INSIDE THE HEAD OF MARK HARRIS
Mark Harris, stunt man
I wanted to talk with at least one stunt person who worked on both Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, when I happen to be be-bopping around one of the 'Verse's sites and found this link. I talked with Mark and he agreed to let me pick some of his brain during his busy schedule.
He has his own production company with almost all the stunt people who worked on Xena and Hercules, most popular is Zoe Bell. If you read Mark's credentials at the bottom of this interview, doesn't it seem that if someone needed a stunt in New Zealand, this great guy was probably there? Check out his site and take a look at all the impressive people who are there. Now let's get to know a bit about Mark.
What makes a person want to do this kind of work?
Most stuntpeople do it because they think it's going to be exciting and they will be good at it. They get well paid, don't have to work every day, and there's also a good amount of ego involved in the younger ones.
Mark Harris and co-worker, exploding
What kind of background does one need to be a stuntman?
Most stuntpeople have a background in martial arts or gymnastics. We have specialists that we use for parachuting, white water, etc.
We held training/recruiting sessions where we ran through basic fights and falls. The ones that worked we would train in air rams, ratchets, high falls, etc. Driving gags I will always use people with racing background if possible.
How many stunt people worked regularly for Xena and Hercules?
When Xena and Hercules were running we needed a lot of stuntpeople - about 80 - so it was fairly easy if they had the right skills and attitudes, now with less work I seldom need to take on new people. I get calls every week though.
Is there an age limit for stunt people?
I suppose while you can still run, you can work - I'm 42 and will still do everything I did at 22 - I'm just a bit more careful and don't mend as quickly!
How did you get noticed?
I was motor racing and was approached (through good or bad reputation I'm not sure) to do the driving on a feature in 1983. From then I was used a lot and I also had a martial arts club so the two lent very well to being a stunt person.
Give us a brief day in the life of Mark?
A brief day, hmmm. If it is a average stunt day, let's say a driving sequence (I would already have had meetings with director, 1st AD, etc. prior) - I will step through the action with the other stuntpeople, liaise with safety (re: safety margins for people and what I am doing.) At some stage if I'm doubling an actor, I would go to make-up & wardrobe - hopefully they will not need to glue wigs and beards onto me. We will then step through the action. If it involves a crash (we would have prepped cars prior) and everyone is happy with the action and safety, I will pad and buckle up and go. After we've done the gag, there may be a fight scene that is minor enough to be using just the actors. I will have stepped through this with them and shown the director maybe before the shoot day. During the takes I will be behind the monitor with the director checking the action and then making adjustments with the talent if needed. After that I go home to my family, hopefully early.
Any retirement benefits?
No such thing as retirement benefits.
Most dangerous stunts or any you fear or hate doing?
The one I was not so keen on was having my legs strapped as if broken and going over a waterfall having to stay in the canoe - the dam gates above had been opened so there was a lot of water. I wasn't sure how easy it was going to be getting out of the canoe and back to the surface. Anyway it was fine and I did it twice. It's probably my main dislike as you don't have full control of what happens in water, unlike cars, fire, etc.
Mark Harris, the clean-cut all-Kiwi stunt guy
Did you ever tell someone a stunt couldn't be done or refuse to do one?
Once did a Korean car commercial where we talked over the phone regarding a gag, (but) once on location the situation was quite different than explained. (i.e., large drop off road) So I said it couldn't be done-they kind of understood -the director just wanted his shot. Public liability insurance is expensive; if I have an injury I get paid Accident Compensation (government thing).
Do company's make sure of a stunt persons safety?
Film companies are well up on safety and I will always specify what's needed. They have safety crews above who I supply.
Easiest day for you?
Easiest days for me are going to coordinate one punch on a local series - I've been back in my car going home within 1 hour - love these. If I get nervous, I pray and it's always fine.
How do you stay fit?
I try to keep fit, used to do a lot of martial arts, now gym work and stretching, I will always warm up before stunts.
Did you like working on Xena and Hercules?
Working on Xena and Hercules was great. As a stuntie, I often worked 6 days a week - uncommon in the stunt world. Some days were long, getting into wardrobe 5:30am then not shooting the scene until 6pm, so there was a lot of hanging around . But good times; eight years.
What do you enjoy most?
I enjoyed coordinating and designing rigging sequences.
What advice can you give to someone who wants to be a stuntman?
Advice to someone wanting to start out is that they would have to be very good to compete with stunt people already available; be patient.
How many things have you worked on?
I've worked on over 100 features and TV and many commercials, some Chinese features. Have a look at my website for credits, showreel, etc.
Any big name stars you doubled for?
I once doubled for Kevin Costner on No Way Out, Jason Connery, but not too many big names.
What would be your dream job?
Dream job for me would be a big budget feature that had heaps of rigs and elaborate sequences - we did this day in day out on Xena and Young Hercules. Also a lot more Action/2nd unit directing.
How does your family feel about your line of work?
My family doesn't really say anything about my job, they know I'm good at what I do - my wife occasionally may say be careful if she knows I'm doing a large gag. Never interested in being an actor.
Any plans on retiring?
I don't plan on retiring in the next 25 years. I'll just pick my jobs and probably just coordinate when I'm too long in the tooth.
Mark Harris, on yet another challenging shoot
Mark's e-mail adress: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark's Site and Company
Motor racing - rally & track
Gymnastics - basic
Skating - Ice & roller
19 yrs & over 100 International & NZ credits
Fights & weapons
Car - stunt & precision
High falls & Stair falls
Harness & rig work
Air rams & ratchets
Jack Brown Genius
Jack be Nimble
Mad Mission 4 (Chinese)
Moonrise No Way Out
Never Say Die
No One Can Hear You
Other Side of Paradise
Ozzie/ Sydney Queen City Rocker
The Y Project (Chinese)
White Water summer
Whole of the Moon
Xena Warrior Princess
Hercules, The Legendary Journeys - telemovies
Hercules, The Legendary Journeys - series
Young Hercules - telemovie
Young Hercules - series
Jack of All Trades
Brotherhood of the Rose
Boy from Andromedea
Every Woman's Dream
One West Waikiki
Rainbow Warrior (Aus)
Rainbow Warrior (NZ)
Ray Bradbury Series
Terry & the Gunrunners
AXA - driving
Citreon - driving
Camry (Aus) - driving
Ford - several driving
Holden - several driving
Honda - several driving
Hyundai (Aus) - driving
Hyundai (Korea) - driving
Mercedes - driving
Opel - driving
Saab - driving
Toyota - several driving
VW (German)- driving
Castrol - driving
Land Transport Safety- several driving
Lotto - Powerball
Jordan Tourism Board
Bank of America Ice skating
Thanks to Kamouraskan for the beta.
L. J. Maas and Murphy Wilson [Amy Murphy].One Step Beyond ... Uber, That Is. WHOOSH #49 (October 2000)
The "Inside the Head of..." series in Whoosh various issues
Amy Murphy resides in Indiana, and is an avid reader of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction. If it exists in the Xenaverse, chances are she has read it! Murphy has also tried her hand at writing fan fiction, turning out two very nice pieces that reside on a couple of web sites throughout the Xenaverse.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: "I Have Many Skills" --various episodes
First episode seen: TITANS (07/107)
Least favorite episode: LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)