One sort of half-expected Cameron Ambridge to be high-spirited. After all, here’s a man who has performed death-defying stunts on some of the most explosive blockbusters in recent times.
But the person across the table seems calm and collected. In the flesh, the 35-year-old is in direct contrast to the zestful daredevil depicted in a video showcase of his past filmography.
That steely impression gradually melts away, though, as he reveals more about his unconventional career path. When I suggest that people probably think one has to be crazy to be a stunt person, Ambridge sportingly agrees.
“Yeah, that’s exactly what it is! People think that you’re just out of control and crazy,” he says, with a laugh.
On a more serious note, Ambridge says that sort of mindset would have been true about 50 years ago.
“Back in the day, that was the case. Guys sort of threw themselves into stuff and didn’t know what the outcome was going to be. But it’s definitely a different environment now. It’s an environment of calculated risks,” he explains.
In his native country, the Australian is best known for his role in Police Academy Stunt Show. Starting in 1991, the slapstick comedy stunt show was a staple at the Warner Bros Movie World until the venue’s closure in 2008.
“I decided to work at the theme park before I left for university. But after getting involved with the stunt show there, I decided to cancel my university. No regrets at all,” he says.
That sense of contentment is justified, considering the many high-profile feature films, television shows and live performances Ambridge has appeared in. Mad Max 4: Fury Road, The Hangover Part 2 and The Chronicles Of Narnia are just some of the big-budget Hollywood productions listed in his sparkling resume.
“I got to do a few car crashes on Mad Max. That has probably been my most memorable stunt to date,” Ambridge says of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic action film.
“You know what, crashing cars is actually quite safe. When you’re planning to crash a car, things can’t really go wrong that much because you’re planning for the worst to happen anyway,” he adds.
That revelation naturally begs the question: Have there ever been any high-strung moments when he was performing a stunt? “Yeah, I’ve had a couple of those moments,” Ambridge says, almost too nonchalantly.
After a brief pause, he adds: “You’re not sure how a stunt is going to turn out. You’ve just got to trust that you’ve thought about all aspects, including safety. Even though there have been situations where I’ve been kind of nervous, I’ve never really been nervous that I was going to get hurt.”
Ambridge says the stress is about the final results rather than the execution of the stunts. Next, he’ll be working with Johnny Depp in the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean movie.
But will the increased usage of computer-generated imagery (CGI) effects spell the end of the need for physical stunts?
“Uh, not really. When they’re using CGI, they use it to enhance a certain scene. We still use real explosions and stuff like that on a film set. It’s pretty much the same process when you’re talking about live shows,” he offers.
Ambridge is in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, as part of the pioneer team of Stunt Legends, a car and bike stunt show. It will be performed at the upcoming Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) in Ipoh, Perak. He’s on the lookout for stunt performers in Malaysia to perform at the 30-minute live show. Shortlisted candidates will participate in the inaugural MAPS Stunt Training Academy.
Helping him on this recruitment drive is the show’s producer Mark Eady. The 48-year-old brings with him over two decades’ worth of experience producing live shows and attractions for theme parks.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to potentially discover new stunt talents and provide them with either full- or part-time work at Stunt Legends,” says Eady.
Dubbed the first of its kind in South-East Asia, the live stunt show will showcase four cars, two motorbikes and a dynamic cast performing stunts, precision driving and stunt-driving packed with special effects inside a 2,000-seat arena.
Eady concedes that one of the biggest challenges in producing the show is that the local stunt scene isn’t too established.
However, he is optimistic that Stunt Legends will change that.
Ambridge concurs, saying there’s great potential for the professional stunt scene to thrive in Malaysia.
Running from Sept 12 to Oct 18, the Stunt Training Academy is open to those between 17 and 35 to train in basic stunt skills required for a stunt show.
But for recruitment of stunt performers, it’s interesting that being physically fit isn’t the main criteria. The X-factor, according to Ambridge, is to be a team player.
“That’s more important than anything else as far as live shows are concerned. It doesn’t matter how good you are because, at the end, you want everyone to look good,” he says.
“As long as you’re willing to learn, we are willing to teach you. Just come with an open mind,” Ambridge adds.
And for parents concerned about their children’s decision to forge a career as a professional stunt perfomer, Eady has this to say: “Don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe.”
Visit www.mapsperak.com.my to apply for admission to the Stunt Training Academy.