Hollywood Bulldogs — meet the brave stuntmen who risked their lives to entertain us

Hollywood Bulldogs meets the stuntman who doubled for Roger Moore's 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me.
Hollywood Bulldogs meets the stuntman who doubled for Roger Moore's 007 in The Spy Who Loved Me. (Image credit: Alamy)

Hollywood Bulldogs on BritBox is a big telly and movie nostalgia trip, but it’s not about the main stars playing heroes such as 007 and Indiana Jones. It focuses on the unknown stunt men who made stars like Roger Moore and Harrison Ford look like spectacular action heroes! 

Remember all those thrill-packed movies and TV shows from the 1960s to the 1980s well before the days of CGI? They had some truly amazing action sequences, and all were created using brave stuntmen who risked their lives to keep us entertained! BritBox documentary Hollywood Bulldogs is narrated by Ray Winstone and looks at the history of the stuntman.

"These were the unsung heroes of cinema, paid to make the stars look heroic and fearless," explains Ray. "No one is sure when it all began, but in 1908 an acrobat was paid to jump off a cliff for the silent movie The Count of Monte Cristo and so this new occupation was probably born then!"

But what qualities does a person need to get into the stunt game? This one-off show meets many retired British stuntmen to find out, with one Richard Hammat revealing: "I think you’ve got to be really stupid in some respects, but know your own mentality and physical abilities. Sometimes you wouldn’t realise how dangerous the stunts were until after you did them!"

Another famous stunt man Vic Armstrong explains: "You have to do the exact opposite of everything your instincts tell you, like fall off a horse, jump out of a plane, or zig zag your car dangerously between others. Naturally, every fibre in your body would stop you doing these things."

'Hollywood Bulldogs' hears from Bond double Vic Armstrong.

Hollywood Bulldogs hears from Bond double Vic Armstrong. (Image credit: BritBox)

Hollywood Bulldogs release date

Hollywood Bulldogs originally launched streaming service BritBox in the UK from Thursday June 24 2021. It's 106 minutes long.

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Hollywood Bulldogs on BritBox trailer

Yes a Hollywood Bulldogs trailer has just been released by BritBox, with clips from Bond movies, Indiana Jones and more, with all the stuntmen in the show featured. Enjoy the trailer right here...

How the stuntmen got started

As Hollywood Bulldogs will show, the route into the the stunt business was pretty ad hoc. Vic Armstrong had been working at a stables from which race horses were borrowed for the 1966 film Arabesque, and the production team needed skilled riders for chase scenes. Meanwhile, Richard Hammat was a helicopter engineer when he met The Avengers star Patrick McGoohan in a pub near Elstree Studios, who somehow persuaded him to get into stunts for the better money. 

Rocky Taylor, a cockney lad skilled a fighting and judo, plus crashing cars spectacularly, was snapped up for TV series such as The Saint and the Avengers. "I first got a part as a thug in the Avengers," says Rocky, who you see being karate-chopped by Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel. "They liked what they saw and I then got the job as John Steed’s double,. That gave me five years work on the Avengers which was my big breakthrough."

Hollywood Bulldogs — the movie years

After all their heroics in other hit TV shows of the 1960s such as The Saint and Champions, many stuntmen were looking for bigger and better offers in the 1970s and 80s, and that meant the movies. They got big money for putting their lives in danger in blockbusters such as the James Bond films, Alien, Indiana Jones trilogy, Star Wars and Superman

While high-paying, the jobs were few and far between and that meant battles between the stuntmen. "It was a competitive business and if you didn’t work you didn’t eat, so it was cutthroat, as you were all fighting for the same jobs, and you’d do most stunts asked of you," explains Vic Armstrong, who worked on everything from Bond movies You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me to Raiders of the Lost Ark. "Everyone wanted to work on a Bond movie as it's the epitome of a stunt film, the Holy Grail of stunts! I got three Bonds under my belt doubling for Roger Moore in two of them! My street cred was sky high back then!"

Filming the Bond movies was lucrative especially with the large number of stunt extras being blown up and dying in spectacular fashion, and they could of course be used over and over again for various stunts. "I was killed about seven times in different outfits on The Spy Who Loved Me, and one of them was a huge fall from a submarine," laughs Greg Powell, son of heavyweight boxer turned stuntman ‘Gnosher’ Powell. 

Rocky Taylor actually travelled to India to double for 007 in 1983 film Octopussy. "Roger Moore didn’t run around very well by then so I became Roger Moore running around the jungle, diving around and swinging from a rope. I was also in a three-wheeled vehicle as it jumped over a camel! After this work finished in India, I was immediately called out to the Bahamas to work with Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again. In the opening scene Bond strangles me, then I’m killed a further five times in that film! I had lots to do."

'Hollywood Bulldogs' spills the stunt secrets behind The Spy Who Loved Me.

Hollywood Bulldogs spills the stunt secrets behind The Spy Who Loved Me and other blockbuster movies. (Image credit: Alamy)
Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.