Stunt Performer Spotlight: Adam Sewell
Tell us your story! Born in England, raised in Africa, moved to Spain for high school, then around Europe, 3 years in the Caribbean, 25 years in America next month. Started riding horses and practicing martial arts around age four. Two hours of compulsory sports every day during school in Africa got me somewhat kinesthetically developed. Moved back to London around age 19 with 50 Pounds (money, not weight!) in my pocket. Saw an ad in the paper for "stuntmen wanted for live shows" so I joined up and trained old school fights, ground pounding and wrestling moves, bed of nails, 30 mph car hits, then did a few live shows with the Pat Whelen Hell Drivers that lasted for a year or so until the group broke up. Also did some “action extra” work and took a bunch of advanced driving courses. Moved to America, straight to LA and trained with Johnny Miller and a few others and hustled almost every day, driving around LA in my ’73 Mercury when it was easy to get onto film sets and you could still sneak into the studio lots quite easily. Got into executive protection and fitness training so I could earn a living and pay for my stunt habit. I still do all three. Walked away from the stunt business for a while after a pretty bad experience with a stunt coordinator. I was done with the Hollywood thing (I’m a one-strike-and-you’re-out kinda bloke). Ran into a couple of stunt guys when I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and jumped back into the business. Mainly driving on commercials up here. What inspired you to become a stunt person?
Watched a lot of American TV shows back in the 80s living overseas. McGyver, 6 Million Dollar Man, The A-Team, The Fall Guy, etc. “I could do that...!" The movie HOOPER got me hooked but Hollywood was on the other side of the world.
What is your greatest skill as a stunt performer, is there a story behind it?
Horses and different fight styles. No big story, but they're what I’ve been doing since I was four years old. I was trained old school in those too. “Old school” is probably illegal in modern day America. It involved being punished a lot and no positive affirmations! Now I’ve started competing in horseback archery and although I don’t expect to use that skill much in American productions, it’s a bunch of fun. I like that we train and ride adopted American wild mustangs for it. They are a part of America’s heritage that is quickly disappearing. I can drive ok too.
What is the best part about being a stunt performer?
Two things come to mind. (1) Getting the thumbs up from a coordinator or director after doing a great job on a stunt. (2) Just living the dream when I’m working. Who’d have thought some dumb kid raised in the middle of nowhere in Africa would have had the opportunity to work on TV and films in Hollywood? What advice would you give other stunt people?
I don't presume to give advice. However, as my friend and stunt coordinator Tony Vella says: "Learn the basics." There will always be specialists who have crazy skills in one specific discipline and they’ll get work, but study the basics and learn set etiquette because the basics are your meal ticket. You can have all the best parkour or martial arts skills but if you can’t stack or sell a punch or hit a mark, it will show through in an instant. I guess there are a lot of younger people turning up late to work or sitting around with their faces in their cellphones and not knowing the basics. I remember Jim Wilkey telling my group at Bobby Ore’s LA school, “Sliding a car won’t get you noticed. If you want to impress a stunt coordinator, learn how to back a car up fast in a straight line!” I love that line...probably because I’ve always been able to do that pretty easily! Anything else you would like to tell the community about?
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have a couple of stunt groups up here with all sorts of diverse performers including a Taurus award winner. Many large productions come up here, shoot in San Francisco and rarely use any locals, not even for ND jobs. I believe we should use locals when available, wherever we shoot. Obviously, the meat of the work goes to the stunt coordinator's team and the performers they work with regularly and trust but some of these films are huge and a lot of work goes to people from out of town. It makes it hard to earn a living for the locals. Bay Area Stunts: