Vic Armstrong is veteran 'fall guy' for Harrison Ford, many other stars

Vic Armstrong stepped in for Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones when the going got tough.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: September 28, 2012
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Q: I also read that the stunt where you jump from a horse onto a German tank in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was voted one of the Top 10 film stunts of all time by a panel of experts and Sky Movies viewers in the U.K. in 2002. Are you pretty proud of that honor?

A: I am obviously very proud to be voted the best stunt but quite honestly there are many wonderful stunts that have been performed over the years and it is a little like voting for the “best song.” It is all a question of personal taste.

Q: Did you also do the stunt (in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) where Indiana crawls under a speeding truck from front to back, and then is dragged behind?

A: No, my great friend and great stuntman Terry Leonard did that stunt and it was spectacular.

Q: Have you ever been seriously injured doing a stunt?

A: I have broken bones and things over the years but it is not anything to be proud of. In my eyes it was really a failure if I got hurt.

Q: What was the most difficult stunt you ever performed, and what film was it in?

A: Nearly every stunt is difficult until you have performed it, and then you feel it is an anticlimax and the next one, whatever it is, is the most difficult.

Q: The most dangerous?

A: Maybe the 100-foot fall off a horse in a viaduct on “Omen III: The Final Conflict,” or the jump onto the tank. They are all history though, really.

Q: The stunt you're most proud of pulling off?

A: Probably inventing the Fan Descender, for which I got a technical Academy Award.

(The Fan Descender is a device using a cable and a disc brake for safely and accurately arresting the descent of stunt persons in high free falls. Armstrong is the first stunt person to receive an Oscar.)

Q. Who was the most demanding director you ever worked for?

A. They are nearly all demanding. That is their job. Some have better personalities than others, but all are demanding.

Q: Which actor or actors did you enjoy doubling for the most?

A. Harrison Ford, Donald Sutherland, Ryan O'Neal.

Q: Are you still working as a stuntman?

A. No, I work as an action unit director and stunt coordinator.

Q: You married a stuntwoman, Wendy Leech (whom he met on the set of “Superman II”). Is or was that a constant source of worry for both of you, that one of you might be hurt or even killed on the job?

A. No, we are very careful about how the stunts are prepared, and we are in the business of illusion, and the fun is making things appear death-defying but are repeatable and relatively safe.

Q: Are you directing anything soon?

A. I am directing the action unit on “Jack Ryan” for Ken Branagh and hope to direct Nic Cage in “Left Behind” in Canada as the first unit director next year.