Roy Tony Anderson has spent most of the past three decades jumping between buildings, taking tough punches and falling from really high places. A Hollywood stuntman, he has performed daring stunts in more than 100 movies and television shows from “Boardwalk Empire” to “American Gangster.” Doubling for actors Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx, the Jamaican native has literally thrown himself into the profession of appearing to risk his life, sometimes bringing that appearance perilously close to reality.
Once when doubling for Tyrese Gibson in the movie “Baby Boy,” he fell through a glass table, cut his foreman and received 35 stitches. For the charismatic stuntman, it was just another day on the job. “They bandaged me up and did a take two,” he recalls. “You have to be in great physical shape and contrary to popular belief, you also have to be mentally sound to be a stuntman.” Anderson had his first taste of the movies in the early ‘80s, when he answered an advert seeking ‘athletic type’ males to form a gang in a movie. “I got one of those parts and I attended a training camp where we were trained on how to take hits, throw punches and fall down.”
Roy T. Anderson behind the lens
At the time, Anderson, who was born in Jamaica, but spent most of his adult life in Canada before settling in New Jersey, was working at a TV Station as an Editorial Assistant. “I didn’t set the world on fire right away as the film industry was quite young in Toronto and I was very much into my sports and school,” he shares. It wasn’t until 1982 that Anderson made the leap to stardom. He has appeared as a stunt double in blockbuster hits such as “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Spiderman 2,” “Bourne Ultimatum,” and acted in several movies including “The Other Guys,” and “Honey.” He can be seen in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film titled “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
But there’s more to the actor than just stunts and movie roles. He recently stepped behind the camera to direct his first project titled “Akwantu: the Journey.” A documentary about the history of Jamaican freedom fighters called the Maroons who fought for independence from the British Army; it received the special jury prize for Best Feature Documentary at the 2012 Belize International Film Festival. A labor of love for the filmmaker whose search for his ancestral roots led him to make this worthwhile historical piece, it weaves Anderson’s ancestral journey from the ‘gold coast’ of West Africa (Ghana) to Maroon society. “I wasn’t physically born in the different Maroon communities,” he explains. “It was my great grandmother that was born there and even though I am one of them, it still took a while to gain their trust.”
Roy T. Anderson doubles for actor Will Smith on the set of Hitch
But once he gained their trust, Anderson was able to delve into the culture and history of this resilient race whose historical importance has been either ignored or misunderstood. Featuring interviews with world renowned scholars, we learn, through Anderson’s lens how the Maroons, considered the “Spartacus” of their time, were victorious in their fight for freedom. Escaped slaves of West African origin, they successfully fought the British army for their freedom and in the mid-18th century formed independent communities in remote areas of Jamaica.
A horn blower and descendant of the Maroons
“I didn’t know the extent of their military strategy,” he continues. “And once I delved deep in research, I gained a new found respect and appreciation for what they were able to accomplish, especially being outgunned with the British having the superior weapon. What really struck me is their ingenuity. The British really thought that they couldn’t hurt them and it showed that our people had some skills and a lot of smarts.”
Shot in Jamaica, Ghana, Canada and the United States over the course of two years, the narrative is largely driven by an anecdotal style of storytelling from the mouths of the Maroons themselves. An engaging, witty and completely absorbing documentary that has a worthy subject matter, “Akwantu: the Journey” is fun, well-made and entertaining. “Ideally, I would love to see this film in thousands of schools around the world,” continues Anderson. “Even though the film is entertaining, the potential is more on the educational side and that fact hasn’t been lost on me.”
“Akwantu: the Journey” is available on DVD and VOD. For more information visit: http://www.akwantuthemovie.com
Samantha Ofole-Prince is a journalist and movie critic who covers industry-specific news that includes television and film. She serves as the Entertainment Editor for Trendy Africa.
Photos courtesy of Action 4 Reel Flimworks.