THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD legendary stunt coordinator Greg Powell exclusive interview

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD legendary stunt coordinator Greg Powell exclusive interview

Great action movies live or die based on the talented and highly-skilled stuntmen who pull off their trickiest moments. Stunt coordinator Greg Powell is one of the premiere experts in his field, coming from an incredible pedigree and stunt family started by his father Nosher Powell back in the 1940s. If you look at Greg’s IMDd credits, it’s incredibly impressive to see all the productions he’s been a part of. I was already familiar with his name because of my somewhat obsessive interest in the James Bond franchise, and the great featurettes on those Blu-rays that appropriately put the stuntmen in the spotlight. One of Greg Powell’s most recent projects is the action/comedy THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD, now available on Blu-ray and DVD. I had a chance to do a short but candid interview with Greg, which you can read below. I’m hoping this will be the first of more with him, as honestly, I could talk to this guy for HOURS. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to enter our contest where you could win the movie on Blu-ray, we’re extending the deadline until December 5th.

Hi Greg, thanks for taking time to talk to us, and especially for this film. It’s one of my favorites of the year. We don’t as many action comedies as we used to. I want to start by asking a bit about your legacy. You began in 1970, doing stunts, but your father Nosher had been in the business since the 40s. Obviously it’s a life you were born into, but what prompted those earliest days of stunt work?

Greg: I was taken on the Gypsy Camp set of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE by my father. I was only 8 years of age and spent the night as a tea boy for the stuntmen, which I enjoyed as I didn’t have to go to school the next day. I knew from then on that was what I wanted to do… stuntman not tea boy.  Ha-ha.

Your family has had quite a legacy in this industry. Does the quality of a film or the players involved ever factor into how you approach a job, as it’s a potential reflection of the family name? Or do you look at every stunt job somewhat equally?

Greg: Every job regardless of quality I approach exactly the same. I want to do a good job for everyone involved, and obviously for my reputation.

You worked on some iconic productions early in your career, everything from SUPERMAN, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, to name a few. Of your earliest memories, what was the best “getting into this business” moment that stays with you?

Greg: There’s so many, but my particular favorite was working with Neil Jordan and Tom Cruise on INTERVIEW
WITH THE VAMPIRE, the crypt scene when the corpses were set alight and flying out of the coffins.

Your family has strong ties with that James Bond franchise, something that’s particularly fascinating to me, and I know you’ve worked on multiple productions with Roger Moore. Those stunts are truly iconic and almost magical. How meaningful was it for you to be involved with those productions, especially now that they’re so beloved?

Greg: It meant so much for me to be able to work on the Bonds, especially in that my father and uncle had been
involved for the very first film. A member of the Powell family has been involved in every Bond film – Father, Uncle, Brother and now my daughter Tilly is carrying on the family tradition.

I’m sure this is like asking someone to name their favorite child, but do you have a favorite career stunt or highlight moment, something that stands above everything else?

Greg: Having been in the industry a few years I think the best moment for me was when the UK’S biggest stunt coordinator at that time, Bob Simmons, called me to work on THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, which was my first Bond film. He then took me South Africa to work on THE WILD GEESE.

You began a sort of second phase of your career being a stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director. Was that transition a bit daunting or in some ways freeing?

Greg: I actually started coordinating in 1985 and was given the opportunity by a producer named Nigel Wooll, which I have always been thankful for. The Film was ELENI directed by Peter Yates. It wasn’t daunting at all, a very exciting phase in my life.

How do you feel Hollywood has changed through the decades, when it comes to stunt work? Obviously films are safer now, but what’s been some of the biggest or most noticeable changes behind the scenes?

Greg: TOO MUCH CGI, nothing can compare to live action – which you can see the difference with in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. Some films that are being released now, it’s like watching a video game.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD was tremendous fun. But I also imagine technically it’s a challenging film to shoot. With so many moving parts and action cues, how do you approach a movie like that in the pre-production stage?

Greg: A lot of planning and discussions beforehand with the director.  Getting the best team around you is
imperative, people you can trust 100 percent to do the job.

What was it like collaborating with Patrick Hughes, the director? He’s obviously no stranger to the world of action moviemaking.

Greg: Patrick is a stunt coordinator’s dream to work with. He thinks like a stuntman which makes the job so much easier! And best of all, he has become my cigar buddy.

And how important is it having actors who understand the process of how stunts work and need to be staged? Do Ryan and Sam “get” that, considering the both have had plenty experience with it?

Greg: Extremely important that actors understand the process. We are here to make them look as good as possible, but once again with Ryan and Sam, it’s a dream to work with actors like them. Having worked with Ryan previously I knew his capabilities, which are second to none.

What was the most challenging sequence? I know I have some favorite moments.

Greg: Most challenging sequence – The boat, car, motorbike chase in Amsterdam. Thousands of people around
watching every day, Narrow streets and canals with fast boats annoying a lot of the canal residents. Getting the timing right was crucial.

And how was it shooting in Holland and The Netherlands? Do exotic locales like that add to the “fun” of a project like this?

Greg: Amsterdam is a great city, amazing food and people, and one of my favorite locations.

What was your experience like working with Salma Hayek? She has some great “tough girl” moments here, and really sells it.

Greg: Salma’s fight scene was one of the funniest scenes in the film for me, she worked really hard to achieve
that sequence. Very nice lady to work with.

At this point in your career, I imagine you’ve built up a nice level of trust with your co-workers. How important is it that everyone is on the same page, and knows you are on top of what you’re doing,

Greg: It’s everything to be on the same page. I try and use the same people on each film, but it depends what is
required for that particular film – e.g. Horses, cars or fight. Some of the performers I have worked with for
over 20 years so they know exactly what I’m looking to achieve, which makes my job much easier. Obviously a lot
of new blood coming into the business, so each film you recruit more on the team.

What’s up next for you? And more importantly, what does a man like yourself do with your time off?

Greg: Next is ANGEL HAS FALLEN with Gerard Butler, who I worked with on PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, so looking forward to that. Then off to Bollywood where I have worked several times over the last few years. When not working I spend my days training horses with my longtime friend Dane Rawlins, an international dressage trainer/rider. And a nice break on the Amalfi coast with my wife.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.