Martin Grace was one of those heroes of the cinema who step in front of the camera for the big-action sequences so that the star does not have to imperil him, or her, self. As such he regularly acted as stuntman for Roger Moore in the James Bond films and was prominent in some of the most celebrated scenes of the series — he was almost killed shooting a scene on a train in Octopussy.
He also doubled for Harrison Ford in the early Indiana Jones films and did stunt work for many other well-known movies, including Superman (1978), Brazil (1985), Patriot Games (1992) and The Truman Show (1998).
Born in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1942, Grace was excited by the spectacle of the cinema when he attended a travelling picture show in which films were shown in a tent. He attended Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London in the early 1960s, acted at a Butlins holiday camp, worked on the skills necessary for a stuntman and appeared in several TV commercials.
He was one of the actors to fill the role of the Cadbury Milk Tray man in the television advertisements. The character was inspired by James Bond and would go to any lengths, including jumping off bridges on to passing trains, to deliver confectionery to the lady of his favours. He made his film debut in Doctor Who and the Daleks (1965), as one of the Thals.
The fifth Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967), needed numerous stuntmen for fight scenes and the climactic battle at the end, which involved sliding down ropes and explosions that required stuntmen to leap off unseen trampolines as if they had just been blasted through the air. Grace spent several weeks training and got to know the famed stunt supervisor Bob Simmons. He worked on Alfred the Great in 1969, fought with a young Anthony Hopkins on When Eight Bells Toll (1971) and then returned to the Bond series in Moore’s first film as 007, Live and Let Die in 1973.
After Live and Let Die he became a regular on the Bond films and also regularly doubled for Moore in other films. He was one of the stuntmen in the famous fight on top of the cable car in Moonraker (1979), although on that occasion he was doubling for Jaws (Richard Kiel), while Richard Graydon played Bond. He was almost killed on Octopussy (1983) while hanging on the side of a speeding train, which went beyond the track designated for the sequence. Grace was not facing the direction of travel and he slammed into a wall, breaking his pelvis and suffering other severe injuries.
He said in a recent interview: “The impact was so lightning fast that I only realised that I had hit something when I found I was hanging prone for dear life on the side of the train. At first my pelvis area was numb, like a gigantic tooth extraction injection.
“Adrenalin was pumping through my arms like never before, I felt I could have hung on to the side for ever, frightened to let go and drop. I looked down and saw my trouser leg had been ripped off and saw my thigh bone through the gash in my thigh muscle. The train came to a stop, I still hung on miraculously.”
After several months in hospital he was back on the next Bond film A View to a Kill (1985), which was Moore’s last. He doubled for Moore on the Eiffel Tower and in a fight on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Grace recalled in the DVD documentary Double-O Stuntmen that they got permission to film on top of the bridge on condition that the fight did not involve any actual fighting.
Grace was stunt double for Harrison Ford in the first three Indiana Jones films, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Latterly he also worked as a stunt co-ordinator on films and television. He lived in Spain, where he died after a cycling accident in November in which he broke his pelvis again.
Martin Grace, stuntman, was born on September 12, 1942. He died on January 27, 2010, aged 67.