Vickers is one of Hollywood's leading stunt co-ordinators
and martial arts experts. He's worked on TV shows including
SeaQuest DSV, Alias and Angel as well as movies
including Spiderman, Titan A.E and Equilibrium.
Rea chatted with him as Equilibrium
about to be released on DVD and Video...
Rea: How did you get involved in the TV and movie industry?
Vickers: I've been a martial artist for more than three decades
and I'm a fourth degree black belt in Japanese Gokui and I
have black belts in several other styles of martial arts.
That's what originally brought me in to film work - I began
training actors how to fight for film. That eventually led
me into doubling for actors fighting for film.
How much freedom are you given to create the fight sequences?
I'm always given freedom to develop and choreograph the fights
and I'm given the parameters, or the geography within, which
I need to create the fight within. But as far as the fight
itself, I always have freedom to choreograph the fight the
way I see it.
Which do you derive the most satisfaction from? Choreographing
the fights and watching someone else take the falls, or doing
the action yourself?
I also direct the action, so as a second unit director at
this stage in my career it is certainly more satisfying for
me to create the action and then put it on film. There was
a time when being in front of the camera was the goal, but
I've moved on to the next stage.
CGI is encroaching further and further into crafted arts within
the movie industry - there are certainly not as many model
makers around today as there used to be - can you foresee
a point in the future where the use of CGI will mean that
a stuntman is no longer necessary?
At the moment no. It's very much a marriage of the two. And
I believe, to a certain extent, that it always will be because
at this stage of CGI it still doesn't look real and I don't
believe that CGI will ever take the place of real stunts -
Equilibrium is about to be released on DVD in the UK.
How did you get involved with the project.
I was brought on board by the producer at which point I met
with the director, who was also the writer, and we talked
at length about the story. He told me what he wanted to do
on a martial arts level. He set me the challenge to develop
sequences that had not been done before on film. We developed
a mindset where we were using weapons, like guns, as extensions
of the human body. This is basically the philosophy in the
martial arts where weapons, be they throwing stars or swords,
are strictly an extension of oneself.
How realistic was the end result? Is it feasible that one
man could do all the moves that Preston does in the movie?
That's an interesting question and theoretically if someone
was intensely trained, as the clerics were from childhood,
to be able to manipulate a weapon so that it was an extension
of themselves - in theory I would like to say that it just
might be possible.
idea behind Gun Kata [which is the style of martial arts developed
for the movie] was taken from true martial art concepts in
that if one could learn the Gun Kata to it's fullest potential
defending yourself in any situation could and would be realised.
As opposed to traditional weaponry, such as we used in the
sword sequences, guns were used in a similar martial arts
manner. They were used as extensions of ourselves, which is
the concept within the martial arts of all weapons. When learning
the use of any weapon within the martial arts, it is taught
in the same manner as hand to hand fighting skills. Whether
it be a sword, bo staff, escrima sticks, tonfa's or any other
weapon they, or it, become extensions of your body and therefore
manipulated in the same fluid natural way we would use our
hands, elbows, feet, knees, etc. The choreography of all the
action was based completely on true concepts of traditional
martial arts. The Gun Kata and afterwards the use of that
training within the film brought weapons training to a new
level which has never been seen before Equilibrium.
backlash has been that some of our audience truly believes
the Gun Kata is a true martial arts form which could be learned
when in fact, while the concept is based in traditional martial
arts, the Kata itself is fictional.
me, it is just on that edge of believability. There are groups
out there that have begun practising this way and are looking
into the possibility of it being real. This is not something
that I would promote in training, but I would imagine in theory
that with a lifelong training that you could become proficient
in the use of any weapon.
I also understand there was no wire work used in the fighting
sequences. Was this something that you consciously wanted
Yes, absolutely. I am not a big fan of wire work unless the
script is trying to go beyond what we perceive as "real".
We use wire work in certain aspects of film work to enhance
the performance. In movies like The Matrix, X-Men
and Spiderman we are trying to suspend reality so the
use of wire work in those types of film is understandable.
In a film like Equilibrium, we are not trying to suspend
reality to that degree.
With movie makers constantly trying to visually impress audiences
with never-before-seen stunt work is there much more that
can be achieved to keep audiences going "Wow!"?
Certainly now, right at this moment in time, audiences are
more aware of a lot of what is going on. It has gone overboard.
I think we need to go back a little bit. I don't think audiences
are going "Wow!" so much these days. There going:
"God! This is a little too much." I think we need
to throttle back a little and do more films like, outside
The Bourne Identity. The fights in that movie were
just great - they were very believable. And audiences still
walked away and went: "Wow! That guy was amazing."
Are there any stunts that haven't been done yet that you would
love to have a go at?
That's a loaded question [laughs]. For the most part my belief
is that just about everything has been done. It's the way
that you do it and the way that you shoot it that makes it
different. There are things out there, and I can speak from
my experience on Equilibrium, that we did do some choreography
using weapons differently than they have ever been done before
on film. And I think that's the challenge.
Are there any stunts that you've seen that you wish you'd
been involved with?
Too many. There are different car chases and different fight,
explosion and fire sequences in the stunt world. I'd have
to go down a list of things like... the car chase in The
French Connection - I'd have loved to have been involved
with that. It's a multifaceted question. There is no stunt
that I wouldn't be involved with. This is what my job description
is. I've done ever facet of the stunt business and there's
nothing about it which I think should be excluded.
What projects are you working on at the moment? And what of
I'm currently in the middle of three different projects. I'm
doing CSI: Miami for CBS, MGM Television's She Spies
and Warner Brothers' Wanda at Large. So I'm keeping
busy. I'm actually living the dream. I'm a fight choreographer,
stunt co-ordinator, second unit director and I'm having fun
right now. But somewhere down the road, given the opportunity
and the right script I would love to direct first unit. But
I will always be involved in the action. I will always be
involved with that aspect of the film industry.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to Sally Young at CBC
is available to buy from Momentum
06 October 2003 RRP
£17.99 (DVD) and RRP £12.99 (Video)
the DVD for £12.59 by clicking here
Buy the Video for £10.39 by clicking here
more information on Gun Kata check out this fantastic Equilibrium