Somewhat of an adrenaline junkie in his youth, stuntman Kyle Woods holds multiple national championships, world titles and world records from his days in the motorcycle stunt industry.

With now almost a decade’s worth of work in Hollywood (including bringing his skills and talent to four films from the Fast & Furious series), HeyUGuys and a couple of fellow blogging petrol heads were fortunate enough to catch up with Woods for a candid and revealing chat during a recent stunt-filled day of gymkhana driving and stunt-teaching at Northamptonshire’s Santa Pod Raceway.

Our report from the stunt day will be up on HeyUGuys tomorrow, for now here’s our interview with Kyle Woods.

How did you get into the stunt game?

I was doing motorcycle stunts many years before I had an idea of getting into the movies. Obviously I’d seen them on screen before, but growing up, it wasn’t something you could easily get into. It always interested me but it seemed like that profession existed in a very different world to mine.

I decided to do motorcycle stunts just for fun and then I later started competing and I actually became six-time national champion as a rider, and through that I met more and more people who did lots of different things. At one point someone came up to me and said they would like to use me for a movie and I was like, cool. That’s how I fell into it. I didn’t chase it, they found me, but once I witnessed what it was like and meeting other stuntmen, that was all I wanted to do from then on.

Presumably the stunts you started with were geared more towards motorcycle scenes?

Yeah. I was definitely labelled the “bike guy”. That was my only specialty at the time. They would call me in for things that either they couldn’t do, or didn’t wanna do, because I was also a young guy and the old-timers were like “yeah, we’ll do the bike stuff, but when it comes to the crash, give it to the kid ” (laughs). I would never get the easy stuff, and would be called in for stunts like being lit on fire, or being shot and falling off the bike, and I would be fine with it. I thought every stuntman did stuff like that. Now I know they give it to the new kids (laughs).

Are you now giving tasks like those to the new kids in the industry?

Yeah, it’s funny because it switches now. Coming into the industry, motorcycle work was my only talent, but I realised within the first year that the guys who were always in employment were well-rounded. I learned rock-climbing, falls and fire burns, and all kinds of stuff because there’s no school to learn it – you just have to do it. Also, the old-timers don’t want to tell you anything, so unfortunately, you learn the hard way, or at least I did. I was ok with that though, because in the motorcycle world it’s up to you to learn new tricks and get everything right, and it was that mentality that I brought into the business.

How did you get involved with the Fast & Furious franchise?

2 Fast 2 Furious was filmed in South Florida, where I was living at the time. I was doing a stunt show in Miami and the stunt co-ordinator from the film saw me there and said they wanted to use us (Woods and fellow F&F teammate, Sli Lewis) for the sequel. There were some motorcycle stunts in the film and we worked for two weeks on those. Once they were completed they offered car work for the two of us.

Do you think the stunt work in the Fast & Furious series have got progressively out-there?

Every director wants to outdo the last. This depends if the producers can let stuff happen from a financial point of view, as it’s obviously not up to the director, but everybody wants to raise the bar. If you have a big-budget movie like this one, where they’re willing to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the project, its gonna be the best.

When do you step into a project? Is it more the stunts themselves or about the co-ordination and creation of the action scenes?

I’m part of a team called 5150 Action – they’re a production company that gets involved in the early stages. How it works is, the company owner (Mike Gunther), will meet up with Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 5 director) and before anything is shot, they collaborate. Once they actually come to a decision about what to film, Mike will then speak to me and my job is to go out and organise what they want to see happen on screen, so I’ll help find the guys who will be assisting us, and figuring out the rigging for the scene, stuff like that.

When you don’t have tons of money thrown at a project you’re working on, do you need to be a little more imaginative with how you do things?

There are a lot of different scenarios in this business. You can do a big-budget feature and never get to do what you want, as you have to stick to what someone else is asking for. On the other hand, you can do the low-budget stuff which doesn’t pay particularly well, but they’re totally open to your ideas. That’s kinda cool, because if you’re into their project, you can do something you’ve always wanted to do. The only downside to the smaller film is they may want something big like a car flip, but they sometimes don’t want to play the stunt guy very much. That’s where you really need to explain to them that some guy’s life is on the line, so they must come up with the money because it can’t be done otherwise.

Outside of your own work, do you have any favourite stunts do like seeing in the movies?

I like boat work. I don’t think those stunts are done enough as a lot of people are afraid of doing them. I really like the new flying camera rigging which are being used to capture stuff (they’re evident during the favela chase scene in F&F 5). The action keeps getting better with every film, but the way to capture the action is the same, it never changes. Now we’re coming up with news ways and engineering new camera movements and devices to evolve and try and capture the action to make it look right.

The Fast & Furious films have become action trend-setters. How do you think you can top what you’ve done in 5, as that seems like is could be a real challenge?

It can definitely be done. There was some ideas which were kicked around and discussed doing for this one which they considered too big, so we still have plenty ideas in the vault ready to go.

I think why the Fast & Furious 5 works so well is, although the stunts themselves are really outlandish, a lot of it is still in-camera and you can still see the performers in there, which lends a reality to the situation.

Right. That’s a lot to do with Justin. If you notice, many directors will just CGI it all, and it doesn’t look right. There’s even parts of the forth film which they realised was too artificial and didn’t work, so they took a step back and decided to do things for real. GC will enhance things in post, but the stunts themselves will be real. Not to take anything away from GC, but things never look a hundred percent real, even when someone has done their best.

Being a stuntman, can you watch action scenes in movies on a purely enjoyment level, or are you always looking at the way they’ve been constructed?

Everything is work to me, so I can enjoy watching those movies because it’s like homework to me, but I can’t just sit back and let it wash over me, because I’m always critiquing everything.

Are there any stunts that you’ve yet to try out and really want to?

Oh yeah. We’ve come up with a bunch and they’ve all been written down and scripted. We’ve also designed action set pieces to correspond to a film’s budget. They are sequences which will cost x-amount of dollars to make, and we have those stockpiled away with a little presentation. We can offer them to production companies who may have scripts with great characters and dialogue, but not necessarily great actions scenes. It’s like a cool little action menu which can be tweaked to fit into their budget.

Do you still do bike stunt scenes for the films you’re working on?

I usually refer them to someone else as I’ve spent so many years holding onto handlebars, I don’t care if I ever touch one again (laughs). I’m always around to assist with any scenes involving bikes, but I never get jealous of seeing others doing the actual stunts.

Away from the screen, do you prefer to drive a car or ride a bike?

I prefer big diesel trucks. The reason why is because I’m an absolute maniac so I can’t drive a car because I’ll drift it, and I can’t get on a bike as I’ll wheelie it. I force myself to behave, so I drive something that’s slow and powerful and that’s it.

Fast & Furious 5 is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 5th September.