Lee Morrison. He did the motorbike stunt when he hit the bridge and then there was a cut. I then ran and jumped off the bridge with a special effects rig releasing the bike next to me. Timing was quite crucial as the train was speeding underneath, I had to time it so I landed on the right carriage and not end up missing it completely!
Did you have to jump few times?
I rehearsed it a few times for timing and camera, then they shot a few takes then that was it! I was on the train and the fight was on!!
I was always wondering how many times you had to repeat the scene with VW Beetles falling down from the train. I am sure it was not easy to get it ready for next shot.
There wasn’t that many from what I remember. I think it was only a couple of times. That was a pretty hectic sequence. I was in the excavator’s cabin and Mark Higgins was driving the Land Rover. I could see the arm smashing off all these cars in his direction and he was like a total driving ninja! Dodging each and everyone of them!! Then all the dust swallowed everything. I don’t know how he did it! Legend!
Was it you controlling the excavator?
Hahaha thankfully not! None of the levers I was pulling worked. The special effects guys did a great job controlling it all!!
Then you were climbing on the excavator?
No, that was Ben Cooke. I rehearsed it, but Ben did the shot on the day jumping into the train and then Daniel took over. Turned out great!!
When you were fighting on a roof of the train was it really so close to the tunnel?
On the rehearsals we got very close. We developed a good system. I was strangling Damien Walters who was doubling Ola Rapace and at some point he would his head slightly and could see the tunnel coming towards us. When he started to move to get out I knew that it was time to turn and duck! It looked close and it was pretty close haha! We also had people with horns in case we were getting too close though! As soon as we ducked, the roof of the tunnel was flying past us! So much fun!!
I can only imagine that, but for sure I wouldn’t be so brave. (both laughing) I’ve seen a documentry about Jackie Chan and how he was using different sounds during the fight to know where to expect kick or punch.
Yeah we use the same system! Let’s say there is one person fighting few people. Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly when they are coming in to attack if you can’t see them. However if they give a noise you know they are going to be right there in time for your next move. It is a great tool for timing! I have been lucky that I’ve been able to fight a lot of great performers! They’ve done it for years, so fighting them is easy, because they know about distancing and rhythm .
After the fight on the train you were falling down from the bridge. How did you film it?
he first day they shot that part of the scene was with a fake train carriage. It was only the top and then boxes all around. Daniel did a great reaction of getting shot and fell off the set and into boxes. The next day they shot the full fall with me. In the movie there is water under the bridge. However under the real bridge there are just rocks and trees 300ft below; not something that you would really want to fall into. The train was parked in the middle of the bridge and next to the ‘jump carriage’ there was a crane that stretched over the gap with wires attached. I remember in the morning of the shoot day, one of the extending stabilisers of the crane wasn’t working. So they spent some time trying to fix it and ended up having to secure it with scaffolding. It didn’t help my nerves haha! Then I got up on top of the train and my wires were attached. The day before when they were shooting Daniel it was full sunshine, but of course the day we were shooting the fall, it was cloudy, so we had to wait until the clouds would pass and there was full sun. I remember standing up there waiting for a break in the clouds, then finally it came!! Full sun! I got ready and Terry Madden started to count down from 6! We started from 6 so the helicopter could be timed in. I heard ‘Ready and 6, 5, 4, no, no, no, stop, stop, stop!!!’ clouds had come back over!! I think it that happened three or four times. Then Terry got down to ‘2’ and then ‘1, ACTION!’ and I jumped. I have to thank Diz Sharpe, Sam Trimming, Kevin Lyons and Peter Miles! They were the rigging team that kept me alive!!!
Was it only one take?
No, there were three takes. First time I jumped but I moved my arm. I remember Gary saying: ‘Don’t move your arm. You are supposed to be dead!’. Then I jumped a second time and that was fine. The third time was for luck, just in case and I think that was the one they’ve used.
Did you also have to wait between takes for the sun?
After the first take we had to wait a little bit. The second and third were pretty much straight away.
Was it like bungee jumping?
It was kind of like bungee jumping. I free fell for 70/80ft and then a goldtail device was used to slow my fall and bring me to a stop. The full height of the bridge was around 300ft. That was the first big fall I had done in my career and I think the biggest so far to this day.
Did you repeat it later?
I went bungee jumping on holiday. (laughs)
Did you have a chance to see how other scenes for Bond moves were filmed?
Not usually, when they film drama scenes we are rehearsing. We rehearse every day, usually from 8a.m. to 6p.m. We are on set during the drama scenes if the actor needs us there for stunt pads or a mat. Or if the crew are at height, sometimes we are there to help with safety.
How do you prepare for a stunt. Do you have your own warm-up, stetching routine?
I try and keep pretty flexible so it doesn’t take too long to warm up before a scene. If an actor is about to do something physical we will sometimes be called in to warm them up, fit a harness and answer any questions they have regarding the action. The warm up comprises of basic stretches to get the blood flowing and prepare them for the next shot. For example if they are doing a lot of kicks or low stances, leg stretching would focused on more etc. And the same can be said for myself. I like to get nice and warm and stretched out as much as I can before a take. Although sometimes that’s not always possible. An action scene can really take it’s toll on the body! They can last days, weeks or even months!! The fight on the train in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ took many many months! Constantly warming up and cooling down between shots can cause injury! So I try and stay as warm as possible.
‘Spectre’ was your second and also the last Bond film you were in so far. You didn’t take part in ‘No Time to Die’?
No sadly I was busy on another movie ‘The King’s Man’ with Brad Allen. It was another great movie to work on and a great take on the spy genre!
Do you have any plans to return as Bond?
Haha It depends on who the actor is and the stunt coordinator but I would love to do another Bond in the future!
Who should be the next James Bond in your opinion?
Somebody who is 5’10”. (laughs)
Thank you for great stories and good luck with becoming James Bond again.