After a decade and a half competing and performing martial arts around the world, Chris Brewster caught the stuntman bug. After meeting stuntmen and coordinators through his martial arts work, he decided to iansition careers, and become a stuntmen.
Since then, he’s become a staple stuntman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing Chris Evans’ and Charlie Cox’s stunt double in Captain America and Netflix’s Daredevil, respectively. “My relationship with Marvel has been a long, exciting coincidence,” Brewster says. “Stunt doubles and performers are hand chosen by the stunt coordinator, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing coordinators, who have given me a lot of great opportunities, such as the Marvel roles.”
One such coordinator is Tom Harper, who gave Brewster the chance to double Captain America and to appear on Guardians of the Galaxy. Brewster’s good friend, Phil Silvera, brought him in to double Daredevil, and perform in Thor: The Dark World. Stunt coordinators Markos Rounthwaite and Jeff Habberstad hired Brewster on Iron Man 3 to double Guy Pearce.
These stunt coordinators share many responsibilities with fight choreographers, although they are not the same role. According to Brewster, “They need to tell a story through movement. They take the words written in a script, and make them come to life.”
“The fight choreographer is responsible for designing each fight or action sequence, getting the stunt performers up to speed, and training the actors. There are many factors involved, such as the backgrounds of the actors and stunt performers, the characters in the story, the amount of time given to film the scene, the location, and much more.”
When stunt performers double for an actor, they’re doing more than simply looking alike and performing stunts. They’re also performing physical acting, and as such are required to be proficient actors in their own right. “I was taught early in my stunt career that a stunt double should study the actor they’re doubling,” Brewster says. “It is important to walk the way the actor walks, move the way they move, hold yourself they way they do. This helps to sell the illusion that you are the same person.”
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing actors, such as Charlie Cox, in Daredevil. Watching what Charlie does, listening to how he sees himself in each situation, it’s pretty amazing. He literally transforms into Matt Murdock before our very eyes.”
Stunt performers are constantly trying to challenge, and one-up themselves. “We’ve got a history of pushing the limits,” Brewster begins. “We like to push ourselves and others to evolve. Luckily, stunt coordinators and the stunt industry have evolved over time too. A lot of the coordinators today were the people doing the biggest and craziest stunts years ago. Through trial and error, we’re always learning the safest ways of performing stunts.”
Part of this constant evolution involves constant training. In order for these performers to achieve their fullest potential, they need to be in the best shape possible. Brewster trains 6 days a week, whether or not he’s working, and focuses on crossfit-style fitness, as well as sport specific training, such as martial arts, boxing, gymnastics and parkour.
Stunt performance comes with a big old stamp of “THIS IS DANGEROUS”. Stunt performers often get injured, and risk themselves on a daily basis when filming. “There are always bumps and bruises along the way,” Brewster explains, “That’s part of the job, and I love it. They are signs that you are working hard. That being said, stunts are a game of calculated risk: The goal is to perform huge stunts, and minimize the risk of injury. I stay close to the coordinators I know and trust – a good coordinator will go out of their way to keep the team safe.”
One of the biggest questions stunt teams constantly need to ask, and answer, is ‘How do you make something appear dangerous without putting yourselves in too much risk?’ Brewster believes the answer is trust. “You need to trust every person on your team, from the coordinator, to the riggers, the medics, everyone. However, nothing is fool-proof, so staying alert and being on point is necessary to avoid injury.”
Marvel’s Daredevil was a resounding success, enjoyed by both comic fans and newcomers to the franchise. Much of that success come from its grounded, intense fight scenes.
According to Brewster, “Daredevil is the most ‘real’ superhero that there is. Unlike characters with super strength of healing abilities, Daredevil is human. If he gets cut, he bleeds. This makes him more vulnerable in time of jeopardy. For these reasons, his fighting style is quite grounded and gritty. He uses a variety of martial arts styles along with some parkour and trickcing, to get him through every situation.”
In Daredevil, every fight tells a story. “There is much more than just choreographed movements in fight scenes,” Brewster says. “In the same ways actors add character to the personas they portray, stunt performers are able to add character throughout their movements.” He goes on to explain that movement in a controlled smooth manner comes off as suave, whereas faster movement in a more frenetic style can seem scared.
This is perhaps best demonstrated in THAT scene in season 1 episode 2, you know, that insane, intense, hallway brawl. The kicker was that this scene was performed in one take, after loads of rehearsal, of course. “We first heard about that scene three days prior to filming it,” Brewster recalls. “It was choreographed in one day, rehearsed the next day, and performed as a master on day 3. At first, we thought it was impossible, but we’re always up for a challenge. That scene is one of the biggest accomplishments of my career.”
You can catch Brewster’s awesome moves in season 2 of Daredevil, which is coming soon, and follow him on Twitter.