Behind The Velvet Curtain:An Interview withJames Young

Interview with Marvel's Stunt Choreographer James Young

James Young

There’s a reason why the credits at the end of your film of choice are the length that they are.

The names that slowly scroll upon the screen aren’t “killing time” until the after credits scene rolls, nor are they intermission.

They’re a display of just how many people it took to make the piece of art you just finished watching. If you take the time to read it, you just may have a newfound appreciation, or gratitude for the people up on the screen.

One of the groups in the black list parade that deserve some of the highest praise, are the men and women that risk their lives to deliver the breathtaking moments you just viewed.

They are the stunt team.

The people responsible for the amazingly choreographed dances between two characters that help fuel reasoning, logic and the depth of just how much the characters believe in the fight, or the cause they’re engaged in.

This same group are also responsible for a rather large majority of the leaps, bounds, jumps and awe inspiring moves that keep your breathless, inspired and wanting more.

This team continually acts in selfless splendor, never asking for fame, but just the hopes that the viewer enjoys those breathtaking moments they work so hard to deliver.

This splendor is continually becoming harder to top, with fight sequences and choreography that grow more and more amazing with every film, with movies such as Marvel’s Captain America franchise at the helm of this, incorporating a vast array of styles, from military to martial arts.

And the man working to further appreciation of this art is fight and stunt choreographer/stunt double James Young.

Young not only holds a beautiful flame to stunt choreography, but continues to build beautifully upon it, which shows in his work on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and in latest installment, “Captain America: Civil War” (which yields a few of these previous aforementioned goosebump inciting moments from just the trailer alone).


I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing Mr. Young, who is amazingly talented in his passion, and just kind in person, speaking of his inspiration, stunt work, and what he hopes to see in the future for the field.

What inspired you to get into stunt work and how did you get started?

I kind of found my way to it. I had been training and teaching Martial Arts when a good friend of mine who was a stuntman suggested I come train with him and his friends. I loved it and here I am!

Was this always something you wanted to pursue, or did you have different aspirations?

I grew up in a small country town in England so the thought of anything like this was a pipe dream. I had always loved watching martial arts movies (Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee etc) and would replicate the fights in my backyard with friends. I originally was pursuing a path in animation.

You have an amazing background, from both your work with the Thousand Pounds group, as well as a martial arts teacher; how did you involved in that, and have you always held an appreciation for it?

When I started to get into stunts a friend of mine introduced me to Chris Cowan and Vonzell Carter who had just started Thousand Pounds. I met them and we hit it off with our love for videogames and anime, haha. So, we set out to do our own short fight films for practice and fun. It was crazy that it blew up on youtube. I would not be here if it wasn’t for martial arts and Thousand Pounds, the friends in the team are some of my closest friends and its pretty cool that we have all come up through the industry together. I hope to shoot some more projects with the team in the future!

With films like “The Grandmaster” among others sparking a new interest in martials arts, how do you feel it’s resurgence in film?

I love it! I spent a lot of my childhood watching every martial arts movie I could find so it’s super exciting to see more martial arts action in Western Cinema / TV. People love a good fight scene!

Stunt choreography has grown to be better appreciated, due to some of the great action sequences that have been filmed lately, your work in the Captain America franchise being a prime example; do you feel there is now a bigger appreciation for the medium, and those who perform it?

Absolutely! I think 7 of the top 10 grossing films of all time have heavy action sequences in them. We set out to entertain and tell a story, there has been a lot of really good story driven action from movies in the last 5 years. People are starting to notice. Youtube is a great media to view some good fight shorts that people put up.

James Young with Sam Hargrave, behind the scenes of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Your style is grounded, but amazingly real and beautifully done; how do you come up with ideas for sequences?

Through music a lot of the time. Once I have read the script and start building a action sequence, I find a song that conveys the feeling / emotion in the scene. Once I have a good outline the  stunt performers come in and we tweak / add, it’s an organic process. Number 1 thing is does what we’re doing serve the story? Characters drive choreography.

