Martin Grace: Roger Moore's stunt double in the James Bond films

Friday 12 February 2010 01:00

Performing as Roger Moore's stunt double in the James Bond films brought Martin Grace respect throughout the industry – but, because of the nature of his job, he was never a "star". He also did stunts for some of the early Cadbury's Milk Tray commercials.

Grace first stood in for Moore in the 1977 picture The Spy Who Loved Me, driving a Lotus Esprit through the winding streets of Sardinia in a furious chase – with the express instruction that the car had to be returned to its manufacturer intact. He followed this with Bond's fight with the steel-jawed henchman Jaws on top of a cablecar 1,300 feet above ground in Rio de Janeiro in Moonraker (1979). The action continued in the air in For Your Eyes Only (1981), with Grace hanging on to the outside of a remote-controlled helicopter for the pre-title sequence. Later, in Moore's final Bond film, A View to a Kill (1985), the stunt performer did more aerial acrobatics, on the Eiffel Tower and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.

But during Octopussy (1983) a complicated stunt involving a train and a car went horribly wrong while shooting on the Nene Valley railway. A helicopter was to shoot the action from the air, but communication was lost between Grace, the pilot, the train driver and the rest of the stunt team, and Grace smashed into a wall, fracturing his pelvis and damaging his thigh.

"The impact was so lightning fast that I only realised that I had hit something when I found I was hanging prone for dear life on the side of the train!" he recalled. "Adrenalin was pumping through my arms like never before. I looked down and saw my trouser leg had been ripped off and saw my thigh bone through the gash in my thigh muscle."

Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1942, Grace attended Kilkenny College. He then moved to England, joined boxing, weight-lifting, wrestling and fencing clubs, and worked at Butlin's.

He then trained as an actor at the Mountview Theatre School, in London, and joined a stunt agency. His first jobs were in commercials, such as the Cadbury's Milk Tray campaign, in which he jumped from a bridge on to a train, was lifted from a sports car and dropped on a hotel roof and, finally, jumped from a cliff on to a moving truck, before diving into a lake to deliver the chocolates to a woman on a boat.

His first film was the television spin-off Dr Who and the Daleks (1965). Like many stunt performers, he was cast in a role that demanded his special skills, as he was in pictures such as Who Dares Wins (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), and television programmes that included The Onedin Line (1972) and The Protectors (1973).

In You Only Live Twice (1967), starring the screen's original Bond, Sean Connery, Grace was one of a host of stunt performers taking part in the climactic volcano-eruption scene where Bond gives an elite ninja force access to the villain Blofeld's secret base. Grace underwent four weeks of intensive training – scaling nets, sliding down ropes and practising trampoline "explosions" – before the sequence was shot.

In 1969, he was Oliver Reed's fencing double in The Assassination Bureau. He fought with Anthony Hopkins in When Eight Bells Toll (1971), and did stunts with Kirk Douglas in To Catch a Spy (1971), after seven months out of action as a result of breaking his neck in Scrooge (1970).

Grace appeared in a show that toured Scandinavia in 1974 and starred the Norwegian stunt performer Arne Berg. The experience of doing six performances a week that required high falls, car crashes, motorcycle jumps, fights and tunnels of fire stood him in good stead when he was asked to double for Roger Moore in five Bond films. He also doubled for Richard Kiel, as the villain Jaws, in both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).

This also led Grace to become Moore's stunt double in some of the star's other films – The Wild Geese (1978), Escape to Athena (1979), North Sea Hijack (1979), The Sea Wolves (1980) and The Naked Face (1984). Also among the 70-plus films in which he did stunt work were Superman (1978), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Brazil (1985), King Arthur (2004), Ella Enchanted (2004) and The Number 23 (2007). He had extra responsibility, as stunt co-ordinator, on pictures such as High Spirits (1988), Erik the Viking (1989), Nuns on the Run (1990), Patriot Games (1992) and Angela's Ashes (1999).

In 1978, the Rank Organisation chose Grace to be its fifth famous gong-beater, but in the end his sequence was consigned to the cutting room floor. A keen cyclist, Grace fractured his pelvis in an accident last year. He returned to hospital after developing breathing problems at his home in Spain and died after suffering an aneurysm.

Anthony Hayward

Martin Ryan Grace, actor and stunt performer and co-ordinator: born Kilkenny, Ireland 12 September 1942; twice married; died Spain 27 January 2010.

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