Manx-born rally driver turned stunt performer Mark Higgins has recently won the ‘Taurus’ stunt performer award - the latest chapter of his fascinating and eventful career.
The three-time British Rally Championship winner won the award for his work portraying a stunt double of ‘the Penguin’ in the Hollywood blockbuster movie ‘The Batman’, which grossed $772.2 million at the box office.
Talking about the award, Mark said: ‘It is my third Taurus stunt award, and it’s always a great honour to receive this in the film industry.
‘This was for The Batman driving the Penguin’s Maserati car and also the “Bat-mobile”, while the award was shared with fellow stunt performers Rick English and Lloyd Bass.
‘I want to say a big thanks to the team for making this possible, and also to the makeup department for the dedicated three hours each day to make me look like the Penguin. No comments about the improvement please!’
Mark didn’t always aspire to be a stunt performer, and the opportunity only arose after his long and distinguished career as a rally driver.
His interest in rally driving was apparent at a very young age on the Isle of Man. Talking about his upbringing on the island, Mark said: ‘I was born in Douglas and all my family are from the island. My rally career started there and I’m very much Manx.
‘The island was a great place to grow up, especially if your passion is motorsport. I love bikes and cars and my whole family were also into motorsport, with my grandparents, mum, dad, uncles and cousins all involved in rallying when I was younger.
‘I remember being asked at school when I was four years old what I wanted to be when I was older. Even back then, my answer was that I wanted to be a rally driver.
‘I actually started my working career with John Tarrant at Tarleton Hodgson Insurance in Circular Road in Douglas when I left school. This is where I met my first sponsor, Roy Dixon.
‘I have just about managed to stay away from a real job ever since!’
By the age of 17, Mark had competed in a range of motor sport activities such as trial bikes and karts. At 17, he began his professional motorsport career with a trip to Sweden to learn from professional rally drivers Timo Mäkinen and Anders Kulläng.
The most notable achievement of his career was winning the British Rally Championship three times - in 1997, 2005 and 2006.
Mark looks back on his rallying career with much fondness. He said: ‘My 30 years of professional rallying were a fantastic part of my life and something I do now miss.
‘I have been very fortunate to work alongside some fantastic people and teams. I also travelled the world and won over 50 international events.’
It was after Mark’s rallying career that the possibility of becoming a stunt performer became apparent. Mark said: ‘I came into the film industry on the back of my rallying, but I had already done TV shows such as Top Gear.
‘My first ever film was James Bond’s “Quantum of Solace”. They were looking for a rally driver to drive the off-road scenes and this is how it all began.
‘I portrayed a villain in that film, but after that I was then Moneypenny in a Land Rover in the Bond film “Skyfall” before doubling Daniel Craig in driving scenes during his final two films “Spectre” and “No Time To Die”.
‘Other films then came along like “Fast and Furious”, “The Batman”, “Star Wars”, “The Avengers”, “Kingsman”, “Grand Turismo”, “The Mummy” and a “Mission Impossible” film.’
As part of his work as a stunt double, Mark says that there is a lot of ‘waiting around’ as well as many hours being spent in hair and makeup departments to make him look as much as possible like the actor he’s doubling.
Talking about the day to day life of a stunt performer, Mark said: ‘The stunt work consists of very long days and we are a small part of a very big team, especially on the big films.
‘A typical James Bond driving scene may last approximately five minutes on-screen, but can take 10 weeks to film. A typical scene would involve car preparation and testing weeks before in the UK. We would then travel to location and film sections of the roads each day. There are hundreds of people involved in many different departments and they all have a big part to play.
‘There is often a lot of waiting around as the departments like special effects and camera crews all need re-setting, which can sometimes take hours after a big stunt. Most days are dusk until dawn!
‘One 200 metre section of road could be shot all day for different angles and perspectives from each car and different actors.’
When asked what his favourite film to work on has been so far, Mark said: ‘It’s hard to say a favourite, but the James Bond films are always very special and you have to pinch yourself sometimes when you think about what you’re driving and the locations you’re in. The Fast and Furious films are also fun because there is so much going on!
‘One of my favourite car chases to film was in Mexico on a movie called “Infinite” driving a Ferrari Testarossa, which was all done at very good real speeds.’
Since 1993, Mark has lived in Powys, Wales, and with his brother and father was also a partner in the family rally school located in Carno near Newtown. Mark still lives in Powys with his wife and two children. When asked about his future career plans as a stunt performer, Mark said: ‘The stunt work has been a little quiet over the last few months after the actors strike, but there are some big films starting up again soon and hopefully some interesting challenges ahead.’