Risking life and limb is all in a day’s work for Doctor Who stuntman Gordon Seed

Liverpool stuntman Gordon Seed

Liverpool stuntman Gordon Seed

He’s shot James Bond, battled with Batman and flown on a broom with Harry Potter – when he wasn’t driving a taxi around Liverpool.

Now Scouse stuntman and stunt arranger Gordon Seed will be saving the universe as not one but two Doctors in the Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special on Saturday night.

Gordon, 43, from Huyton, has been standing in for first David Tennant and then Matt Smith on Doctor Who since 2005.

In that time he’s done everything from climb the outside of Alexandra Palace to dangle from the TARDIS above Trafalgar Square.

He also got the job with a little help from the Doctor himself.

Gordon explained: “I was doubling for David Tennant on Harry Potter, when he was stunned and thrown across a courtroom. Anyway we were chatting during the shoot and he told me he’d just been confirmed as the Doctor.

“A short while after that, I had a call from the production team asking me to go down as David had put my name in. It was a very nice thing to do, but he is a really nice bloke.

“Matt is a brilliant bloke too, in fact everyone is really great to work with. They’re like a big family and I love going back down to Cardiff.”

Gordon added: “The production of Doctor Who is a machine, but the attention to detail is staggering. I was dressed as the Doctor and had to fall down some stairs, and I wore the Doctor’s watch which was set to the right time. No-one was going to see it, but just in case, it was correct.”

That attention to detail nearly caught Gordon out on one shoot however.

“We were in Croatia filming Vampires of Venice and Vincent and the Doctor, when one scene called for a character to jump into the water,” he remembered. “I was in the water with Beth Willis, the producer, checking it was deep enough when suddenly a swan came like a dart to attack us.

“There must have been a nest somewhere, but we jumped out as fast as we could. From then on we had at least two boats on swan watch – never mind any vampires!”

It is a long way from Gordon’s first job, working on the docks in Liverpool for a ship repairing company.

An international trampolinist, his first thought of becoming a stuntman came out of the blue when a theatre producer called asking him to be a Chinese policeman in Peter Pan in Manchester in 1995.

Gordon took the role and met several stunt people who were working on the show, which led to him contacting Equity to ask how he could follow in their footsteps.

He said: “You had to master six disciplines to a really high standard, as well as getting the required amount of experience performing.

“I already had trampolining and gymnastics as my sports, and I added high diving to that, managing to win the British masters championship during my training. I also worked to master swimming, karate and fencing, while staying on stage in panto – I was in Peter Pan seven times.”

To develop the required skill in his chosen disciplines took Gordon between four and five years, meaning training was a massive undertaking.

While he trained by day, Gordon paid his way by driving a taxi in Liverpool by night.

“It was a huge commitment really and I saw some sights while I was on the cabs,” he said. “I went from being in panto to driving my cab, which were different walks of life, but it kept me grounded.

“I had a goal at the end of it and that light at the end of the tunnel kept me focused on my training and my taxi work, as they were both very important to me.”

His hard work paid off when his application was approved by Equity’s stunt committee and he got his first job a few weeks later, doubling for Ioan Gruffyd in Great Expectations.

From then on he found himself in demand as his name spread through the industry.

He has appeared in all three Batman films, several Harry Potter movies, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Bourne Ultimatum, Sherlock Holmes and Die Another Day.

On TV Gordon has performed in Life On Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Game of Thrones, Spooks, Casualty, Utopia and Shameless among many others.

He said: “I was one of the Joker’s men in The Dark Knight and must have been killed four times in Batman Begins, during a scene where a monastery blows up. That whole set was made of balsa wood to be breakaway and be destroyed, so we weren’t allowed to go on it and had to be so careful.

Gordon Seed filming on set for Doctor Who

Gordon Seed filming on set for Doctor Who

“In Harry Potter I did a lot of flying with Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint – Mad Eye Moody‘s broom was the best as it had a big armchair on it – while the director also asked us to come up with a Kata for wands, so we had all the extras lined up practising how to cast spells.

“Every day is different and I found that out on Enigma, when I had to fall from a boat for two days running.

“On day two they dragged me into the safety boat and Mick Jagger was sitting there. He was producing the film so we started chatting and I invited him out to the pub we had been going to on location.

“He wasn’t sure but at 10pm that night, he came in and we ended up singing Auld Lang Syne together. That was a magic moment!”

Gordon added: “Die Another Day was a good one too, when the only names on the call sheet were Pierce Brosnan, Dame Judi Dench and me. I had to take Judi hostage in a VR training session and can say I’ve shot James Bond, even though he shot me back.

“Pierce was a real laugh with all the stuntmen, while I was sat on a couch with Judi for ages, just talking about holidays and family stuff.

“She was lovely and I’ve found most of the big stars I’ve worked with to be normal people you can have a chat with. The only time I’ve been starstruck was with Helen Mirren on a film called Inkheart.

“She said hello to me and I couldn’t say a word!”

Showbiz glamour aside, Gordon never forgets the danger inherent in a stuntman’s career, which highlights the central paradox of his job.

“A stuntman’s role is to do things which look and are incredibly dangerous, while at the same time eliminating as much of the risk as is possible,” he said.

“We are highly trained and I’m very experienced now, but there will always be an element of risk which we have to cope with. I have been hurt doing this job with a few broken toes and fingers, while I was run over by a black cab once.

“You wouldn’t be doing the job right if you didn’t have a few knocks, but you just rehearse and plan as much as possible. Then when the director calls action, you get tunnel vision right down to where you have to go to get the scene done.

“There is still a fantastic rush of adrenalin when you reach the moment of no return in a stunt though, and when you land from a big fall, but that’s always followed by a massive comedown as the adrenalin disappears a while later.”

Gordon gets a similar thrill when he gets to work on films and TV shows in Liverpool.

“I think it’s brilliant for the city and I had a great time working on Route Irish and Sherlock Holmes, while filming Harry Potter in the Birkenhead tunnel was brilliant too.

“I got to explore all the rooms and side tunnels. One of the production asked me if I knew anyone who could drive, so instead of extras we had my mum and dad, my brother, my wife and her sister as well as three of my mates off the cabs driving cars in the chase scene.

“I was working on Utopia recently in the Malmaison and saw them filming Jack Ryan on the Strand. There are so many shows and films coming to Liverpool which never seemed to be the case, and that’s great to see.”

Gordon is currently working on nine projects, but will be making the time on Saturday to watch the Day of the Doctor.

He said he is looking forward to seeing the finished programme.

“I’ve been in three Tardis’s now for David and Matt, so the three of us being together was weird.

“Filming it was another episode, but it was a special episode too. My family got to come down to Trafalgar Square and met Matt, which was great.”

He said: “There is a real kudos around Who. It’s the equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster and I’ve worked on plenty of them, so to be involved is such a privilege.

“I can’t give too much away, but I think anyone who likes Doctor Who is really going to like the 50th anniversary show.

“It has been shot in 3D for cinemas, and there are clues in that alone that tells you it will be a bit different and a bit extra.

“It will go down a storm.”

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