Who’s more famous: Chris Hemsworth or Bobby Holland Hanton? Obviously, the former, but it’s at least partially because the latter did such a fine job in the last decade supporting him. You see, Bobby is Chris' stunt double and has been working with the Australian actor for over a decade, doing the more technically challenging stunts in almost every Marvel movie you can think of where Thor appears.
And it wasn't just Marvel movies: Bobby stepped in to do some of the most insane stunts in Extraction for Chris, too, the gritty Netflix movie chock full of scenes of people falling and getting hurt, including the one where Chris' character, Tyler Rake, falls off a balcony into the back of a truck (opens in new tab).
I sat down with Bobby to see what it takes to be the stunt and body double of one of the sexiest people on earth and how one lives up to the challenge of growing arms as big as the God of Thunder. But as it turned out, Bobby does so much more than just falling through walls and windows for a living: he recently wrote a children's book and starred in his first feature film as an actor.
How did he get where he is now, and what challenges he's looking forward to the most? Let's hear it from the man himself.
From gymnast to stuntman
Bobby grew up in the UK and started his sporting career at the ripe age of four, training as a gymnast, but things got really serious at age six when he was “training for five-six days a week, competing at the weekends all over the country and in different countries'', as he explains. In his late teens he turned to football and became a semi-pro footballer: “I didn't have much spare time as a child but when I did, I'd be playing football.”
At age 19, an ad in the local newspaper changed his career trajectory again: they were looking for people to audition for a high diving acrobatic stunt show at Legoland. This, coupled with the lack of passion for his current job, made Bobby try his luck in the performing arts, something he really enjoyed: “Once I got into that performing side of things, I realised it’s much more flamboyant and you can really express yourself through physical performance.”
And as it happens, not long after he started training to become a TV stuntman, the stunt coordinator of Quantum of Solace – the second James Bond movie with Daniel Craig –, asked him to audition for a stunt role in the movie. He got the job with his first-ever ‘pro stunt’ being a 2 am jump across balconies with no safety mats, no cables, nothing.
A decade-long friendship with Thor
Fast forward 14 years, of which 10 he worked alongside the Chris Hemsworth (13 movies so far), and you’ll see that Bobby is in the best shape he’s ever been, no small thanks to Chris himself. “He's one of my closest friends and we've been through a lot together. I look up to him and I admire him very much”, Bobby says, “He's someone that makes me want to be a better person and try harder.”
This friendship goes way beyond shooting movies together. As Bobby explains, "I've had challenges with injuries mainly it's been my back. And I think Extraction was the nail in the coffin for me to take some time off, go and have that back surgery done", he adds with a laugh, "I planned it together with Chris: he took six months to a year off [from shooting scenes and movies where he would need Bobby's assistance] to accommodate my recovery so we planned it pretty well."
After recovery, when the pandemic and lockdown hit, Bobby and Chris didn’t sit on their laurels but were ideating about the best ways to get in shape together. “Chris said, ‘'Look, I want us to be the strongest, fittest, healthiest we've ever been", Bobby goes on, “so we started throwing ideas at each other, changing our training program and up the intensity to try and shock our bodies, to do something that we've not done before.”
Bobby’s body transformation took eight weeks of hard work and according to him, “it's the hardest program that I've ever attempted and the most focused I've ever been to get into the best shape I possibly could.” The pressure was on as Chris was getting bigger (opens in new tab) and bigger (opens in new tab) and Bobby’s physique had to match his. “I said to him on the phone, Jesus, you're always in great shape in Thor movies, how would you get better [than that]?” Eventually, though, he yielded and got really swole.
How swole? “My natural weight is probably 85 kg”, Bobby says, “Chris sits around 95 kg: you can imagine that difference. He's also 6”4’ in full costume while I'm 6”1’ at best so I need to make up the difference, proportion-wise.” In order to make up said difference, Bobby had to eat 10 full meals a day which is not easy, so he often supplemented his diet. “Sometimes I substitute a meal for a protein shake and often have BCAAs from a supplement company called Kinetica (opens in new tab), they do quality products, grass-fed whey protein and the lot.”
“I honestly would say 75-80% of the results were purely from the diet”, he explains, “Diet goes hand in hand with training but diet is just so important.” Case in point, Bobby went down to 6% body fat by controlling his diet, the lowest he’s ever been. “I'm a normal person, I love ice cream but you really shouldn't have more than the odd McDonald's here and there if you want to get in shape.”
What can possibly motivate such a well-established professional as Bobby Hanton to keep pushing himself? “I need new challenges so I decided – while I was bed-bound because of my back surgery – that I wanted to write a children's book”, he says proudly, “Within a week I had a rough draft and fast forward to now, it's going to be published this December.”
As well as writing children’s books, Bobby has also started dabbling with acting: “While I was injured and couldn't do any stunts, I acted in my first film that comes out this summer”, he goes on, “It's an action-comedy that was written and directed by Damien Walters [School Fight (opens in new tab)]. I'm one of the leads in it. I think it's going to be a really big summer film.”
Of course, he's got some stunt-related things to look forward to: "I've just been nominated for Taurus World Stunt Awards, which is our version of the Oscars. I've just been nominated in four scoring for Extraction", Bobby explains, "So very pleased about that. That's something I'm very proud of, especially because that film was very challenging. It's great."
One thing is for sure: Bobby had a busy life up until now and it sounds like he’s not planning on slowing down anytime soon either. “I'm open to as many challenges as possible in the future and I’ll give them all I’ve got. It's something that I take very, very seriously.”