What It Was Like to Stunt Double for Ryan Gosling in “The Fall Guy”

Ben Jenkin talks fire burns, being hit by a car and training everyone’s favorite A-lister

May 12, 2024 9:00 pm
Ben Jenkin, one of the stuntmen for Ryan Gosling in "The Fall Guy," after being lit on fire for a scene
The film's fire burn was the very first of Jenkin's career. "Contrary to what you might think," he says, "it’s actually pretty cold when being on fire on a movie set."
Courtesy of Ben Jenkin

Ben Jenkin has been a stunt double for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Jason Statham, Matthew McConaughey and Ewan McGregor. But arguably the biggest opportunity of his career came via a phone call from renowned stunt designer Chris O’Hara, for a project that would pay homage to his beloved industry.

Jenkin, a parkour specialist hailing from England, was recruited for the four-man team behind Ryan Gosling’s character Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy, the action-packed epic from stunt-legend-turned-auteur David Leitch and Kelly McCormick of 87North Productions. We spoke with Jenkin for a behind-the-scenes look at how he built (and survived) the stunts of The Fall Guy.

I was on the set of another project and got the call from Chris, who was brought on to be the stunt designer on The Fall Guy. He started the call by asking for my availability, and once he heard I was free, he started to talk to me about the project. I was very familiar with the old The Fall Guy television show starring Lee Majors. Not only it was a great show, but it meant a lot to the stunt community, which made this gig extra special. That’s all I needed to know to get on board immediately. 

I had never worked with 87North Productions but of course I was very familiar with David Leitch’s work. The man was a world-renowned stunt performer himself, and now he’s directing the bigger action movies on the planet. Getting to work with them on a project like this, which honors the stunt world, was really an honor. 

I had never worked with or doubled for Ryan Gosling before. So one of the first questions that I’ll ask is what kind of shape the actor is getting into and what their hair might look like. In some instances, the production team will have you show up with your hair longer and a full beard, so they can cut you down to the hair length that they want. It’s a lot easier than putting on wigs or gluing on mustaches. Nobody wants to deal with that when they’re doing stunts either.

There were four stunt guys who brought Ryan’s Colt Seavers to life. I was one of the main doubles along with Justin [Eaton]. Basically, if Ryan’s character was doing a fight, going through a window, getting hit by a car or being lit on fire, that was us. Then there was the motor master Logan Holladay who did anything that involved cars or motorcycles. It was Logan who did the world record cannon roll, and the huge motorcycle jump. And then Troy Brown was brought in to do the last big stunt, a 150-foot drop out of a helicopter.

Before working in stunts I did parkour for many years, so I’ve always been very good at doing crazy tricks and taking falls for real. That background helped me build a lot of the skills that I have honed today. I’ll usually train for a while before we are going to start filming — the last thing that you want to do is show up on set out of shape. The entire production is relying on you being able to pull off the impossible. 

A helicopter stunt in the movie "The Fall Guy." We spoke to one of Ryan Gosling's stunt doubles, Ben Jenkin, about the experience.
Gosling is afraid of heights, but with support from Jenkin and the other stuntmen, he managed a 150-foot descent in the opening scene of The Fall Guy.
Courtesy of Ben Jenkin

Arriving in Australia

We showed up on the set of The Fall Guy in Australia about three months before Ryan was due to arrive. This time was critical so that the entire stunt team could practice and choreograph the action, led by Dave. That meant a lot of days putting together “previzs” (or pre-visualizations) of the stunts on video and showing them to Dave. From there, he would tell us how close we were to his vision, and how we could get closer.

Three months sounds like a long time, and on a normal movie maybe it would be, but for how many stunts we were doing, and how insane they were, it almost wasn’t enough. But the team came together and we were able to be ready by the time Ryan showed up to start his acclimation. For the rest of the time we had, we were training Ryan and getting him comfortable with all of the tools that were being used. 

Ryan went through every stunt that we did, so that he could understand it. He had an interest in learning about everything that goes into being a stuntman. Early on, we put him into the wires and had him do backflips so that he started to build up some “air awareness.” There were scenes where we were needed, but he did a lot. The opening shot of the movie is actually Ryan, doing a 150-foot descender.

Doing that scene was especially meaningful for Ryan, because he legitimately has a fear of heights. I remember one of the first conversations we had before we started filming, where I asked him if there was anything that he felt uncomfortable with and wanted to drill a little more. He turned to me and said, “Well, I’m not really too good with heights.” But with the training and the work, he ended up handling that descent like a rock star. 

