Skibbereen stuntman, Marc Redmond, has been working on Game of Thrones for the last two years. But he’s not just any old stuntman. He was, in fact, the stunt double for Jon Snow, aka Kit Harington.
The success of Game of Thrones is a worldwide phenomenon that has also had a beneficial spin-off for the tourism industry in Northern Ireland. It’s been good for Marc too because it has allowed the 36-year stuntman the best of both worlds – an exciting, action-filled career that takes him all around the world, as well as allowing him plenty of R&R in West Cork, a place that he has only come to truly appreciate in the last five years.
As a younger man – and an out-and-out martial arts fanatic – Marc couldn’t wait to leave West Cork and had, rather hilariously, read and learned by rote almost every line in the The Lonely Planet guide to Hong Kong.
He travelled there at the age of 19, keen to be part of the authentic world of martial arts, and from the moment he arrived he not only knew where everything was, and how to get around, but he also had an immediate sense of being ‘at home.’
Marc went there in the year 2000 and stayed ‘on and off’ for the best part of five years. It wasn’t exactly salubrious. ‘I stayed everywhere including the dreaded Chunking Mansions and even slept in a 24-hour McDonalds because I couldn’t find, or afford, accommodation.
‘But when you are young, it is all part of the adventure,’ said Marc, who experienced it in the company of a lot of other stunt workers – all of whom came to Hong Kong for exactly the same reason and remain, to this day, his very good friends.
‘I learned what I needed to learn, but I’d have to say I did it the hard way because of the nature of Hong Kong stunt work, which is very badly paid and very dangerous because there is very little health and safety when you compare it to stunt work in Europe and America.
‘It gave me the foundation to become a member of Stunt Guild Ireland. That was six years ago and I still count my blessings that I was accepted as a member because it is a notoriously difficult business to crack.
‘I got a foot in the door because I had served my time in Hong Kong and had an extensive number of movie credits, working with the likes of Mila Jovovich on Ultra Violet and Paul Rudd on Gen Y Cops, which was a Jackie Chan production.
‘Meeting Jackie Chan in Hong Kong was probably the highlight of my time there. I mean, I was 19 or 20 and this guy was (still is) a legend to me because there is no one (and I mean no one) who has been so consistently brilliant. He is a martial artist beyond compare.’
Marc has always been dedicated to his fitness and set very high standards for himself. A childhood background in gymnastics stood to him and his training in Tae Kwon Do and kick boxing with his good friend, Ian Kingston, refined his ability – the hallmark of which is his extreme flexibility, his precision in terms of martial arts choreography, and his stamina.
All of these abilities have helped him to become an all-round martial arts stunt performer. Of course, his idiotic sense of humour continues to endear him to his friends. Really, anyone who knows him will know that his self-depreciating humour is what makes time spent in his company memorable.
Marc has a lot of friends in the Stunt Guild and here in West Cork, where he now lives with his partner of the last five-years, the beautiful Britta, who is originally from Augsburg in Germany.
Marc’s mom, Heidi, is also from Germany, but being married to singer-songwriter Des Redmond for 40-plus years means she has a wonderful Dublin accent.
All of them are a close-knit unit. Together they run Driftwood country hostel at Dromig outside Skibbereen, while Marc’s brother, Chris – who previously worked for Russia Today – is now back in Dublin completing his Masters.
At Driftwood, Marc has created his own Dojo training area where he and his mates keep their fitness levels up during the off-season.
Marc is currently ‘resting’ in West Cork having completed filming Game of Thrones in December, Penny Dreadful in January, Vikings in February, and Ripper Street in April. On Sunday, April 24th, the long-awaited return of Game of Thrones had people glued to their TV sets for the first instalment of season six. Of course, fans will already know that the last episode in season five ended with the fatal stabbing of Jon Snow.
Marc, like most movie business types, has taken an oath of silence and cannot be persuaded to comment on what will happen next.
He did, however, say that Kit Harington is ‘a fit, well-able actor, who is up for doing a lot of the action in Game of Thrones himself, but when it comes to some of the more dangerous stunts that is when I stepped in.’
Marc – in that funny way of his – described his job as being ‘a dope on a rope’ and, yes, it is dangerous but he is quick to point out that the danger is mitigated by the fact that they rehearse for weeks and months before filming starts and take every precaution possible.
‘The job is physically demanding – very early mornings (4am) and late knock-off (8pm) – sometimes rehearsing all day, working choreography for fights and preparing stunts including wire work, high falls, or fire work.’
Since he returned to Ireland five years ago, Marc has been in demand for key fights scenes and wire work (hence the dope on a rope remark) including the famous scene from Game of Thrones where a white walker throws Jon Snow off a balcony.
Regardless of who dies on set, Marc will continue to be in demand on Game of Thrones because his skills extend beyond doubling for Kit Harington, having also done stunts as a ‘wildling’ and a ‘nights watch’.
When Vikings is being filmed, Marc can be seen around West Cork looking slightly the worse for wear. ‘They won’t let us cut our hair, or shave, so, yeah, there are times when you do feel a bit like a wildling,’ said Marc, who is currently clean-shaven, coiffed and looking rather fragrant.
Marc recalls that for years he considered West Cork to be small, boring and lifeless. ‘Now,’ he added, ‘I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.’
His Road to Damascus moment was ‘a gradual thing.’ Over time, he said: ‘I have come to appreciate the pace of life and the freedom that you have in West Cork. The people here make it. And the food. Definitely, the food,’ he said with his trademark grin.