How stuntman Riky Ash outmanoeuvred the competition

He’s even featured in the Guinness Book of Records by holding the record for the world’s most versatile stuntman. He’s doubled for actors ranging from 3ft 6ins to 6ft 4ins tall (Ash himself is 5ft 3ins), and for people aged six to 87.

But it’s not all leaping out of burning buildings and having bottles smashed over his head. Early on Ash realised that the more strings to his bow the better. So, in addition to being a Fifth Dan Shaolin Kung-Fu expert, he can handle horses, cars, motorbikes, stunts based around fire, swimming, powerboats, he does heights, he ice skates and will happily fall down staircases. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a trained actor, something Ash worked out early on would make him that much more appealing to production crews.

“If a TV company is shooting a scene where someone crashes through a window, then gets up and runs off, it’s better for them not to have to cut from the stunt to the actor and worry about continuity issues,” he says. That means he’s landed a range of acting/stuntmen work that would have gone to two people in the past.

As a youth, Ash says he was never a daredevil. If anything, he was the complete opposite. But getting into martial arts opened his eyes. He represented Great Britain at the German Open (taking first place in “Kung-Fu destruction”) and, talking to the other competitors, started to find out more about how he could make serious money doing stunts or fight work on television. “I enlisted in drama school and contacted UK actors union Equity. Then, I started going out and observing other stuntmen at work, helping out and learning from what they were doing. I hired stunt videos and got books out of the library.” Basically, he did his research.

He hasn’t looked back. “There are a lot of average stuntmen,” Ash says. “But because I have many skills and can act I’m in demand.” Before he got into the stunt work, Ash earned £6k a year as a cabinet maker. He can now earn that in under a week. Getting doused in petrol and set on fire can earn him £3k, as can throwing himself off a cliff. Scary work, even for Ash, who openly admits he can be frightened doing certain stunts. “The best payer is television,” he says, “particularly a show like Last of the Summer Wine, because you get an 80 per cent repeat fee and you get paid if it runs overseas, too. I’ve done about 50 episodes.”

Falling For You’s turnover is around the £150k mark (although some years he can earn up to £250k). That’s not bad for a sole trader, especially when all his outlay comes to about £15k annually. “I’m not complacent, though,” Ash says. “I still contact all the production companies and produce marketing material about me and the business.” Ash says he’s considered going to the US to work but says he’s got enough on here for the time being.

“I’ve been a success because I’m versatile, reliable and honest. I’m not a big fan of business books. To me, it’s all about common sense.”

This is an extract from Secrets of My Success, by Jamie X Oliver. Available at all good book shops and online.

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