An award-winning Sheffield stuntman took to the battlefield while working for an iconic director in a new historical Hollywood blockbuster which was released last week.
Adam Smith, 33, who trains at Evolution Gym in Beighton, features in the Ridley Scott epic Napoleon which was partially filmed in Malta.
He said that working with the director for two weeks of filming was a unique experience.
“Ridley is beyond interesting because he sticks eight cameras on one shot at one time, does two or three takes and moves on straight away,” he said.
Mr Smith, 33, has a filmography to rival most. Featuring in Peaky Blinders, Dunkirk, The Gentlemen, Wrath of Man and Zack Snyder’s Justice League – to name a few.
He became a fully qualified stunt performer in 2015. Having started kickboxing when he was four, at the British Martial Arts Academy in Hackenthorpe, he then started training for the stunt register at 23, and got accepted at 25.
Now he is an award-winning performer. He was part of the Wonder Woman (2017) team, winning the Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture award at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards. He was also part of the shared nomination for the Best Stunt Coordination award at the 2020 Online Film and Television Association awards for his part in 1917 (2019).
In order to get accredited, Mr Smith and other stunt hopefuls, must be able to display six skills across different categories – martial arts, trampolining, gymnastics, swimming, scuba diving and rock climbing.
He said the misconceptions around stunt performing were as prominent as ever.
“It’s like going to university – you do a course to get you there, but all paid for yourself. So you have to cover different categories, one might be water, one’s falling, one’s fighting and you’ve got other choices like horse riding, bikes, cars, whatever you want to specialise in.
“It’s much more of a challenge than just turning up and falling over. You never know what you’re going to do in each job, you can go from doing a massive fight scene to being set on fire.”
With each job in the stunt world demanding more and more from your body Jon Clark, 52, owner of Evolution gym added: “With nutrition and training you can achieve anything, you’ve just got to understand it and adjust it. If you break any goal down, there’s a way to achieve it and that’s what we do here.”
Reflecting on his journey so far, Mr Smith said: “One of my firsts stunts I did, I went through a window but the glass was too big so they had to detonate it. As I went through I had to land with my hands down and ended up cutting my hands to shreds. I spent longer in hospital than on the job. It was for Casualty and I ended up in casualty.
“I was just buzzing to be doing a stunt, because you dream about it. You spend those two-to-three years training and all you want to be doing is be doing it and working on a film, doing something cool.”
In order to work as a professional stunt performer you need to get accredited by organisations such as The British Stunt Registry. Working at every level, from gaming to independent film to the blockbuster film franchises, the BSR strides to make sure all of their members can meet the specific requirements for productions on any scale.
The criteria members need has changed in recent years to protect their performers, and Mr Smith said: “Since I got on the stunt registry it’s changed massively, so now you have to do a drama course, you need to do a health and safety course. So I think it’s improving in terms of both quality of work and also safety for us.”
For years now calls have been heard for stunt performers to finally receive the recognition they deserve, through ways such as the Academy introducing a category for them.
Mr Smith believes that recognition is on the horizon and many major actors have voiced their support for the art form getting its own category, including Jackie Chan, Jason Statham and Scott Adkins.
“I do think it’s moving in the right direction, I don’t think it’s there yet as obviously it’s not fully recognised as a category in the Oscar’s or anything. But it is moving forwards and for years stunt performers have gone under appreciated. That’s by everyone, from directors to people just watching it.”