Robbie ‘Maddo’ Maddison is a motobike stunt performer. He is world record holder in jump length on a motorcycle and on distance ridden on a modified dirt motorbike on the water. He is also famous for jumping onto up onto the Arc de Triomphe in Las Vegas, jumping Tower Bridge in London, jumping over the Corinth Canal in Greece, winning Red Bull X-Fighters competition and many other. Find more on: robbiemaddison.com
Piotr Zajac (bondlocations): I’ve heard you saying in behind the scenes documentary about ‘Skyfall’ that you are following following footsteps of Evel Knievel in your career. Can I say that he is your inspiration in what you are doing?
Robbie Maddison: I remember as little kid seeing what he did. It blew me away and definitely inspired to follow a similar path. He was part of the reason why I fell in love with motorcycles. What he did on a motorcycle was so cool to me as a kid. He is definitely being an inspiration for me for sure.
You broke the World motorcycle jumping record on the 40th anniversary of Evel Knievel jumping the fountains at Caesars Palace. I guess this date was not chosen by chance.
It wasn’t the first time. I think it was my third or fourth World Record at that time, but we definitely planned that. We knew that the anniversary was coming up and it all made sense. I jumped and broke World Record previous to that and then I was talking to the Red Bull crew about what I could do in the future. I wanted to break the distance record, the overall record that Evel Knievel had. We went about planning to do that. Subsequently I went to Evel’s funeral prior to the jump. I paid my respects to him. I had the craziest experience at his funeral to be honest. I stood in front of the open casket. When I was there I said: ‘Thank you for what you have done for motorcycling and for action sports. I want to take the flag where you’ve left it and take it to the highest heights with your honour’. When I said that this crazy feeling came. Cold went straight through me and all the air. Hairs stood up on my neck. I knew that his spirit was blessing me for sure. It was an amazing experience. I went to Las Vegas knowing that we were doing it with Evel Knievel’s blessing. That was an amazing night. Evel Knievel’s family was there. I jumped right in front of the Caesars Palace. It wasn’t over the fountains. I jumped like over the football field that is much bigger than the area in front of the hotel. We had the complete parking lot at the rear casino and we’ve recreated the full size American football field. I jumped from end zone to end zone. It was amazing time. Amazing thing for my career to be able to realize that dream. It blew my mind that I’ve made that dream a reality. You can achieve your dream if you focus on it hard enough.
When you played James Bond in ‘Skyfall’ you were already very famous. I was wondering if the producers were looking for someone to do that stunt that was already written in the script or they saw you in action and wanted to do something like that in the movie?
I think that it was in the script and they were looking for someone who could do this. Jean-Pierre Goy was meant to be the James Bond at first, but as I’ve heard they were looking for someone looking more like Daniel Craig. They also had the stunt when the rider had to jump through the window. They thought that I would be the best guy to do it because I’ve done that jump off the building in Las Vegas. They contacted me and said that they had a stunt that I could do. I was lucky that I had everything they needed.
You were working together with Lee Morisson who was riding another bike as bad guy Patrice.
Yes. Lee Morrison was an amazing guy.
At first you were practising at training facility. There were mounds of earth shaped like rooftops in Istanbul.
Lee and Gary Powell designed the whole sequence. That has nothing to do with me at all. They had it all tested. Lee used to be a professional motorcycle racer himself. He just needed someone else who could get through the whole section as well as he could. They had that planned before I was the part of the conversation. Later on I just made sense at some point.
You were both driving Honda CRF250R motobikes. They were dressed up like road bike and police bike. Was it difficult to drive them with all these additional parts?
