Celebrating the life of last action hero Roy Scammell
- Credit: Matt Adams
An iconic stuntman who appeared in the likes of Alien, Flash Gordon, Doctor Who and A Clockwork Orange has died at the age of 88.
Bricket Wood resident Roy Scammell, who also enjoyed a career as a dancer, ice skater and actor, was born in Kingsbury on July 28 1932 and died on May 15 2021 at Luton and Dunstable Hospital following a short illness.
He left school at the age of 13 and pursued a passion for skating, landing a semi-pro title for the Wembley Lions. In between games he worked on an act jumping over 16 barrels on the ice, landing an audition on the Tom Arnold Ice Show.
Roy broke into acting thanks to his friendship with Tony Newley, Dodger in the original Oliver, after his agent saw him performing somersaults at Highgate Diving Club, making his debut in Vice Versa (1948) before working at the notorious Windmill Theatre.
His first high fall was in Israel, on the 1966 film Cast A Giant Shadow, when he doubled for the legendary Kirk Douglas, and ended up singing Strangers in the Night with Frank Sinatra at a local nightclub.
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He went on to double for Peter Sellers in the original Casino Royale (1967) and in musical The Four Musketeers on Drury Lane with Harry Secombe, before joining stunt team HAVOC on Doctor Who.
This led him to feature in a spectacular set piece plunge from a 50ft high gasometer, at the time the highest ever fall performed by a British stuntman, and dressing up as companion Caroline John to fall into a raging weir on the River Thames.
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As well as Doctor Who, Roy featured in many other BBC shows of the time, including The Onedin Line and Pebble Mill at One, before joining director Ridley Scott as stunt arranger on the original Alien (1979), and playing the xenomorph when it is ejected from the shuttle at the end.
His contribution to seminal 'seventies movie A Clockwork Orange included choreographing the stand-out house invasion scene, suggesting the use of Singin' in the Rain to director Stanley Kubrick, who he also worked with on Barry Lyndon (1975).
Roy also tested the flying rigs on Superman the Movie (1978), took charge of the winged Hawkmen warriors in Flash Gordon (1980), and doubled for Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963), as well as arranging some of the legendary motorbike chase.
He was also no stranger to the West End, and Andrew Lloyd Webber commissioned him to arrange the skate racing scenes in Starlight Express.
Speaking to this reporter for an interview in Doctor Who Magazine three years ago, he said: "If you look after the body, it looks after you. I've been very lucky, I've had one or two bangs, but nothing serious. There's always a risk there, preparation is everything, but there's always something that can go wrong.
"There are things where you look back and think, I'm glad I did that. But when you've done a good job you get a sense of satisfaction. I've been very lucky, it's nothing I expected."
His daughter Karen Best said: "I am deeply saddened to announce the passing of my remarkable father. He was always such a role-model - and taught me that fear is just a word in the dictionary. He enjoyed the buzz of fear, the challenge it posed and he derived great satisfaction and kudos from his extraordinary performances. He always executed meticulous planning, leaving nothing to chance.
“His incredible story will continue to inspire us all to face our fears, but especially the new arrivals in our family - his two great grandsons, Spencer and Archer, who are both already showing that Scammell action man attitude to life.”
He is survived by his daughter Karen, two grandchildren Ashley and Tasmin, and two great grandchildren, Spencer and Archer.