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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Stuntman Jimmy O’Dee: ‘I made 80 times my money on Bitcoin – but then scammers struck’

James O’Donnell (aka Jimmy O’Dee), 53, is a stunt co-ordinator and performer.

His stunt work includes 124 films and TV series such as The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale, Game of Thrones, Skyfall, Kick-Ass 2 and Bohemian Rhapsody. He lives in Deal, Kent, with his wife, Nora, and baby, Amber.

What were your first jobs?

At 10 I got paid 50p for two hours’ washing up. Then at Youngs Cycles I worked behind the counter and repaired punctures. I did a paper round, then a milk round for £3 a day. When I offered my mum some of my pay she burst out crying, gave me a cuddle and said: “Don’t you dare!”

I left school as a BMX rider and was paid £60 a week to jump cars at shows. I did four Ford Fiestas in 1983, crashed, lay there for a moment then stood up and shouted to the crowd: “I’m OK!” But my mum then sent me to catering college.

I was an apprentice at The Dorchester hotel, qualified as a chef and worked at Le Gavroche and L’Escargot, then thought, I don’t want to be a chef.

Then I trained to be an airline pilot. In 1991 I got my British pilot’s licence and was flying business jets, but the economic crash in the late 1980s left me struggling to get a job.

I trained to be a flying instructor, taught martial arts, was a bodyguard and joined the Territorial Army, where a friend told me he’d started an action extras agency. I trained for the Equity Stunt Register as a stuntman and never looked back.

How did your stunts get you noticed?

On Britannic [2000] I did a backwards stair fall and thought, “ooh that’s going to hurt”. I think it was a test.

What launched me was Proof of Life with Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. Remember where Gottfried John gets shot and falls off the waterfall? That was me: 65ft into the water, a tiny landing area. I did loads on that: air rams, fell down cliffs. It was such fun, six months in Ecuador.

Mainly now I direct action with my own unit and director of photography. On the shoot for a new film, The 355, I had 18 guys and used 160 stunt people.

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