After years of working with the team at Stargate to bring you interviews and exclusive features, you eventually make a few friends. Undoubtedly one of the closer relationships we have built is with SG-1
fight coordinator and SGA
stunt coordinator James "BAMBAM" Bamford.
Despite contributing to the site through the "Ask BAMBAM"
forum thread and his blog
, we have never taken the time to do a sit-down interview with the man. Why? His work on Stargate is extremely visual and we've been planning on shooting a video documentary of his work for years.
So until that time comes -- and it will -- we bring you this piece!
In this exclusive we learn of BAMBAM's initial years in acting and stunts, the character and mindset of a performer and preparing various SGU
cast members for their intense roles, among many other topics. We talk about a stunt man's immense pride in his work, and the life and death events involved with the job.
This interview runs over 54 minutes and is available in audio. It's also transcribed below!
GW: I've been looking over your resume. Holy cow, you have been involved in so much stuff since you began doing this. IMDb records back to 1993 with the X-Files. Does that sound about right?
JB: No, actually, my first show as a stuntman -- I mean my first show, I did background extra work when I was like 18 -- there was a TV series shooting in Vancouver and it came to Victoria where I grew up and I went down to the set because I heard that there was some work for extras. I showed up and they put me in a rabbit costume.
GW: Like a bunny rabbit?
JB: Like a bunny rabbit. Like a pink bunny rabbit. I think it was called Stir Crazy. That was when I was 18-ish so that was -- do I want to say this? -- 1985-ish. And funny enough, the location manager for that particular TV series was George Horie, who is now one of our producers on Universe, and I've worked with him several times since then.
And that particular day, they were lacking a stuntman on set for whatever reason, so they put George Horie in this car and had him jump this car into a Y in a tree. I didn't know any different when I was 18. I was just like, "Wow, that's cool!"
You might recognize Bamford from several Stargate roles, from the Replicator Eight in "New Order, Part 2" ...
GW: George Horie did this without any experience?
JB: [Laughter] Yes! Except possibly the experience he may have had on the odd weekend now and again. But aside from that... That's how I became familiar with George Horie. But I re-met him again several years later when I was a stunt coordinator on one of the projects that he was producing.
GW: Small world.
JB: Yeah! Well, in the film industry, especially out here on the West Coast, it's a very small world. Globally, actually.
GW: You just decided to show up on this set? Was this something that you had wanted to do? Obviously, I imagine you didn't want to play a pink bunny, but...
JB: When I was a kid, that was just as exciting as anything to me. I grew up on Vancouver Island in Victoria, it's a very small town and I had no idea that the film industry even existed over here. When it ended up right on my doorstep, I think it was my uncle at the time said, "Hey, you should get yourself down to such-and-such a place at such-and-such a time and they're hiring background extras."
I thought that was great! And it paid, at that time, I can't remember exactly what it was and I was 18 but it was some astronomical figure to me when I was a kid. I just jumped at the chance, got in there and made it. There was a whole of people that showed up and I made the cut, whatever it was, because I got there early, and I had a blast. I was in a pink bunny rabbit outfit in some lodge meeting or something, and then later on I was in a police precinct playing a police officer. I was like 18 years old playing a police officer.
But that was my first taste of the film industry and how it worked and whatnot. Up until then, I did quite a bit of theater at high school and was acting in local theater companies.
GW: What first got you off into the whole stunt fighting arena then?
JB: Originally, when I was ten or eleven years old, I was slated to play football on a local team in Victoria called the Hornets, I believe. I was a big kid at the time and when we played football at lunchtime I could carry five kids on my back as they'd try to tackle me and I'd keep running.
It was just a natural thing and my Dad said, "Hey, let's throw you in football." Most people played rugby. I went on to play rugby later -- it's a more popular sport in Canada, football's more of an American pastime. And it's a lot more expensive to play than rugby, because you don't have any pads in rugby and that sort of thing. But that wasn't available to me then, so I signed up to play football.
At lunchtime at school, I think I was in grade seven and I was playing basketball, intramural basketball. I went up for a jump shot and somebody got underneath me and I ended up sliding down their shin and at the bottom of their shin I twisted my ankle, quite badly. I was unable to run so I couldn't go out for the football tryouts.
I was incredibly disappointed and right then and there a karate school opened up where I was living, which was Sidney, sort of a satellite of Victoria, a really small town. I thought, "Well, I don't have to run, I can stand in class and do karate." My uncles had taken me to a drive-in theater at that time and the first movie I saw at a drive-in theater was Enter the Dragon, which was a Bruce Lee movie.
As soon as I saw that I was like, "That's what I'm going to do!" The next thing you know, I started martial arts in that class because of my sprained ankle and, bada-bing bada-boom, I just kept going and it took me all through school, through junior high school and high school. I became an instructor and a corrections officer and I taught corrections officers self defense.
I kept going and while I was a juvenile corrections officer my karate instructor, my sensei, got a call from a stuntman from Vancouver looking for a stunt double for an actor named Michael Dudikoff. They were on a series called Cobra, a [Stephen] Cannell series, and that was being shot in Vancouver, reduced by John Smith, funnily enough -- yeah, small world once again.
I had no idea, I was about 24, and my karate instructor said, "Yes, of course. I've got a young black belt here, he's six feet tall and about 170 pounds," which I was at the time [Laughter], more like 200 right now but who's counting? And they required somebody that could kick a specific way and do specific tricks that I was able to do at the time, mainly like kicking cigarettes out of somebody's mouth. You'd stack poker chips on top of somebody's head -- I could kick those off. That kind of stuff.
We did a lot of live performances at fair grounds at that time and I was choreographing fights for those live performances, so it was kind of a natural thing. Although I didn't know what was entailed in being a stuntman, but the stunt coordinator at the time said, "Send me over some video of yourself," and I put together a little demo reel of different things I could do, jumping over, like, seven bodies, flying side kicks, breaking boards and throwing people around. You know, the usual stuff... red-blooded Canadian boy kind of thing.
This coordinator received my video and called me and said, "Hey! Come on over here. I want to make sure you're the guy in the video." Because, to this day, there's a lot of false pretense that goes on when people submit resumes. It happens with actors and it also happens with stunt performers. You can say whatever you want on a piece of paper, but unless you actually see it -- you have to actually see it for yourself. I learned that back then.
So I went over and went through a bunch of the techniques, the kicks and whatnot, that I had demonstrated on the video and he said, "OK, great. That's you." I did some fight reactions, getting punched in the stomach and the face.
GW: Lives are being placed in your hands.
GW: Have you had scares over the years? Hopefully no loss of life, but accidents do happen.
JB: There's one loss of life that's occurred. It was the stunt coordinator, a friend of mine. It was on set. I was standing right there, and about 10 feet in front of me. It was on a television series called The Crow. It was a TV series version of the Brandon Lee film, and the lead character was played by Mark Dacascos in the role of The Crow.
That's when I first worked with Mark Dacascos. I was fighting him as a regular bad guy, basically. I used to stunt double a lot of the bad guys on the show. It was great to work with him on Stargate Atlantis of course, after that, because we had an established relationship. But I digress.
Back on the set of The Crow, there was an explosion, Special effects at the time was not our crew on Stargate but a different crew. There was a small boat in the water. There was nobody in the shot, no people in the shot, it was just a small boat that was meant to explode.