How do you think choreography will evolve in the coming years and where would you like to see it go?

VFX. The amazing technology at our hands now (and it’ only getting better) serves as a great tool for action. Digital editing (stiches for long shots)  etc. Using a mix of motion capture and live action. Deadpool had a great mix of this and it looked good!

Your first work was on “Raze”, which features some brutal sequences, while simultaneously giving equality to female stunt work. Do you feel there’s a shortage of women in the field, or in proper showcase of abilities?

Can always use more! We have some incredibly talented stunt women in our industry. Heidi Moneymaker, Mickey Facchinello, Alicia Vela-Bailey to name a few. Its always great to see younger talent coming through.

What’s the most challenging sequence you’ve choreographed?

That would be a big sequence in “Captain America: Civil War” I can’t go into detail but it was MASSIVE.

You double for Sebastian Stan’s character, The Winter Soldier, in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War; with the background of the character being in both military, and covert training, what styles did you incorporate into the character?

Jeet Kune Do, Boxing, Sambo and some Aikido were bases to Bucky. He’s adaptable, has the tools to deal with nearly any situation. His intelligence is always fun to play with because of how skilled he is. And then there is his arm!

James Young with Sebastian Stan

With the extensive background you have, are there any certain styles that you like over others, or like to revisit?

I love going back to Jeet Kune Do.

Do you have a favorite sequence?

So far the bridge fight in Cap 2 will always be a top moment. Crazy amounts of work and fun. And there are a few sequence in Cap 3 that I can’t wait for people to see!

What advice would you give to anyone who’s interested in becoming a fight choreographer, or in stunt work?

Grab a camera and do it! Get some friends, go to the park and practice (SAFELY!) filming fights. Take a fight you love and replicate it shot for shot. That way you will start to understand what it takes to put together a fight scene. It’s not just performing, its chore, shot selection, edit. It’s film making.

And lastly, just something fun; complete the lyric either as it is, or you can change it to make it different: It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight; Rising up to the….

Challenge, of our rival!!


Submitted By Molly L. and Laura S.

How were you selected for the part as the Winter Soldier stunt double?

The stunt coordinator (Tom Harper) was looking for a Fight Choreographer. He gave me a shot, asked me to put together a little test fight for him. After shooting a few test fights I got the job as fight choreographer then I lucky matched Sebastian’s size! The rest is history.

What was the same, and how was it different, between working on Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron?

Different kinds of action for each one. Guardians has the comedy element. Cap is grounded and brutal. Avengers is crazy! (like in Ultron, lots of arial stuff!) 

Do you see yourself working as a stunt double in 10 years, or do you want to become an actor?

I really enjoy performing so hopefully I can keep it going for as long as my body holds up. I would like to write / direct / produce in the future.

Do you feel that it’s time, especially with a movie like Mad Max Fury Road being nominated for Best Picture, that the Oscars add a category for Best Stunt Performances?

Yes yes yes. Like I mentioned above. If you look at the top 20 grossing movies of all time, I think 15 out of 20 of the movies have HEAVY stunt action. A lot of other aspects of film get recognized. It’s time stunts did.

How long before the filming for Captain America: Civil War did the stunt team start planning and preparing for the movie?

Around 3-4 months of plan and prep.

How long before filming do the actors start training for the stunt sequences in the movie?

Depends on schedules. If they are free usually a few months before we start shooting.

Captain America: Civil War opens nationwide in theaters on May 6, 2016.

Watch the Captain America: Civil War premiere in style!  Visit Teepy’s blog Tee Talk to watch the official movie trailer and get pumped for the opening date.  Download Teepy, A T-Shirt Shop for Amazon in the App Store and shop for movie night tee swag with Teepy’s Superheroes Collection.
Teepy collects t-shirts from hundreds of brands under one roof, and makes shopping for interesting shirts on Amazon super simple. Explore Teepy’s hand-picked tees, mapped into sane collections for busy people with style and taste — just like you!  

Teepy, A T-Shirt Shop for Amazon is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch in the iTunes App Store  View in iTunes