*Interview* Jeff Pruitt: Part 3 – Dolph Lundgren, Gary Daniels & Batman Returns
I see you have an uncredited role for stunts on Batman Returns; can we talk about that?
Funny enough, that fight happened during the Chop-Shop scene of Mission of Justice. There was a Christmas holiday and we had a week off. I worked all night on Mission and then drove over to Batman. One of the Batman stuntmen had to drop out so they were missing a guy, and my buddy Phil Tan asked me to fill in to play one of the clown villains.
Unlike the constant action schedule for Mission of Justice, we were knocked out and spent a lot of time lying on the ground for the Batman scene. It took forever to shoot and I spent a week doing that fight, whereas, in my own films, I’d make fights twice that size in just four hours. That’s the difference with big-budget features; there is more time and more cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.
My favorite memory was when George Barris visited the set. We were lying on the wet pavement and suddenly the real Batmobile drove up. It wasn’t the Michael Keaton Batmobile that we saw on set, but the 1966 Batmobile that I watched as a kid. We all jumped up and ran over to it, and after that, we spent any free time playing 1960’s Batman and Robin. We even dressed as 90’s Batman villains; it felt like we were transported back in time, reliving childhood.
You did the stunts for the Gary Daniels movie, Deadly Target: Can you tell us of your experience on the set?
Gary went to the Wincott movie screenings with me and said he wanted me to coordinate his movie. However, his Kung Fu instructor demanded that he choreograph Gary’s fights, so I did some and he did some. He claimed to be a stuntman from Hong Kong with wire experience but he had no clue; he was Gary’s “Master” at the time though, so we had to allow him on set. He tried to imitate early Kung Fu movements, but they just looked out of place in a modern cop film in Los Angeles.
I did many stunts and choreographed everything except a couple of moves in Gary’s fights. I even did the fall from the helicopter through the hull of the ship – so that was fun. Overall, the movie was okay; it could have had a better soundtrack though as Gary and I didn’t really think it suited.
A funny story; we had a stunt SUV set up with a roll cage and stunt-driving suspension ready to shoot, but when we came back from lunch, our stunt vehicle was gone. The director saw our SUV and thought it was cleaner than hers, so she took it. I tried to get it back, but they said to try the stunt with the actor vehicle (which was not prepped for stunt work). So, just before we did a reverse 180, the stunt driver looked at me in the passenger seat (doubling an actor) and said, “This thing might flip. If it does, we have to hit the floor or we’re dead”. I said, “Okay then” and we went for it…. but just as predicted, the SUV flipped, we hit the deck, and the roof caved in on us. We crawled out, and just smiled at the producer. He said, “Yeah. We shouldn’t have let the director have the stunt car”. Another day in the nine lives of stuntmen.
You worked alongside Dolph Lundgren in Battle Of The Damned; what attracted you to the script?
I never saw a script until I was on set. The actor that was originally cast to play Smiley, Dolph’s war buddy, had a schedule conflict so the stunt coordinator asked me to come to Malaysia to rig some wire gags and play Smiley, so I did. It was a lot of fun working with the Malaysian stunt guys, and the whole crew worked incredibly hard; I was impressed with what they pulled off with such a limited budget.
What was it like working with Dolph?
Hilarious. On the first day, he had to stand on top of a car and pose with a weapon. There was a crowd of extras, crew, and others all around when he started shouting, “That guy! Him! Right there! That guy”! I was standing behind the crew, next to his stunt double, and I noticed his stunt double lower his head. Then I realized, Dolph was looking right at me! I had no idea what he was mad about; it made no sense. Later, when he discovered I was the replacement actor, he came to talk to me: I asked him why he was acting like such an a**hole, and he said that he does that to instill fear, and show whose boss so everyone would respect him. I told him they didn’t respect that kind of thing at all; they tolerated it because they need their jobs, but in reality, they think that’s just another jackass actor. I see it all the time; there’s no respect there. By that point, he could see that I didn’t give a damn about being fired; I was only there to have fun with my stunt buddies. Besides, they couldn’t afford to fire me and get someone else. Dolph just laughed it off and after that, we got along great. He was rough on other people though, and I don’t think he was having much fun. He does some big-budget features so I’m sure the humid conditions on this very low budget set didn’t appeal to him at all.
To be continued