Mr Riley Harper
We take a ride with the Hollywood stuntman through a Californian canyon as he models the latest collection from Ralph Lauren’s iconic RRL collection
“I am headed somewhere, as it happens,” says Mr Riley Harper. “I’m catching a flight to Tahiti at midnight.” A little context: we’ve just been checking out his Instagram profile, the appropriately named @lifeof_riley. One moment, he’s speeding through the Californian desert on a Ducati offroader; the next, he’s cliff-jumping in Mallorca with his girlfriend, the gorgeous Ms Michaela Wissén.
It’s an envy-inducing account of a life spent in apparent perpetual motion, and it’s got us wondering where on earth this 26-year-old stuntman from Los Angeles, who has credits in The Dark Knight Rises, Captain America and Iron Man to his name, is headed next.
So, why Tahiti? “It’s just this little project I’m doing,” he says, his guarded tone suggesting that he’d prefer not to disclose the finer details. “But I’m hoping to get a few good photos out there.”
Luckily, we don’t need to wait long to find out what this mystery project actually is, because only a few days later a slew of new shots are uploaded to his Instagram account. They’re nothing special: just a few shots of his friend, the pro-surfer Mr Jamie O’Brien, emerging out of a barrel at Teahupo’o, one of the most treacherous surf breaks in the world. Oh, and he’s on fire. Did we mention that he’s on fire?
This audacious stunt, designed in collaboration with the overcaffeinated adrenalin junkies at Red Bull, took more than a year to plan. Mr Harper and his team of experts were on hand to ensure that it was carried out, if not entirely safely, then at least as safely as could be reasonably expected. After all, dousing someone in flammable gel, setting them alight and then having them surf a wave whose name translates into English roughly as “broken skulls” does come with what an insurance broker might refer to as a “degree of inherent risk”.
Such is the life of a professional stuntman, and it’s one that Mr Harper, a fourth-generation Californian and second-generation Hollywood stuntman, has been living for as long as he can remember. “I grew up on movie sets. My dad got started in the industry way back in the early 1970s, and had me in my first ever stunt scene at the age of seven. Nothing complicated,” he says. “Just getting shot and falling down the stairs.”
He has happily graduated from taking bullets and throwing himself down flights of stairs since, and deals mostly with cars now (think Mr Ryan Gosling’s character from Drive). He’s also a skilled motorcyclist, and it’s in this capacity that we invited him – and his 1959 Triumph Bonneville – out to Soledad Canyon in California to model the latest collection from Ralph Lauren’s RRL range, which makes its debut this month on MR PORTER.
Founded in 1993 and named after Mr Lauren’s ranch in Colorado, this heritage brand represents a major diversion from the preppy, East Coast sensibility of the Polo Ralph Lauren main line. It’s a rugged, Americana-inspired line that ditches polo shirts, cashmere sweaters and chinos in favour of faded flannel shirts, Navajo blankets and sturdy selvedge denim, and whose famous fans include Messrs Johnny Depp and Kanye West. Made for an adventurous lifestyle, we think it’s the perfect wardrobe for Mr Harper’s next trip – wherever that happens to take him. We just hope he’s got travel insurance.