The name Bobby Holland Hanton may not ring a bell. Even the face of the strapping spokesman for Dove Men+Care might not clue you into his incredible onscreen career. But this British gymnast has lived the dream of countless fanboys. As a hotly sought stuntman, Hanton has stepped into the boots, suits and capes of such superheroes as Batman, Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and James Bond. With San Diego Comic Con about to kick off, we wanted to get to know the man behind some of modern superhero movies' most exhilarating moments, and learn how some of these mind-blowing stunts came together.
Thor, Thor: The Dark WorldI spoke on the phone with Bobby Holland Hanton while he was in the midst of production on Avengers: Age of Ultron at Shepperton Studios in London. As in Thor: The Dark World, he has been hired to stunt double for Chris Hemsworth's Thor. Hanton started doing Marvel stunt work in Captain America: The First Avenger. Later, he crossed paths with Hemsworth on Snow White and The Huntsman. Nowadays, Hanton's inclusion as Hemsworth's double is a part of the Aussie star's contract demands. The pair have collaborated on the Thor sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Heart of the Sea, a harrowing docudrama that demanded both he and Hemsworth quickly shed weight and muscle to play the starved sailor Owen Chase.
Hanton couldn't be happier about their ongoing collaboration saying of Hemsworth, "He’s fantastic at what he does and super physical. He’s an absolute pleasure to work with."
Captain America, Avengers: Age of UltronThor is not the only Avenger for whom Hanton doubles in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thanks to a schedule that didn't demand Chris Hemsworth be on set until later in the shoot, Hanton was called to South Korea to perform some stunts as Captain America. A non-disclosure contract with Marvel kept Hanton pretty tight-lipped on details about the wildly anticipated superhero sequel's stunt sequences. However, he did admit that the leaked video above of Captain America riding on top of a speeding truck--that is Hanton in action as Cap.
Green Lantern, Green LanternThough Hanton's been mainly a Marvel man of late, he's also donned the duds of some DC superheroes. In 2011, he was a stunt double for Ryan Reynolds' titular hero in Green Lantern. Recounting one of the more complex stunt scenes in which he was involved, he explained how green screen stand-ins were used in conjunction with practical effects.
Hanton said: "I remember when we did Green Lantern out in New Orleans. At the party scene, the helicopter crashes and comes through and takes out tables in a party. That was just a huge green shape of a helicopter on a track, that was on a ramp that kind of runs. I think that was running like 40 miles and hour. So something coming at you at that speed and you’re getting hit by it and jumping out of the way and stuff like that is. It can be pretty full on and you have to be on top of it. Stunt guys have to be very much awake and look out for each other and stuff like that. So, when you see kind of shots like that sometimes it can be a mechanical bull if you’d like to call it."
Batman & Bruce Wayne, The Dark Knight RisesDoubling for Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, Hanton filled in for two of Batman's darkest moments. The first was that iconic back break.
As you might imagine, such a key (and potentially dangerous) scene took a lot of preparation. Hanton explained an "up and down rig" was employed for the lifting and dropping. "The rigging team would come in and we’d figure out how we could make Bane lift Batman up, not look too easy, make it look as real as possible," Hanton said, "And that’s one thing that Nolan is very good at what he does. He wants everything to feel very, very real... So it’s our job to make it look as real as possible, but also not inhuman where Bane would never be able to do that." After all workshopping the stunt over a couple of weeks, the actual shooting of this scene came down to just three takes before Nolan and the stunt team were happy with the realistic-looking results.
Hanton also understandably takes great pride in another crushing moment for the hero of The Dark Knight Rises. That 100-foot high fall that Bruce Wayne suffers trying to escape that subterranean prison? That was Hanton too.
James Bond, Quantum SolaceRemarkably, Bobby Holland Hanton's entry into film was as James Bond. Or more specifically as Daniel Craig's double in Quantum Solace. This film famously included the above rooftop scene, of which Hanton is still very proud. "We’re 120, 130 feet up in the air," Hanton recalled, "So we were jumping across roofs in a beautiful location, fantastic scenery in Sienna in Italy. So that will always stand out."
Paving the way to his career in stunts was nearly two decades of gymnastics training, starting at age four. Hanton currently counts among his strongest skills stage combat, jumping, high falls, acrobatics, and somersaults. And looking through his filmography it's easy to see why. These abilities helped him through the five quite vigorous auditions for Quantum Solace that involved "a lot of rope work and acrobatics and stuff like that and parkour free running, jumping from object to object." Hanton reflects, "To go in at the top like that and work one of the best film teams in the world was just such an amazing learning curve for me."
Superman?Speaking to a guy who has had the chance to play everyone from Batman to Green Lantern, Captain America to Thor, and James Bond, I had to ask Hanton what superhero he still has on his wish list. His answer was simple: Superman.
"I think Superman has to be up there," Hanton confessed. "I’ve been so lucky to have done so many already, it shouldn’t even be mentioned. Sometimes you pinch yourself because it’s been some of the most iconic, but I think Superman would be up there for sure. I like the idea of Spider-Man but I think I’m a little bit too big for that, but certainly Superman would be great."
So far Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hasn't been in touch, but doing more DC movies isn't out of the question. Hanton admitted it's a "grey area" as far as exclusivity to Marvel. But essentially when Hanton's not already scheduled for a Chris Hemsworth vehicle, he's free to shop for other work. Asked if he'd ever consider playing Batman again, Hanton responded: "Never say never… I’d love to do it again if that opportunity came up, I think I’d jump at the chance."
To see more of Bobby Holland Hanton's stunts, click to the next page for his show reel.