James Bamford Interview, The Man Behind Fight Scenes of the Arrow
Today I am really glad to talk to the man responsible for so much of Arrow‘s stunt and fight choreography and generally regarded as a big part of the show’s success – James “Bam Bam” Bamford. James won a Leo Award in 2013 for Best Stunt Co-ordination for Halo 4 TV movie, and was nominated in 2010 for Best Stunt Coordination for the Stargate Universe TV Series.
Budomate: Where does the nickname Bam-Bam come from?
James: My last name “Bam”-ford. Coming from a martial arts background, it kind of just happened one day on set, a director couldn’t remember my name and it became, bring that “Bam-Bam” guy over here.
Budomate: You are an expert in various forms of martial arts, could you please tell us when you started and which styles you practise except Hollywood-Fu of cause?
James: First of all, I don’t see anyone in the world as an “expert” in any martial art. We are all continually learning. I’m still learning and I began training at 8-9 years old. I began in various styles of Karate, and then added Muay Thai, Escrima, Boxing, and kept adding as I went, to name a few.
Budomate: You have over 150 stunt credits on IMDB which one was the most dangerous so far?
James: The most dangerous stunt is the one you aren’t paying attention to while performing, luckily I’ve been paying attention. I’ve had both of my hips replaced by this point, and those were from accumulated stunts and impact over the years, nothing in particular. The doctor did suggest that I’d broken my hips many times, but I had no idea. I have a rather high pain threshold, as all stunt performers must to survive in this career.
Budomate: In 2004 you worked as a second unit director on Stargate Antantis and now as a director of two episodes of the most popular TV shows nowadays, how does it feel?
James: Directing is an extension of stunt coordinating, they are very similar in nature. I originally wanted to direct to show off the action in its proper light as only a designer of action can. Having been an actor early in my life, and career I decided directing the actors within dramatic scenes would also be a challenge I was up for.
Budomate: You started as a stuntman in MANTIS tv series in 1994, was it hard to break through into the movies in 90s?
James: My first stunt was on the Cobra TV series actually, Michael Dudikoff’s stunt double, more like 91. Yes, it was a closed shop, I had a skill set and look that the industry needed so I worked. I was fortunate enough to keep learning and working right up until this day.
Budomate: You worked as a stunt double for Michael Biehn, Willian Baldwin and Michael Dudikoff, did it help you to learn movie production skills?
James: I studied the art for many years and it was time to put that study to the test. Aside from shadowing specific directors through time, I’ve spent over 70,000 hours on film sets if you don’t absorb some of the craft after that amount of time you just aren’t paying attention. I’m paying attention. I love what I do as a stuntman and coordinator and that extends to directing as well.
I enjoyed my time with each, and every one of them. Mostly William Baldwin since the film I doubled him on was shot in Jamaica which I’ve returned to 8 times since.
Budomate: When the first time you had a chance to try yourself as a stunt coordinator?
James: I played as a “cover” coordinator on such TV shows as X-Files where I was Fox Mulder’s stunt double, and Deadman’s Gun where I worked as a stunt performer on a regular basis until the existing stunt coordinators trusted me enough to pass me the reigns when the needed a break. These would only be for days at a day here and there.
Budomate: Is there a difference in working as a stunt coordinator on TV series and in a full-lenght movie?
James: Yes, two differences – Time and Money. TV has less of both.
Budomate: Talking about Arrow, which episode is your favourite one and which one requested a lot of afford to film?
James: My favorite is the first one I directed, 4.07 “Brotherhood”. I’m very proud of the stunt team and the episode period.
Budomate: Stephen Amell is in a perfect shape with army of fans now, was it hard to work with him in the beginning and how your work changed with years?
James: Stephen is a natural athlete who is also a hard worker. He can learn a fight sequence in about 10 minutes. Since we don’t have the time for him to rehearse more then that, his talent comes in handy. He is not a trained martial artist, yet his “film-fu” is crisp.
Budomate: You have a wonderful cast of ladies such as Katie Cassidy, Willa Holland, Caity Lotz and Katrina Law, which one was the easiest in rehearsal and has a very good potential to become the action star?
James: Every one of our ladies is a potential action star.
Budomate: Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson completely stole the show, don’t you think?
James: Manu is an excellent bad guy for sure.
Budomate: In the last season you have Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk who is one of the most underrated actors now. Was it easy to work with him?
James: Neal is an unbelievable professional. He is a treat as an actor, and as a friend.
Budomate: Who do you think is the baddest villain so far – Slade Wilson, Ra’s al Ghul or Damien Darhk?
James: Damien Darhk can do things that we’ve never seen the others do. He’s capable of incredible magical destruction. He’s far more dangerous on a global scale than the others.
Budomate: You worked with Michael Jai White who is the most accomplished martial artist nowadays, I suppose it was very easy to work with him?
James: Michael Jai White is of course a legend in the martial arts film community. He is easy to work with as his talent is smooth and seamless on set. TV schedules make it difficult to rehearse with actors from out of town so we are very fortunate when a martial artist of his caliber shows up for us.
Budomate: What is the secret of Arrow popularity?
James: Arrow tries to be true unto itself, within the comic book TV show realm we try to keep as grounded as we can (as grounded as a comic book TV show is allowed to be). Magic aside. Our action is practical, and skill based, we don’t rely on visual FX as much as most super powered hero shows, so we are proud of that.
I can’t speak for the fans, but I love the dark and gritty. I’m a huge Soprano’s fan. The grittier, the better. I love the characters within Arrow and just how tortured they can be. I love what we manage to pull off on a weekly basis on a tighter then other shows schedule with the quality we manage to keep.
Budomate: Do you have any plans for directing your own movie?
James: Directing is something which I will continue to pursue, we’ll see where it takes me.
Budomate: And at the end of our short interview my traditional question: Which three martial arts movies you can call a classic?
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