Aussie stuntman on being Bond
Robbie Maddison. Picture: www.redbull-photofiles.com

Look very closely at Skyfall’s opening motorcycle chase scene and you might see an Aussie presence.

If you’re super observant, you may notice that Daniel Craig (aka James Bond) is not always Daniel Craig - he’s Australian stuntman Robbie Maddison.

You’re not meant to notice of course, because stunt doubles are a large part of the successful Bond formula.

So if you don’t notice Maddison standing in for Craig, the moviemakers have done their job properly.

Craig himself did the easier parts of a motorcycle chase through crowded Istanbul, but Maddison did all the dangerous stuff - because that’s what stuntmen are hired for.

It was the first foray into movies for the 31-year-old from Kiama on the NSW south coast, whose astonishing jump of the Arc de Triomphe replica in Las Vegas four years ago was shown live on ESPN, and has recorded more than five million YouTube views.

Maddison was originally turned down for the role, because he asked for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) industry rate.

But when the other guy hired to be Craig’s double turned out to be too heavyset to stand-in for the actor, Maddison got an urgent phone call.

"The stunt co-ordinator called on a Friday night and said `if you can do this, you’re going to save my arse’. Monday morning I was on my way to Turkey," Maddison said.

"They were in a huge rush and they needed someone with Daniel Craig’s dimensions and frame."

The opening chase scene involves three major motorcycle stunts by Maddison.

In one, he rides through a window and drops some five metres into a shopping bazaar.

The landing was a severe jolt for a man who’s used to big jumps, but usually lands on a ramp that’s been set at the appropriate angle to cushion the impact.

"It was an abrupt landing and I was only two-and-a-half months out of back surgery," Maddison says.

"I had to land uphill, which wasn’t great. I practised four times with a ramp and then did the real jump."

In another spectacular part of the chase, Maddison makes a jump between rooftops of about five metres.

"Rooftop to rooftop - it wasn’t so much the gap as slippery tyres," he explains. "When you’re riding on the rooftop it’s like trying to run across ice without shoes on.

"I did the stunt four times and crashed once."

Maddison refused to do another take, because he decided it was too dangerous.

"They aren’t big jumps compared to what I’m used to - but doing it without a helmet is something I’m not used to either," he says.

Maddison had to perform one other dangerous stunt, riding into an open car door.

"When the door snapped I crashed again," he says.

Maddison says he spent quite a bit of time with Craig back and forth between takes, and describes the latest 007 as a "humble" guy.

And when it comes to discerning the difference between Craig and Maddison in the opening scene of Skyfall, Maddison says it’s not too difficult.

The secret is that you see Craig in the tight shots, and Maddison in the wide shots.

"I’ve got a narrow head that’s long and his (Craig’s) is shorter and wider," Maddison explains.

Maddison, who is sponsored by Red Bull, has several non-movie stunts planned, but says his is ready to scale back the more dangerous work.

Married with a young son and living in southern California, where it’s easier to network with the stunt industry’s movers and shakers, he says he’s become aware of his own mortality.

"I’m looking for a safer future," he says.

Unless, that is, he’s asked to play Bond again.

The West Australian

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