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What It's Like To Be A Stuntman In Hollywood - Exclusive

Some actors do their own stunts (see: Tom Cruise), but most rely on a stuntman or body-double to fill those death-defying shoes. That's where people like Shane Griffin come in.

Griffin is a stuntman, parkour athlete, and actor who has worked on such films as Doctor Strange and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He's also a course tester for the global Ninja Warrior franchise, has dabbled in acting in movies like Wonder Woman and Bohemian Rhapsody, and climbs buildings in his spare time — yes, buildings.

The England-born athlete discovered his unusual skills when he was just a kid, beginning with jumping out of his two-story house into a bush. That sense of adventure flourished into an amateur parkour career, which in turn lead to an audition for 2016's Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Rachel McAdams. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Griffin revealed behind-the-scenes details and stories about working on blockbuster films, opening up about what it's really like to be a stuntman in Hollywood.

The ups and downs of a stuntman on set

Taking his skills to Hollywood was a dream come true for Griffin, whose first day on the set of Doctor Strange also happened to be his 25th birthday. He was hired as a parkour consultant, helping put parkour elements into the film and teaching the actors and all the stunt-people certain moves.

"Growing up with Marvel, I got pretty emotional," he admits of being on set, further explaining, "I was in a lot of preview scenes, which are like planning scenes that end up in the film. We did them in a warehouse with boxes. They don't figure out stunts on the fly, it's quite a creative process of let's try this, let's try that."

Although he doesn't actually appear in the film, his moves do. "At one point, I was harnessed up pretending to be Doctor Strange and they flipped me twice in the air, which was pretty cool and quite a good scene," says Griffin. "And I taught one of the villains how to do a move that ended up in the film. It's cool to have the essence of my movements in the film, which means more to me than having my face in it."

After that, the job offers rolled in. He was a stunt double in 2018's Mission: Impossible – Fallout, working opposite star Tom Cruise. "I was doubling a stuntman in a death scene, getting killed by Tom," Griffin says. "A few days later, I had to chase Tom up some stairs and he was like, 'Man, you got some speed on you,' and gave me a fist bump, which was sweet. He's a good guy."

Griffin was also a stand-in for Tom Holland in 2019's Spider-Man: Far From Home, which led to a humorous encounter with the star. "The first time I met Tom, I was about to prep for a scene and he came up to me and was like, 'Hi, I'm Tom.' And I was like, 'Hi, I'm Tom.' Then I was like, 'No, I'm not Tom, you're Tom. I'm Shane, and you're Spider-Man.' And he sort of laughed and I was like, 'You've blown it, mate, why did you say that?' It's surreal in the sense that you watch these people and there is a certain admiration and suddenly you're working with them."

Though he's done plenty of stunt work in Hollywood films, Griffin's main gig is as a course tester for the Ninja Warrior franchise, which produces shows all over the world, from the United States to Egypt. His job entails running all the obstacles to make sure they're safe and doable, among other things.

"Contestants aren't allowed to touch the obstacles [before their run], but they can see me complete them," he says, adding that sometimes the obstacles prove to be difficult, even for a professional. "I did my first testing in the U.K. and Egypt and then I went to America, where the obstacles are at such a higher level. I fell a bit in my first year on American Ninja Warrior, and I still get surprised by an obstacle and fall sometimes. But every time I fall, I learn from it. Falling shows you what you need to work on, so I'm getting better every season. But I do take falls quite seriously because there's not much room for error when I go outside and climb a five-story building."