Photos of Conan in Movies

Making A Movie Fight Scene As An Actor

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Those of you who know me already know that I specialise in action movies, as a stunt actor - meaning I do as many of my own stunts as possible. This mainly concerns the fight scenes I am employed to do.

Now having a fight on film is much different to street or ring fighting  but fighting as a main character with an established background, past and personality adds even more complexity to the mix, both to the action sequence and the acting itself....

For example in the HBO TV series I am currently engaged with (but between shoots) "Game of Thrones" as the truly monstrous knight Ser Gregor Clegane whose reputation is as the do any dirty dead enforcer of House Lannister.

So the character has an established persona, past, alliances and grievances. Currenty 4 massive books worth of history to be exact.

I hate having a good book I have read finally make it to a modern movie and then watching the movie only to not see my favourite character but someone else using the characters name with a totally different personality and usually past too.

As an Actor/fantasy fan I believe I owe it to the audience to portray the character as true as possible, at least until the TV show grows and expands upon the book series and takes on a life of its own.

So this has to be kept in mind as you fight.

It sounds a little too much but there are reasons and emotions between any two adversaries, especially when the adversaries have common history together. For instance say I was fighting my brother and we were both trying 100% to kill the other - there would be some pretty deep reasons and emotions running in a fight like that.

So there you have two guys going at it with swords, bare hands, feet, maces, axes, whatever and trying to remember everything at once looking like they are trying to absolutey smash the other into oblivion but in reality trying their hardest not to hurt his workmate/friend.

It is probably easier for me to do it this way....

What Is Going Through My Mind In a Movie Fight 

  • Remember all the choreography and moves and do them all in the correct sequence
  • Watch the other fighter in case he (or me) remembers a wrong move and does something surprising and potentially dangerous
  • Watch for equipment or safety failure. In L'ile Aux Tresors I received a machete cut to my eyelid, a very close call. In GoT during a fight I hit a sword on the flat rather than the edge in one sequence and the sword bent severely and whipped at my face narrowly missing me - steel and faces don't mix well
  • Remember and feel the character's emotions during the fight so your face displays these properly
  • Fight in the style that suits the character. In True Legend I am fighting Kung Fu experts so I need to be as fast as I can to look dangerous to the audience as I am already very slow compared to these guys. In GoT I play a knight in heavy armour with a large sword, now I, and important others, see this character as lacking finese, no fine sword play more of a "might makes right" mentality with smashing powerful blows - much akin to my own fight style. This is something we did in Pro-Wrestling too, I would pull my speed and do big but slow powerful looking moves, giving my opponent the edge in speed thus giving the audience a believable contest. These ideals have to translate into how you move about during the fight, footwork, everything is modified by this.
  • Any lines you have to deliver with timing and correct emotions (possibly while half out of breath)
  • Listening for other cues as other fighters enter, something happens off-screen that affects the fight, etc.

That's about it. Luckily for me my wrestling and working difficult nightspots gave me a good background in evaluating and handling an ongoing fight so I have a cool head about me and can watch and often react instinctively when something surprising happens.

Working with guys like Rory McCann* or Nathan Jones also helps me with my characterisations during the fight. Both these guys are big and neither are what you would ever call soft. They allow me to use more power in my blows so I do not have to pull the blows as much because I am scared of hurting the other Actor. Certainly some moderation is called for but being able to give your opponent a good, safe, tap during simulated combat makes for more believable filming. And absolutely smashing swords together near full power translates well on camera, the audience can feel the difference which helps them feel the fight - as every fight has a point in the overall storyline of the movie and every fight should help advance the storyline, unless your movie is just based on gratuitous violence.


* When training with Rory for the Sandor vs. Gregor fight scene we were repeatedly hitting the practise swords together so hard we actually bent Rorys sword through the thickness so that at the end of the training session it more resembled a scimitar than a broadsword.

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