Britain's oldest stuntman: 'The moment I nearly died'

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Rocky Taylor

Rocky Taylor is Britain’s oldest stuntman at 74 (Image: NC)

Despite having 14 Bond films, the Indiana Jones movies and Harry Potter blockbusters on his CV, Britain’s oldest stuntman has generally only suffered a few “lumps and bumps”. But he can still vividly remember the one exception – a leap from a burning tower block for Death Wish 3 which nearly cost him his life. Rocky, 74, reflects on this brush with death in his autobiography, Jump Rocky Jump. He recalls how the wellplanned stunt was made even more dangerous by the 1985 film’s controversial director, Michael Winner. Rocky says: “I can remember Winner saying to the special effects guy as I went up, ‘Don’t make it like the one last week, I want it to be nice and big’. So I think they turned the gas up and it was supposed to flitter around the edge of the building, four or five feet high, but they lit the flames and they were 17ft high and 20ft deep. I thought, ‘This is not in the script, it has gone wrong’, and it was getting so hot, I couldn’t breathe. I could hear Winner saying, ‘Go Rocky, go.” 

With the escape ladder out of reach and the building falling down around him, Rocky was forced to leap through the wall of fire, landing on the edge of a mattress and hitting the ground, breaking his pelvis and back.

The number of shows that appeared He spent 10 weeks in hospital and needed more than a year of physiotherapy to recover, but never once considered a less dangerous career path.

Rocky, who specialises in car rolls and horse stunts, holds three Guinness World Records. He is also the only man to double for two Bonds in the same year – as Sir Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again and as Sir Roger Moore in Octopussy, both in 1983.

However, he was impressed by the stunt ability of another Bond, Pierce Brosnan.

Rocky Taylor

Rocky nearly died jumping from a burning building (Image: NC)

“He knew how to throw a punch and fight,” Rocky said. It is for this reason that he names Brosnan and Connery – who he also doubled for in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and in the Highlander films – as his favourite Bonds, adding: “I always thought Pierce had more Bond films in him.”

Rocky is also full of praise for Tom Cruise, who he worked with on the Mission: Impossible series.

“He is the exception to the rule of actors not doing their own stunts,” he said. “He has a lot of bottle and athleticism, and gets the right people around him so it is safe.”

Father of three Rocky, who lives in Surrey, also holds records for being the oldest stuntman and for rolling a car through the biggest glass structure – a 20ft by 20ft pane at London’s O2.

He set this up for the Remember a Charity campaign and in 2011, he also recreated the Death Wish 3 leap for them – escaping unscathed this time.

Rocky Taylor/ Sean Connery

The stuntman as Sean Connery in Highlander (Image: NC)

Rocky – whose favourite stunt was driving a car down the Cresta toboggan run in St Moritz, Switzerland, when he doubled as Peter Cook in Monte Carlo Or Bust! in 1969 – started stunt work aged 16.

His father, Larry Taylor, was also an actor and stuntman, but Rocky quickly impressed producers after teaching Sir Cliff Richard a few judo moves for the film,TheYoung Ones in 1961.

“I was a black belt in judo and Cliff needed to learn some judo for a scene, so I went to Elstree Studios and taught him some stuff,” Rocky says.

“We got on well so they asked me if I wanted to fight opposite him in the film, which I did.”

During the next five years, he learned on the job for TV show The Avengers, where he doubled for John Steed, the character played by actor Patrick Macnee.

Rocky Taylor

Taylor recovering after breaking his back and pelvis on the set of Death Wish 3 (Image: NC)

“I had to learn to ride motorbikes and horses, and to fight. I learned by making mistakes,” Rocky says. The stuntman has recently beaten prostate cancer and is looking forward to working on the next Bond film, starring Daniel Craig, as a stunt co-ordinator.

He says: “A lot of people are in awe of stuntmen but for me, it was just a way to earn a living – and it still is.”.

Jump Rocky Jump (£12.99) is published by Pegasus Publishers.

To order a copy, call the Express Bookshop with your card details on 01872 562310.

Alternatively, send a cheque or postal order made payable to The Express Bookshop to Rocky Taylor Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4WJ or visit expressbookshop.co.uk.

UK delivery is free.

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