The Unknown Stuntman:
Exposed met up with local lad Glenn Foster – stunt double to the stars.
I think it would be fair to say that every little boy dreams of being able to dive from a building, play a superhero, or swing Tarzan style on a wire. Well, thinking about it, it may not necessarily be confined to the young.
Yet, Sheffield’s own Glenn Foster, stunt double for Robert Downey Jnr in recent blockbuster ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and regular fly/fall/hit/dive guy in several big name movies, gets to do just that on an almost daily basis. Jealous much?
You spend a lot of time on the go, is it good to be back?
Yeah, definitely. I spend a lot of time in LA, but I don’t have a base there… yet. I do a lot of travelling around with whatever film I’m doing, so I kind of go from hotel room to hotel room. I didn’t stay in one place very much when I was little either - my Dad was in the forces - but my Grandparents are from Sheffield, and so I always felt like my roots were in Sheffield. I now have a base in Netheredge, and it’s a great place to come back to get away from it all and just relax.
Is stunt work something you’ve always wanted to pursue?
It all started when I was young and my parents bought me a glossy annual, all about famous stuntmen. For like two or three years I read and re-read that annual, picking up tips, and trying to replicate stunts. One of my friends owned a farm, and we used to practise in the barn, climbing haystacks, choreographing stunts, and things like that. When I told the careers staff at my school that I wanted to be a stuntman, they were really confused, to say the least. It certainly wasn’t on their go-to list of careers. They tried to get me to go for the closest professions, which were fire services, police, that kind of thing, which were still dangerous. So I kind of gave up on the idea and thought I’d go into the military or something.
So how does a Sheffield lad end up in Hollywood?
It’s not easy. It’s the sort of profession where you get in by being at the right place at the right time. I was very lucky. I started working for Sheffield City Council, teaching outdoor sports at Underbank Outdoor Activity Centre. One day, I got a call from a friend asking me to talk to someone who needed training in rock climbing for some stunt work they had to do. We got talking, and he got me in touch with some people and suggested I do my Equity training and get my name on the stunts register. I trained in fencing, high diving, trampolining, gymnastics, martial arts, climbing etc, alongside working at Underbank. I got my name on the register in 1999, left Underbank, and then was lucky enough to get a role in my first film ‘The Musketeer’. It just went from there.
When you watch films with mates, are you not tempted to just go ‘that’s me, wait for it, yeah, that’s me as well, yep there I am again’?!
(Laughs) Perhaps at first, when it was new and exciting, but now I don’t really go to see the films I’m in. I did go see Sherlock Holmes and Quantum of Solace in the cinema, but I only watched Dark Knight at home. Some of my friends want me to point myself out, and I will, but to be honest I think of myself as part of a package, and I’m happy just being behind the scenes. Stunt actors are, I guess, the ‘unsung heroes’ of films, and so I don’t try to make it about me.
You’ve just mentioned some massive films that you’ve been involved with. Is it daunting working on such big films?
My first big film ‘Die Another Day’ was definitely daunting. I was on a set with Pierce (Brosnan) thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m in a Bond Film!’ But now it’s more exciting than anything. I still have to pinch myself.
You’ve now worked with Robert Downey Jnr on ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and in the up and coming ‘Iron Man II’. What’s he like to work with?
He’s such a lovely, genuine man. I couldn’t have wished for anyone better to work with. With Robert, he was so approachable and friendly that when we were off camera we could quite easily chat like friends. He never made you feel like you were in the presence of a star, he was just another guy. Then, he’d get up and go do a scene and I’d watch him on the monitor and it would sink in. He is so good at what he does; you can see why he’s so successful.
Iron Man II is looking to be a bit of a summer blockbuster. Was it a great film to be a part of?
It was brilliant. I mean, I got to wear the Iron Man suit!
Is it heavy?
Not really heavy, but very restricting. I couldn’t even get my arm up to scratch my nose. But it’s amazing. I had a look at myself in the mirror when I was wearing the suit, and I was like ‘wow!’
You were part of the team that was nominated for ‘Best High Work’ for Quantum of Solace in the Taurus World Stunt Awards 2009. I also hear that it’s looking good for 2010.
It’s really flattering. Last year we were up against some of the stunts on ‘The Dark Knight’, and they swept the board. This year I think it could go any way. I’m nominated again this year for two scenes in Sherlock Holmes. One involves a 60ft high dive from the Houses of Parliament. I practised at the diving pool in Ponds Forge - which is 30ft high. Many of the divers said they wouldn’t consider diving headfirst from 60ft, but I did it. So, fingers crossed. It would be great to win something.
You had an acting role in ‘Quantum of Solace’, playing Craig Mitchell. Is this something you’d like to move into?
It’s certainly something to consider. I got some good feedback from the director and it’s made me think about it. In ‘Quantum of Solace’, I had to do a scene with Dame Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, and that’s quite an intro into acting. I really am very lucky. But after filming ended, when I was considering a shift into acting, I was offered work alongside Robert Downey Jnr, and I wasn’t going to say no to that. You just roll with the punches.
I guess you would go home a bit less bruised. Ever broken any bones doing a stunt?
Just once, so far, touch wood. In fact one of the most indignant experiences of my life happened in the first week of my career. I broke both of my feet in the first week of filming in France for ‘The Musketeer’ and had to come home to go to the Northern General. The night I broke my feet, I went to a French hospital and they just referred me to the pharmacy for pain relief, but they wouldn’t put my feet in a cast, or even give me a wheel chair, so I had to put on my knee pads and crawl around on my hands and knees. It was so embarrassing.
You must be pretty fearless.
Not so much ‘fearless’. The producers wouldn’t want someone who would take unnecessary risks, there’s a heavy emphasis on health and safety. There’s always risk. You never know what will happen. One of my good friends worked as Daniel Radcliffe’s double on ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ and, as was reported, he suffered an accident and is now paralysed from the waist down. You accept that there’s danger involved but, as with the military, the emergency services, or even if you’re just playing rugby, you accept the risks and utilise all your training to prepare yourself as best you can.
Glenn was interviewed at The Chimney House, Kelham Island. See www.thechimneyhouse.com for more. Catch Glenn in action in Iron Man II when it’s released nationally on May 7.