A First Time for Everything

I’ve worked on a lot of big movies, but there were some serious firsts for me in The Fall Guy. Before showing up to set, I had never been hit by a car, and I had never done a full fire burn. But by the time I left, I had done them both quite a few times over. 

I knew early on that I was going to be hit by a taxi — it was in the script. During the rehearsal period we start slow, with pads on the car, me fully padded up and wearing a helmet. There’s even something soft for me to fall onto. That’s when the practice takes over and becomes the way of life. David brought in the great stunt driver Nash Edgerton to drive the taxi, so he’s who I worked with to ramp up the hit. 

Sleep isn’t the easiest on a movie as intense as this, and it’s especially hard the day before you are going to be hit by a car. We were filming it at night, and there’s a car chase that goes down before the hit. There are no pads or helmet anymore. I’m in my movie wardrobe. The mat’s gone, and it’s been replaced by real concrete. The cars going full speed now. I remember walking up to David and asking him if he had any advice for me. I mean, that shows how unique this movie was — for the stunt guy to be asking the director for tips about how to get hit by a car. 

David said, “Get some good height, be light on your front foot, spot your landing and if you can land on this mark.’ That was it, and that was all I needed. We decided to film two different options. One where I was running into the street and getting hit, and another where I was already in the street before impact. The first option went over great, and we got to check it out on the monitor. David turned to me and said, “Want to give me that other option now?” Of course I did. 

Ryan Gosling at a preview for "The Fall Guy." We spoke to Ben Jenkin, one of Gosling's stunt doubles, about filming stunts for the movie.
“Even when he didn’t have work on set, he was showing up to watch us do our stunts,” Ben Jenkin says. “That’s rare.”
Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Light ‘Em Up

The night before we did my fire burn was another pretty sleepless one. This wasn’t just a burn, it was a burn into a ratchet where we were simulating me catching flames…and then getting caught in an explosion. For most burns, you’re just working with that one stunt, but the fact that there were multiple elements to this made it more challenging for sure. Quite the way to knock out my first! 

During the prep process, I was given some time to ramp up to it. We started by lighting my arm on fire, then my legs, then a lower half burn, then a full burn on my back. Contrary to what you might think, it’s actually pretty cold when being on fire on a movie set. That’s because everything you are wearing is absolutely doused in fire gel, which is wet and cold. I was wearing 10 layers during the real burn, with base layers, harnesses, rigging, fire protection, the movie wardrobe.

So if you feel hot at all, that means it’s gotten past the gel and you’re in trouble. There was no worry of that in this scene. I was absolutely drenched. The only exposed part of my body was my face, and I had fire gel in my nose, my ears, everywhere. The real difficulty comes to stay calm and focused on the tasks at hand with the filming…while you’re on fire. We all understand that fire is a natural element and has a mind of its own sometimes. You learn how movement and air affects it though, and how you need to behave to keep it contained. Breathing at the right times is also important; you could burn your esophagus if you breath at the wrong time. 

I couldn’t have been more safe throughout the entire process. There’s a movie within the movie being filmed, and the fire safety crew that you see in that scene was our actual fire safety crew. The fire extinguishers were not only the most effective way to put me out, but also looked the coolest on camera, which is something that we had to consider. 

Sure, there’s danger, but everything is incredibly rehearsed and every possible safety protocol is in place. There are pads. There are harnesses. There are wires. There are extinguishers. It’s more about the physical toll in those circumstances of planned chaos. These are life and death stakes being depicted, so it requires that kind of exertion — not just once, but take after take. There is so much adrenaline going through your body, time and time again, due to the stakes of the stunt, but also the professional stakes of wanting to get the shot right. That’s the job. 

The Life of a Stuntman

Being a stunt guy, you have to take care of your body so that it can take care of you. I wasn’t going out at night. I wasn’t doing anything but this movie. Every free second was spent recuperating so that I was ready for the next day. I had a physio and a chiropractor on speed dial. I was seeing them every weekend at least, so that I knew that everything was moving optimally. 

David and Ryan were two other reasons that we were all performing our best on this movie. Dave was an incredible leader, and Ryan brought a lot of great energy to the set. Even when he didn’t have work on set, he was showing up to watch us do our stunts. It was really great to have him there supporting us. That’s rare and it’s another reason why this project was extra special. When the movie wrapped, Ryan gave us jackets like the Miami Vice one that he wears in the movie, but that says “The Fall Guy Stunt Team.

I’ve done a lot of big action movies before, but my days were never like they were on The Fall Guy. I don’t think that I’ll ever work on anything like it again…unless we do The Fall Guy 2

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