When Matthias Schmidt was just a ten-year-old child growing up in Tuebingen, a beautiful old town in the South of Germany, he watched the old Star Wars trilogy for the first time. He was completely taken away by what he saw on screen. The action scenes mesmerized him, combining actors and visual effects to create an entirely new world. The next day, he got his friend to shoot his own “action movie” with him on his mother’s old video camera. They choreographed fights simulating what they believed to be martial arts despite never being trained. It was one of the most memorable experiences from Schmidt’s childhood, and it changed his life. Since that moment, he was thrilled about filmmaking, and knew he wanted to help make the action happen.
Now, Schmidt is a successful stuntman in Europe. He is known for his work in popular television series like Tatort, acclaimed films like the German version of Robin Hood and the Swiss film Someone Like Me, and successful commercial campaigns for worldwide brands such as Red Bull. No matter the project, Schmidt is doing what he loves.
“I love the variety of this job. Doing all different stunts for different productions on different locations with different people. You come around and meet a lot of people you can learn a lot from. I love the challenges that come with this profession. I love the development and the process from an idea to the actual stunt that can be very challenging. For me being a stuntman is and always will be exciting and thrilling. It’s not an ordinary job. I love that I can do physical work and express my work with my body. Working in a team, you definitely have to trust and rely on each other, which also is a very important factor for me,” he said.
One of Schmidt’s most decorated projects of his career came back in 2013 when he worked on the award-winning film Night Train to Lisbon. Based on the bestselling book of the same name, the film is about an aging Swiss professor of classical languages who, after a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman, quits his job and travels to Lisbon in the hope of discovering the fate of a certain author, a doctor and poet who fought against Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.
The film stars Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Jeremy Irons, as well as Mélanie Laurent and Christopher Lee. The movie was directed by Oscar winning Director Bille August. Schmidt was asked by the stunt director of the film to be Irons’ stunt double, and the moment he was offered the job, he knew he wanted to be a part of it.
“I read the book already before I worked for the movie project. I was curious how the film would turn out and I think it turned out great. The talented actors have nailed it. I loved the idea of a man who spontaneously escapes his average life looking for answers,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt doubled for Irons in many of the film’s action sequences. In one scene, he had to grab someone and fall onto concrete with him, or as the say in the business, the “bulldog”. Preparing the stunt took some time. They had to scout the location and test the stunt. Then, Schmidt had to go to makeup and wardrobe to look just like Irons. In another scene, Schmidt had to jump on a train while it was leaving the station. He was required to time the jump perfectly to get onto the train seamlessly.
Without Schmidt as Jeremy Irons stunt double, some scenes in the film may not have been realized. Immediately after shooting, Irons approached Schmidt and complimented his work, saying he could not have done the stunts himself and he was glad to have Schmidt as a stunt double.
“It was a new challenge. I loved doing the stunts. I had a great time working with such a professional and talented crew. We shot in the beautiful city of Bern. It was a great atmosphere shooting in an old city like this,” Schmidt described.
Night Train to Lisbon went on to several prestigious film festivals around the world. It did well at the box office, and Schmidt was proud to be part of such a popular film.
“It feels great to work for such a successful project. The fact that I was part of a movie that was multiple awarded and successful feels satisfying and fulfilling. I always try to give my best and to contribute with hard work. It confirms once more that we did a great job,” he concluded.