Stunt moves. Real talent. Meet the man transforming our film industry
‘Stuntman’ isn’t a job that appears on many CVs. Grant Powell certainly didn’t expect it to become his career. A kid from the Cape Flats, some dreams were out of reach. But in 1998, he stepped into Ratanga Junction theme park for an audition. Powell was going to turn his aspirations of performance into a reality. After four years of training in acting, puppetry, and dance, he discovered his signature talent: stunts.
“I didn’t think for a second that this would be what I’d do,” Powell says. While he has worked as an actor on both stage and screen, Powell got his break as a stuntman on the film Der Kranichmann. His love of stunts led him to train in a variety of martial arts, from Krav Maga to Muay Thai. With this range of disciplines under his belt, Powell co-founded Stunteam, training young performers in fight choreography. He is one of the leading stunt performers in the South African film industry today, and is well established internationally, his most recent credits including that of fight coordinator for Tomb Raider.
The most important thing for Powell, however, is to be in charge of his own story. “You do need to go out there at the risk of being ridiculed, at the risk of being berated for your accent,” he says. “But if you allow that to be your narrative, then that’s where you’re always going to be.” Although Powell’s work is often dangerous, he is, literally and figuratively, on fire. He is the man behind the Guinness World Record for the most people performing full body burns. Powell organised the record-breaking event on 4 January 2018 in Cape Town, where 32 stunt performers set themselves on fire simultaneously. It was a seminal moment for Powell, who has been witness to the extraordinary abilities of South Africans working to overcome their circumstances. “We have the talent,” he says. “We have the temperament. We certainly have the attitude.”