I showed up on set in Adana where they were shooting the train sequence. They said to me: ‘Here are the motorcycles. They are fresh from the art department. Go and ride them. We want to make sure that all the modifications are working well’. I came back about half an hour later with all the bits and pieces on my lap because I snapped them off the bike. The art department reinforced them with bunch of steel tubing underneath. It obviously made it a lot stronger but also made it a lot heavier. That actually threw off the calculations for the suspension settings that they had on the bikes. The bike had extra 25 lbs on the rear end. We got to Istanbul and we were riding on the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar. There was one section when we had to jump from one root to another roof. I landed with really hard impact so my body position was kind of dramatic. They said: ‘James Bond doesn’t react like that. This character is strong and perfect. He lands like a machine’. The director asked me to shoot it again. I said to him: ‘Look man, I was so lucky to make it that time. The bike can’t handle it. The suspension is too soft’. I jumped again and I crashed. Then I crashed again. I said: ‘Look, the settings are off’. Lee Morrison attempted it and he crashed as well. I think that at that point they realized that it wasn’t the rider but it was the setup that we had. They managed to change frame angles so it looked like all went smoothly. You wouldn’t notice it watching the film unless you were there filming that. That was very unique part of the story and that was definitely a hurdle that we faced on set to overcome. It became dangerous and risked the whole film.
You were risking a lot riding without helmets on very narrow roads on rooftops.
Yes, that is right.
Were the roofs specially reinforced? You were riding on old roofs covered with tiles.
The art department was really good. I coudn’t say what was real and what was fake. When I got there the set was completely designed. There were lots of things that were fake but looked real. Pretty much all the set that we rode on was put down by the film crew. They had to protect buildings because they were historical. To get the permission to be on that Grand Bazaar they couldn’t damage anything. The whole production got shut down because one of the windows got broken. I’m sure you’ve heard that story.
Honestly I haven’t heard it. Can you tell more about that?
When we were shooting te scene with James Bond was chasing the bad guy inside the Grand Bazaar one of the motorcysles hit the window of the jewelery store. The glass that was smashed was really old. It was big issue for the film and for future stuff that happened in Istanbul. With Red BUll we couldn’t get permission because of what happened on Bond.
I assume the window you were jumping through was specially prepared.
How many times you had to repeat that scene?
We did that in one take.
I saw in the behind the scene documentary that there was some landing platform below the window. In the movie there was nothing like that.
Before Gary called ‘action’ I rehearsed going through the window without the glass with landing on the platform. We practiced that with Lee. Then the glass came in. It was like sugar glass, made for action scenes. It looks like normal glass, but when you hit it it breaks away. Once they put that in and called ‘action’ they removed the landing ramp. We had to land right on the floor and ride up to finish the scene around the corner. As we go around the corner, there is the jewelery store where the window was broken. It wasn’t me (smiling).
I saw on extra material from the set that there was a scene with water tank on the roof that wasn’t used in the film.
Unfortunally time for the sequence was limited. That water tank scene was really cool. When Lee came past the water tank the guy who was hiding there pulled the lever which dropped the tank. The water came down and I went through it. Unfortunatelly that part was cut.
Did you film any other scene that not in the movie?
There was one scene that didn’t make to film either where I had to wheel into a car door. The door cames off and goes under the motorcycle. I actually crashed when filming that. I’ve never done that stunt before, so I found it quite tricky because there was specific way to do it. I tried to learn in on the fly. There were guys who were really experience and they were telling me what to do. I probably needed a few days to practice and figure it out but I couldn’t get it right away, so they moved on.
How long did you film the sequence?
We could only shoot on Sundays. We were on top of the roof once every weekend. It might have been three months.
Did you stay there for the whole time?
Yes, I stayed in Istanbul. For most of the time I was on standby dressed like Bond, because I was Bond double. Usually I didn’t get any other roles. I was sitting in the shade pretty much for six days per week and waiting for that one day to film.
Martin Ivanov told me that you were spraying Coca Cola to improve grip.
Yes. They had a lot of unique tricks. It is incredible what these guys could do. We were riding on these ancient tiles that were very slippery but they had some really cool tricks i.e. like you said with Coca Cola. There was a scene where we had to ride up the stairs. They were able to soften up the hit of the stairs by putting in sand bags. When you watch it in the movie you don’t really see it.
Thank you for telling me all the stories behind the scenes.
January 28th 2021