Brighton-based Nick Gillard is one of the UK’s, if not the world, leading film stuntmen and stunt coordinators. He has worked with the likes of Spielberg and Lucas, from Empire of the Sun to the Star Wars prequels. Other stunt work includes Alien 3 and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Nick spared some time to tell us of his work.
I understand that some of your first films as a stuntman were The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only, part of the action-packed Bond series, of course. Did you grow up as a film fan, including the Bond films? And were there other stuntmen that you particularly admired?
I grew up in the 60’s, so was lucky enough to go to Saturday morning pictures every week, along with most of the other kids in Brighton. It was in a cinema near St Peters Church; I think it’s a bingo hall now. They would show three or four movies with a break for ice cream. They were happy days. I didn’t really know about stuntmen then.
Apparently, you hold the world record for the longest fire-related stunt, with a fire burn without air for over two minutes on Alien 3. Is this right and can you tell me about this – what did it actually entail?
I think that record may have been broken since, though at the time I had it I wasn’t trying to break any records. Originally, it was supposed to be in two parts. I was going to do the first part which was an explosion where I would be blown into shot on fire, disappearing behind a wall where another stuntman would appear and do the second part of the shot. However, on the day the other guy forgot a piece of his kit, so they asked if I could do the whole thing.
Describe the mindset that one needs to be a film stuntman.
A subtle blend of psychology and extreme violence!
You’ve stunt-doubled for the likes of Tom Cruise, for Interview with the Vampire, and David Bowie, for Labyrinth. Do you have any particular memories of those big names?
Despite what you hear about Tom Cruise, he is in fact a lovely man just trying to do his job.
Bowie is the same, down to earth and really quite normal. We went to Notting Hill Carnival one weekend. We had a blast and ended up in an Indian take away at two in the morning.
Of course you were the stunt coordinator on the Star Wars prequels. Sum up that experience. And was it a challenge at all?
It is always a challenge taking on a well established series of movies, and none come much bigger than Star Wars. The challenge was bringing it into the 21st century, which was always going to upset a lot of people. What you have to realise is that Star Wars is made for five to fifteen year olds, and from what I have heard they enjoyed it.
Has the nature of your work changed much over the years, maybe due to technological aspects?
CGI is a big help if used in the right place, but I’m more old school and prefer to do stunts for real.
Are you working on something at the moment and call you tell me about it?
I’m enjoying working on an American series called Da Vinci’s Demons. It’s a big production, shooting for seven months in Wales. I can’t say more than that, but this series is going to be full of big action.
You’ve lived in Brighton for some time. What appeals to you about living here?
I was born, raised, and still live in Brighton. I LOVE Brighton with all my heart. I am Brighton.
By Wayne Imms