I recently got the chance to talk to stuntman Tom Waite about his role in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Here, Tom talks about what it was like working with Andrew Garfield and Danielle Burgio on-set and about his life as a stunt performer…
Hey Tom. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.
Thank you Matt.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
We all know and love the story of Spider-Man. Average kid gets bit by a genetically enhanced spider and becomes a super hero. Who doesn’t want that to happen to them?
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play a criminal named Nicky. Peter Parker confronts him outside a bar in a bad neighbourhood while he is arguing with his girlfriend (played by Danielle Burgio). He thinks Nicky might be the guy who killed his Uncle Ben. You’ll have to see the movie to find out if Nicky did it.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
A few years ago I was hired by Andy Armstrong, who is a legend in the stunt business, to be a stunt double on a film he was doing. I had never worked for Andy before and as I got to know him, I mentioned that I started my career as an actor. Andy remembered that. Six months later he called and said he was coordinating a film called ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ and wanted me to audition. He needed an actor that could handle stunts. I went in to audition for the director Marc Webb and two months later, I got the part. I had given up on getting that part after one month, so you can imagine how excited I was to get that call.
How would you say this film is different and unique to the original trilogy?
Marc Webb has done a fantastic job of sticking to elements of the original comic book story while making it his own. His version puts focus on the relationship between Peter and Gwen Stacy, Peter’s first love. We are also introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Parker and left with the mystery of what happened to them.
The film stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan and Campbell Scott – with Marc Webb onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes?
Andrew was very generous while shooting his scene with me. I was most impressed when I returned three weeks later for more filming and Andrew called me by name. That says something about him as a person. I also worked with Martin Sheen. What a pro. He walked right up and introduced himself. It was a great learning experience to watch him work.
I talked to Denis Leary while we were both at base camp. My first job in the business was being Denis Leary’s stand-in on the film ‘The Operation Dumbo Drop’. That got his attention and we had a great conversation about that film.
Let’s talk a bit about you Tom. We should also mention that you’re an accomplished stunt performer as well. What made you want to get into these parts of the industry in the first place?
Never did I dream of being a Hollywood stuntman. The stunt side of the business was something that never crossed my mind. I left Florida and went to Hollywood to be an actor. After being there for six months, having no job, no agent and no money, a friend of mine – (David Morizot) invited me to the set of the TV show ‘Alias’. While I was watching them shoot, the stunt coordinator (Merritt Yhonka) came over to me and asked if I had ever done stunt work before. Apparently I was the perfect size and body type to double Michael Vartan, who played Vaughn on the show. In Los Angeles, if someone offers you a job, you say yes and ask what you have to do later! I took the job and must have done something right. I was Michael’s stuntman for all five seasons. The first season I showed up terrified every day. But after learning from other stunt people, I finally found my confidence. Since then, besides Michael Vartan, I have been the stuntman for Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal and currently Nicolas Cage. The stunt community has been great to me I owe them a lot.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in either?
First of all make sure this is what you want to do. Don’t look at the money or the fame. Chances are you won’t get either. The reality is only about 7% of SAG members make a living. If you want to be an actor, READ, READ, READ! Read everything from newspapers to scripts and take classes. If you want to be in stunts, TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN! Stunt people are constantly training to keep in shape. Work on fight skills and take classes for the bigger stunts. Remember, safety first. Don’t jump off your house trying to learn high falls.
What’s the worst injury you’ve sustained so far?
I thank God that I don’t have any big horrific stories of breaking every bone in my body. I did however, get a concussion on ‘Spider-Man’ and spent a few hours in the hospital. It was when Peter throws my character into the wall. I was jerked into a brick wall and my head snapped back into the wall. It was my own fault for not keeping my chin tucked in.
You’ve been in a number of different films and TV series – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far and why?
The cast of ‘Alias’: JJ Abrams, Jennifer Garner, Michael Vartan, Victor Garber and Bradley Cooper. These are the people I had direct involvement with during that show. All of them are professionals on the set and approachable off the set. Quentin Tarantino was a guest star on ‘Alias’ too. He was a blast to work with because he is having fun doing it. Zachary Levi from ‘Chuck’. He appreciates everyone’s job. If you were in a scene with him and you had a suggestion, he would welcome your input. I have enjoyed working with Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington and Linda Hamilton. Who’s not gonna be excited to work with Sarah Connor!!
Of course, there’s Nicolas Cage. I’ve seen him finish a scene then walk across the street to meet the fans that have gathered to watch. People love Nic and he is really great to the public. As his stuntman, he also appreciates the fact that I wear a few hats when doing a film. Nic said to me once: “Every actor is a stuntman and every stuntman is an actor.” Not too many people share that opinion in Hollywood.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Train, Maroon 5, Adele and 12 gigs of the 80’s. I love the 80’s!
If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
This, I think, was one of the hardest questions.
- Benjamin Franklin – obviously for many different reasons.
- Morgan Freeman – he has what is called “a late blooming career”. I would like to ask if he ever had any doubts. From what I’ve read, he didn’t get his break till he was almost 50.
- My wife Alicia. Yes, she is still alive. Yes, we are still married and yes, I have dinner with her almost every night. I just wouldn’t want her to miss this.
On your off-days, how do you like to kick back and relax?
I’m an avid surfer. I love the beach and I’m there every chance I get…..and Xbox.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
In this business I don’t think you ever know what’s coming. That’s kind of what I like about it. But I am waiting on the release of two films I worked on called ‘Stolen’ and ‘The Frozen Ground’.
Tom Waite is repped by Brenda Netzberger at Open Range Management (225) 216-2424
Thanks for the interview!