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The Trials Of A Hollywood Stuntman

In collaboration with TAG Heuer, Mr Bobby Holland Hanton reveals what it takes to stay at the top of your game

We all wish we could have the physique of an action hero. It’s just rarely a prerequisite of our job. In his decade-long career as a stuntman, Mr Bobby Holland Hanton has doubled for a who’s who of Hollywood beefcakes, from Messrs Christian Bale and Ryan Reynolds to Channing Tatum and Jake Gyllenhaal. Not only does he have to put his body on the line for these actors, but that body also has to look identical – or as near as makes no difference – to theirs. And that means training. A lot of training.

“I train twice a day, six days a week,” says the 33-year-old. “I’ll tailor my workout and diet plan depending on the role. If I have to slim down, I’ll focus on cardio and restrict my calories. If I have to beef up, I’ll hit the weights and increase my protein intake. If the role requires big arms, I’ll focus on circuit training, isolating shoulders, triceps and biceps. The goal is always to look as close to the actor I’m doubling for as possible.”

The grueling training regime and strict diet takes its toll, admits Mr Hanton. “It really is a motivational thing. In my position, I could easily pull up the handbrake and relax. But that’s not what I’m made of. I’d be too worried about losing work.” He operates by negative reinforcement, finding strength and motivation from the thought of failure. “The thought of failing at something is 10 times worse than the hard work it takes to achieve it,” he says.

An ex-gymnast and semi-professional footballer, Mr Hanton developed a keen competitive edge in his youth. “If I didn’t win a competition, I had to go back and try again,” he says. “That was always my mentality. I’d go away, work harder. In the next competition, instead of coming fifth I’d come third. Then, instead of third I’d come second. I just always felt like I had to keep pushing myself to achieve.”

His gymnastic background didn’t just instill a will to win, it gave him the aerial awareness required of a stunt performer. “Knowing where you are in the air, and how to control your body, is vital to being able to perform a stunt with consistency,” he says. “Most people have the ability to do a stunt once. It’s about being able to do it over and over again.”

That consistency, he says, is crucial to minimising the risk inherent in stunt work. “There’s always going to be that element of danger,” he says. “It’s not a career for the faint of heart. People are getting injured all of the time, and unfortunately there are even fatalities.” He’s not bluffing. Only last month, stunt performer Mr John Bernecker died as a result of injuries sustained on the set of The Walking Dead.

Not only does the life of a stuntman require a punishing training regime, but it also involves risking serious injury or even death. But it’s worth it, says Mr Hanton, for the look on people’s faces when they find out what he does. “More often than not, people don’t believe me,” he says. “But I’m proud of it.”