Casino Royale, interview, Kai Martin, No Time to Die, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, stuntman
Kai Martin has been professional stuntmen for nearly 2 decades. He has worked on 5 James Bond films – from ‘Casino Royale’ to ‘No Time to Die’. In four of them he was Daniel Craig’s stunt double. Find more on his website.
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): You have played in 5 James Bond films – all with Daniel Craig as 007. How you got there?
Kai Martin: I became qualified stuntman in 2001. Then I’ve worked in Madrid for a year in live shows and in Germany for 6 months afterwords. In 2004 I got into films. Next year my grandmother died and left me some money. I always wanted to go to China to train with Shaolin monks. I took that money and went there for 4 months, what was a big thing for me. Amazingly just after return I got a job on ‘Dr. Who’ as one of Shaolin monks. My wage was just more or less about what I’ve spent in Asia. Travel to China really raised the bar of who I was as a man I guess and in terms of my skills and my overall ability. Then I got a call from Gary Powell, which I couldn’t believe, in December 2005. I was then aware that Daniel had been cast. Looking at him I knew I could do it, I could be Bond. I just had this intuition that it could happen to me. Fortunately I had some good friends: Adam Kirley, Lee Morrison, Glenn Foster, Ben Cook already working on the Bond film. I think it was the last minute December 2005. Gary needed an extra stunt double for Daniel and he called me. He spoke with me a little bit about the job and asked me to come to Pinewood Studios on second or third January 2006. It was quite a dizzy period for my mind. I couldn’t belive this potential opportunity was kind of around the corner. There was another guy taking part in audition. We both met Gary and went to meet the director. Martin Campbell was an amazing guy. Then literally as I was walking out he just said: ‘Kai you are going with us tomorrow. Pack the bag, we are going to Prague’. That was pretty much it. If think when Gary called me I was in Spain riding motocross bikes. I returned on January second or third. In the afternoon I was packing to go to Prague. At that time especially after going to China my fitness level, my whole body was of ready. I had no idea what ‘Casino Royale’ was gonna be, none of us really did, but I was so ready. Training in China for 6-8 hours a day, mentally living that kind of lifestyle that preceeded phone call from Gary put me in the right place. I think that without going to China I could not survive (smiling). That it how it initially began for me with Bond.
Was it something special for you to be in James Bond film?
To be honest Bond for stuntmen is like olympics for athletes. It is iconic. Especially for Englishmen. Traditionally James Bond is tall, dark and handsome. I naturally gravitated towards those films and loved them but never trully could imagine myself being a Bond because of hair color, height etc. When Daniel got cast I thought I could do this. That was the shift. Daniel with light hair is quite contrast to previous Bonds. When it did come round I couldn’t believe it. It was incredible.
For the first time we could see you on screen in ‘Casino Royale’ opening scene.
The actual crane to crane jump was done by Ben Cook as James Bond. Adam Kirley was doubling for Sebastien (Foucan). Unfortunately Ben broke his hand. Ninety percent of that sequence still needed to be filmed. That is when I jumped in. So Ben did the main jump and all the rest is myself going up and down the crane. We shot all of that on location. All close ups of Daniel and actors were shot low down but still in the Bahamas. We didn’t go to Pinewood to finish anything there.
It was not the only scene when we could see you in ‘Casino Royale’?
I was also in a sequence with Bond chasing the bad guy through the airport.
You were jumping on a truck with fuel?
Yes. That was really hard. I think it was a week or two in Prague and all the rest was at Dunsfold at night. James Bond runs up the stairs, jumps off. That was pretty tricky to roll off and catch the last minute.
How did you prepare for that stunt?
We didn’t rehearse for the airport sequence. I just pretty much did it which sometimes has to be the case. Sometimes you just have to do it. You can rehearse, rehearse and rehearse, put all the safety factors in place, understand where the cameras are gonna be, but sometimes you just have to go for it. That was pretty much that. I didn’t know what was coming in the airport and I’m glad I didn’t, really. (smiling) I remember that being one particularly hard night. Just getting the timing right, not fall at the back of the truck. I’m glad we didn’t rehearse, just did it. Even if you rehearse things can be different. It is nice to be organic, go for it and see what happens.
In ‘Quantum of Solace’ we could see you in foot chase sequence in Siena in Italy.
In February 2008 we shot all the interior in Pinewood on 007 Stage. That was the fight on the ropes in bell tower. There was Daniel, Glenn Foster and myself as well as Richard Hansen. I’ve done lots of stunt work with Rich. We’ve shot all the fights, coming off the scafolding, unravling, grabbing of the gun etc.
