Posted by Julie on
Kia Ora Friends,
This week I had the opportunity to meet with Aragorn’s Stunt Double Kirk Maxwell!
He graciously gave me an hour and a half of his time. I asked as many questions as I could, regarding his time and work on The Lord of the Rings movie Trilogies.
Here are some snippets of our meeting. For those of you keen to meet Kirk in person and hear his amazing stories, book our August or September 2018 Lord of the Ring Tours where he will be a special guest.
What roles did you play?
“Aragorn, Rohirrim, Gondorian, Orcs and Uruk Hai”
What was your main role?
“I started out as one of the stunt performers then got chosen to be the Aragorn's stunt double, then I became the Assitant Sword Master to Bob Anderson. Then for the pick ups after principal photography was completed I came back as the NZ Stunt Coordinator and choreographed the Stunt sequences and all the fight scenes and was Stunt Double for Aragorn.”
“After we had run through each scene a couple of times Viggo would then step in as Aragorn and shoot the scene. Viggo was a very quick study and famous for doing one take. The director would always want another take though for safety.”
How dangerous were they?
“It was my job to put together the fight scenes, isolate the hazards and find ways of delivering the scene with minimal calculated risks. I was aware and concerned with the safety of the Stunt team and the actors that would follow in our footsteps. The environment of each location was very challenging.”
Do you have a favourite location or stunt?
“I enjoyed all of the fight scenes. I have a martial arts background and enjoyed the physicality of the challenge. Doing fight scenes is like performing a very aggressive dance and when the timing clicks it’s very energizing and rewarding. Bob Anderson taught me that every fight scene is like a conversation between two swords”
What was it like working with Viggo?
“It was great, I learned so much. Viggo was a very physical person, had no fear and totally absorbed his character. He threw himself into everything 110%. He got on well with the Stunt team and was one of us. He also did many acts of random kindness that his fellow crew appreciated.”
What was sword mastery like and working with Bob Anderson?
“Yes Bob was a very good drill Sargent. He was a legend… he was a PT instructor for in the British Army, an ex Olympic Fencing coach and he started his career as a stunt double for Errol Flynn back in the day. His credit list was amazing…Bond, ZORRO, LOTR, Pirates of the Caribbean etc..
After he left the project I took over Bobs duties of fight choreography and training our actors”
My LEGIT question would be more like "what was the best part of working on LOTR" or "What advice would you give someone who wants to get into stunt work?”
“The best part is the people, we were a family. I recommend you build a base: skills, body work, fighting, know your rigging and be responsible for your own safety plan and calculate risks.”
I would love to know which stunt from the LOTR he is most proud of. ‘Stunties’ don't often get the spotlight, much respect to him!
“Everything! Especially the creative expression of choreographing the sword fighting sequences. I was very fortunate to be in the position of Doubling for Viggo, it’s a part of my history I will always cherish.”
Did he feel left out when Liv demanded on kissing Viggo, and not the stunt double? I read that long ago ....
“No, not at all. I would have been too shy, that’s the actors job.”
Viggo as a prankster: Okay, then what was Viggo's best prank on him? ;)
“Viggo had a very dry sense of humour, sometimes you didn’t know if he was serious or just having a laugh. He was very laid back, he would walk around Cuba Street (Wellington) in bare feet. He would go fishing and ride his horse as much as possible. He was a very accomplished rider. He did however develop a thing of head butting the fellow Stunt team members at social gatherings….there were plenty of sore heads. Enough said…”
I remember Bob Anderson mentioning on one of the DVD’s that Viggo was a natural with sword work. Did Viggo do all his sword stunts, or did the stunt double do some of them (which ones, if so?)
“Viggo was a very quick study. The scene on Amon Hen where Aragorn takes on 30 Uruk hai, we had practiced that for 6 weeks. Viggo had two weeks and got it right in one take. It was a vicious and aggressive battle, Viggo hit every member and bent 2 swords.”
What was the most difficult stunt that you did?
“Each had its own difficulty either by way of location, rigging, falling, fighting etc. Helms Deep would have been the most challenging though due to everything being shot at night in the rain..it was an exhausting time for everyone involved.”
Did he have any accidents and near misses like Viggo Mortensen did?
“Yes at Helms Deep I was on the ladder with another stunt performer who was the Arwen stunt double, and on one of the rehearsals the ladder went the wrong way and hit the ground hard. This is why the rehearsal process is vital to getting the shot right.”
Did he adopt any of Viggo's method acting ideas to stay in character at all times? To ensure continuity?
“Yes, I would practice his movements and mannerisms, using them in his roles.”
What other movies has he been involved in since LOTR?
“Pirates of the Caribbean, I was one of Jonny Depp’s Stunt Doubles and also Will Turner for Orlando plus being a Pirate and a stunt double for one of the digital characters.”