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Martin Grace obituary

03-Apr-2010 • Bond News

Martin Grace, the stuntman who has died aged 67, acted as Roger Moore’s double in many of the star’s James Bond films and was “the man in black” in some of the television advertisements which chronicled the extreme lengths to which a suitor would go — “and all because the lady loves Milk Tray”, says The Telegraph.

When Roger Moore took on the forces of evil as 007, it was Grace who ran into the bush carrying a deposed President on his back while fighting off the enemy; and Grace who grappled with Jaws on the top of a cable car 1,300ft above Rio de Janeiro.
Moore, who became a good friend, described him as “the bravest man I have ever known”, a judgment echoed by a colleague who recalled Grace jumping backwards out of a window to fall 50ft into 20ft of water, even though he knew it had not been possible to provide a safety net.

To deliver his modest box of Cadbury’s chocolates to his lady-love in the advertisements, Grace leapt from a bridge on to the roof of a fast-moving train, and from a rock face on to a truck — from which he then dived into a lake to swim out to her yacht.

Martin Grace was born on September 12 1942 on a farm near the small village of Lisdowney in Co Kilkenny, Ireland. He attended the local National School, completing his education at the technical school in Kilkenny. Very athletic and a keen hurler, he was fascinated by figures such as Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers and John Wayne, absorbing their heroics in the travelling cinemas whose films were screened in tents by a shaky projector.

Determined on a career in entertainment, he made his way to London, where he enrolled in fencing and bodybuilding clubs and qualified as a lifeguard. He spent a summer season as the sports organiser at a Butlins holiday camp and on his return to London took evening classes at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

He joined an action agency and, with his agility and good looks, was offered work in various commercials — for example, as the White Knight in the ad for Supersoft hairspray. His first film credit was as a Thal in Dr Who and the Daleks (1965), based on the popular BBC series.

But it was his role in the Milk Tray advertisement that led to his being invited to perform stunts in his first Bond movie, You Only Live Twice (1967), starring Sean Connery.

He also worked on Alfred the Great, which was filmed largely in Galway — the grass on the banks of the Shannon turned brown from overuse and every night had to be painted green. For this film Grace was taught the finer points of swordplay by the American stunt coordinator. He gained more valuable experience when he toured Scandinavia with The International Stunt Show; the acts included high falls, car crashes, motorcycle jumps, fights and tunnels of fire.

In 1974 Grace was asked to be Roger Moore’s stunt double in The Man With the Golden Gun. He continued the role in Moore’s subsequent Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977); Moonraker (1979); For Your Eyes Only (1981); Octopussy (1983); and A View to a Kill (1985).
In For Your Eyes Only, Grace performed his favourite action sequence, climbing out of a helicopter and hanging underneath while the machine manoeuvres wildly in an effort to shake Bond off. Every day during the shooting, Grace was lifted above the chimney pots and then the chopper would drop like a stone and fly through the rows of pipe works of the old Beckton gas works in east London. “Exciting stuff for me,” he remarked drily.

Grace contributed to many other films, among them Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Nuns on the Run (1990) and A Kiss Before Dying (1991).

He did not escape unscathed from his challenging occupation. While doubling for Albert Finney in Scrooge (1970), he broke his neck, while in Octopussy there was an even more serious accident. The action was taking place on the Nene Valley steam railway near Peterborough. Grace was being filmed from a helicopter climbing along the side of a moving train while looking through the carriage windows. The stunt coordinators had not realised that a concrete wall ran parallel to part of the track, and Grace hit it.

Although he could see the bone through a gash in his thigh and his pelvis was broken, he clung on to the train until it could be stopped. He spent months in hospital.

In all Grace worked on more than 70 films and in many popular television programmes, including The Onedin Line, Monk and Heroes. In later years he performed fewer stunts, instead working as the coordinator.

Last November, Grace again broke his pelvis, this time in a cycling accident. He died of an aneurysm on January 27.
Martin Grace and his wife, Anna, married in 1964 and divorced in 1973. He is survived by their daughter.

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