Monday, December 28, 2009

Jump It, Crash It, Burn It, Blow It Up

Grant Page, the legendary Australian stuntman, was sitting at home in early 1997, wondering what crazy thing someone would be willing to pay him to do next. The phone rang. It was Damon Albarn from Blur. The band was on tour in Europe, they had to come with a video for the new single M.O.R. and they'd recently come across the DVD of Grant Page's 1970s stunt doco Danger Freaks. They'd loved it and they now wanted to give Page more than $200,000 to put together a stunt-packed video clip. He had less than a month to conceive it, shoot it, edit it and deliver it to MTV.

From the Grant Page biography, Man On Fire : A Stunt Of A Life (Allen & Unwin, 2009) :
The scenario was simple. We were a group escaping with a whole load of money and kept facing all sorts of dangerous situations as we fled. It was, of course, just an excused for us to perform lots of stunts that were connected by a soundtrack and a loose narrative.

We had one of the biggest cranes on top of a big new building in the city - it was huge, hundreds of feet high - and all four of us, as the four members of the band, had to grab hold of it and swing off the building, right out over the city, then back down until we landed on the truck.

(shooting the Blur video) was very exciting, very daring and, ultimately, very dangerous. It was not without mushaps either, including the one where my son Gulliver abseiled down the Harbour Bridge, landed on me and broke his kneecap.

Because we were basically in charge of the shoot, I was able to do a few stunts that I'd always wanted to, of of which was a ground-to-plane transfer. Actually it turned out to be a water-to-plane transfer.
Here's the video :

The Man On Fire biography is a pretty good read. A lot of it reads like transcripts of interviews with Page, and it can be a bit all over the place, but he's got some incredible stories of Australian movie and TV history to tell from over 35 years of crashing cars, throwing himself off cliffs, setting himself on fire and riding motorcycles off waterfalls. All without breaking a bone, on set.

A best-of compilation of Page's work :