Interview with ‘The Fast and the Furious’ stuntman Lee Millham
You won’t recognise his face, but you will have seen Lee Millham at some point, crashing a car, jumping off a high building, or saving-the-day with his bare-knuckled stunts in a few Hollywood blockbusters.
As a stuntman, Millham is no novice: He has stunt doubled in everything from the highest-grossing adventure franchises of all-time (Harry Potter), to apocalyptic sci-fi’s (World War Z, Prometheus), superhero films (The Dark Knight Rises, Captain America: The First Avenger), and of course, many well-known action-packed thrillers.
When the indestructible British-born stuntman was asked to coordinate the explosive adrenaline-fuelled tank chase scene in Fast & Furious 6 — the hugely successful series that has brought us a fleet of fast cars and high-octane pursuits— he didn’t have to think twice.
When he talks about earning a living risking his life, the conversation inevitably feels like simply sharing stories down at the pub—which is appropriate, since his work is inundated with a kind of ritualism, something that has allowed him to work with many A-listers. I recently spoke with Millham about the day-to-day life of a stuntman and what projects he’s got coming up.
What is it about being a stunt performer, rather than an actor, that made you want to have a career in this field?
I will keep this plain and simple, I’m c**p at acting. [laughs].
Do you need to have acting skills to be a good stuntman?
Yeah, you have to be able to perform in front of a camera, but as for convincing and extensive acting that’s different all together. When I’m doubling someone I have to study the way they move in order to try and imitate them. But generally speaking, I think you have to be able to do a bit of both.
Your wife is also a stuntwoman?
Yeah, she has been in the past. In fact, she doubled for Halle Berry in one of the Bond films [Die Another Day], and won a stunt award.
Has there been a moment that required a stunt that made you think “What the hell am I doing”?
Yes, there was a scene I did in Safe House where a pickup truck was chasing a BMW, which then crashed into some concrete blocks and in the process, the roof was taken off. Well, that was one of those moments where I found myself thinking, ‘Lee, what are you doing’?
Were there any moments like that on Fast & Furious 6?
There was the tank scene with the jump that I did, which was not something I had ever done before. No one on the stunt team had ever done such a thing and in some ways, we were a little concerned about the outcome.
It’s interesting you should say that, because I think a lot of people were particularly interested in that specific scene. At any point, did it ever get dangerous?
Obviously, the difficulty for the stunt performers was being in harm’s way – should one of them slip up or miss their timing the outcome could be fatal. It’s down to me to avoid any mishaps in the best way that I can. I think there will always be an element of danger in any stunt. It’s calculated risks that we take, but no one is ever in grave danger unless something goes drastically wrong.
Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have a reputation for being a bit serious – is this true?
I would imagine if they didn’t take their job seriously, then the franchise wouldn’t be the success that it is. Because I was based in another unit, I didn’t have very much interaction with them but the time that I spent, which was little, they were very professional.
Of all the actors you’ve doubled for, who was the most enjoyable to work with?
I didn’t actually double for this person, but Tom Cruise is an absolute pleasure to work with. Most of them are if I’m honest, but Tom was a real top guy.
Can you talk for a minute about Mission Impossible, which was your first major stunt role. How were you approached for the project?
My dad’s friend Greg Powell, who is a stunt coordinator, invited me onto the set of Mission Impossible. I spent the day there – and as they say the rest is history.
You recently worked on World War Z alongside Brad Pitt. Were you at all intimidated by him?
No, I’m never intimidated by any movie stars because at the end of the day they are just normal people. With that being said – I had a great time working on that film, it was exciting.
I assume working on several of the Harry Potter movies were calmer, in terms of fewer dare devilish stunts compared to the more grim manoeuvres that you usually do?
I think every job is as risky as the other. I did perform some stunts in Harry Potter – while also looking after the actors and their safety, especially as they were attached to wires and were flying around in the air on broomsticks. Even though they may have seemed less intense there was still a big responsibility.
Do you have a favourite type of stunt?
I love any vehicular stunts. I think that’s what I specialise in, it’s my forte.
Fast & Furious 6 is available on Blu-ray™ and DVD with Ultraviolet™ and digital download.Tagged in: Fast & Furious 6, harry potter, Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, vin diesel, World War Z
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