How did you prepare that complex sequence? It looked very spontaneous, very natural, but I am sure it was planned in details?
That was extremely hard work. We’ve started preparation in October 2007 as I remember. Actor Gavin Marshall known for an impressive rope work was brought it. You can’t learn in few months something that someone has done for lifetime. The thing is that the stunt has special skills whatever it is, but it always comes back down to performance. The stunt is a performance at the end of the day. We did rehearse that for a long period of time, but because of the nature of that, it was very tricky with ropes moving all the time. We did have choreography but then things got changed in a moment quite quickly and we had to adapt.
How long did that sequence take from the idea to the final shot?
Months. I would say that for me personally it began early October 2007 and finished at the end of February or maybe beginning of March 2008. That was my life – hanging on ropes. I remember that it was hard work, because main unit was shooting on 007 Stage in a day time and we had to shoot at night. It had nothing to do with actual location etc. but it was just logistics and scheduling thing. At 3 a.m. I was 60 feet up in the air with rope wrapped around me. For me personally that was very hard from start to finish. In ‘Casino Royal’ I had to jump on moving truck that was hard but in one evening it was done. It is a creative process, you are learning all the time. Sometimes it is good to have some preperation and sometimes it is good to do it in one day.
You were also doubling Daniel Craig on location in Siena.
We went to Siena at the end of March or beginning of April 2008. We’ve spent a good few weeks prepering for exterior scenes. Bond chases Mitchell, he goes up the window and he jumps on the bus – that was me, I rehearsed that. I rehearsed the long jump across. I remember braking a rib and a finger. I got to do that in Siena. That was a good stunt. Bobby (Hanton) did a lot of exterior work in Siena and also Daniel did a lot of it. He did one roof to balcony jump. I think he hurt his shoulder but he did it. I was there watching. That was a big jump and Daniel did that. They were coming off the roofs. Bobby had done some stuff on the exterior. Then it came back to Pinewood and it was me falling down the roof because it was collapsing. Then it was Daniel in Siena. He jumped from the collapsing roof onto the balcony. Then he proceedes across the balconies. I rehearsed it at Pinewood with all the measurements and then we went to replicate it on location. That is also the stuntman’s job. Sometimes in the studios with tape measure you can design the scale of what they want to have on set and check if they can make it. At first the jump would be too big for Daniel so we had to modify that. That was a very elongated process as well. This is making movie and that is why it works. When you do rehearse to get it right then you can replicate it on location.
In ‘Skyfall’ we could also see you drowning as James Bond in title sequence.
Yes. I couldn’t believe it because James Bond title sequence is so iconic. That was the sinking hole.
How was it filmed?
It was amazing. It was filmed at Pinewood studio in 007 Stage – underwater. I was in the underwater tank dressed in Bond suit. There were also two Bond girls and their job was to grab off my body.
How long did you have to stay under water?
In that particular sequence maybe 10-15 seconds. It was just sinking, holding my breath and the girls grabbed me. We also did the underwater fight under the ice. That was Ben Wright and myself. It was specifically hard because it was underwater. You loose the air rapidly and it is very difficult to communicate. That was another part I did in that film.
Did you rehearse that fight without the water at first?
We knew the choreography, we knew the moves but obviously when we added the element of water that could change it. If you want to hold someone very close it is very difficult to do under water. You have to put so much effort to your moves to get that kind of energy that is necessary. That was quite challenging to work on.
‘Spectre’ was your only 007 film so far in which you were not James Bond double.
Yes. That is correct. I was asked to be Bond double, but unfortunately in that particular time I just couldn’t make it. I was very fortunate to get call back to play the helicopter pilot.
In this film we could see your face. Actually Chuck Aaron was your double. I guess that fighting in a helicopter mounted on special rig in Pinewood Studios was not as challenging as your previous stunts.
It was the least challenging as oppose to underwater fight, flying on ropes or being on cranes. But it was on a gimble that changed a lot. We had to be careful because it was easy to get bumped, but it was pretty straight forward in comparison.
You were also in ‘No Time to Die’, but I guess we should not talk about it now, before the premiere.
Yes, that would be best. I’m personally very proud that I’ve done all five of Daniel’s films. I was almost in every opening sequence and every trailer. I’m sure that ‘No Time to Die’ will be a great films. For me personally it is like the end of an era. As it is for lots of people, obviously for Daniel. We’ve done that journey from 2005 to 2020. Even once we’ve done one Bond film we were very aware that there was probably going to be the next. That is why it is even more unique. I was very, very happy that I was in all of them.
May 9th 2020