Amr MacGyver Amr MacGyver

Amr MacGyver talks about his career as Egypt’s No.1 stuntman

Mon, Jul. 23, 2018
Known in the film industry by the professional name of Amr MacGyver, Amr Sayed Mahmoud has always had a passion for cars and racing. The Cairo-born racer became a three-time Autocross Race champion when he was only 18, taking late Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna as his role model.

But it wasn’t on the race track that Mahmoud picked up his moniker “MacGyver.” He got that nickname—for those of you who still remember the popular 1980s TV series starring Richard Dean Anderson by the same name—when he was still in prep school. “I was trying to connect something in the power plug of my classroom when it accidentally caused a short circuit. The explosion took out a whole floor,” Mahmoud says with a laugh. “Eventually, it was my father who gave me the nicknamem after paying for the damages.”

A happy coincidence landed Mahmoud his first experience in the film industry when he was contacted by the producer of Rehlet Hob (Love Journey, 2001) starring Mohamed Fouad to perform a car chase that ends up in a crash on Pyramids Road. At the time, there were no stunt teams to produce action sequences in Egypt, and the producer first turned to British stuntmen. When they arrived in Cairo, they were not able to close off the whole road as a safety precaution, as is usually done in western cinema. “After I pulled off the chase, I started to get many calls to do similar stunts,” explains Mahmoud, who started to work in major films like Sherif Arafa’s Ful El-Seen El-Azeem (The Great Chinese Beans, 2004) starring Mohamed Heneidy. Other projects he was involved with include music videos like Assala’s Tasawar (Imagine) and TV series including last Ramadan’s Al-Gama’a (The Brotherhood). “Stunt coordination became my profession after I had to quit car racing, which is a very expensive sport that is not that rewarding in Egypt,” he says. Aside from working on Egyptian films and TV series, Mahmoud also took part in a Europe-based campaign raising awareness of the dangers of using mobile telephones while driving or walking.

After working with Mona Zaki and Karim Abdel-Aziz on the film Abou-Aly (2005) where he pulled off a car stunt driving backwards, Mahmoud decided to form his own team, the first in Egypt, collaborating with South African stunt coordinator Andrew McKenzie who has more than 20 years’ experience in this field. “McKenzie worked in Egyptian cinema with Ahmed El-Sakka in two of his starring films, Tito and Ibrahim al-Abyad,” says Mahmoud. “I started to work with McKenzie for few years until I gained enough experience to work with my team on our own. Right now, the team includes a group of fit, young men who can climb walls and realize fight scenes with different weapons, in addition to one young lady nicknamed Jojo who has become the stunt double for all our leading actresses.”

Safety on Set

When it comes to stunt work in the cinema industry, safety precautions vary from one country to the other. For instance, when Jackie Chan shot films in the US like his Rush Hour series, the insurance companies didn’t allow him to do the same dangerous stunts he frequently does in Hong Kong. Also, in the US, some insurance companies prevent actors from performing certain stunts. In 1994, the insurance policies of Wesley Snipes and most of the cast of Drop Zone precluded them from skydiving themselves. Last August, a stuntwoman called Joi “SJ” Harris died while performing a motorcycle stunt on the Vancouver set of Dead Pool 2, set for release in 2019. “In Egypt, I always see what I can get most from the actor,” explains Mahmoud, who sometimes performs parts of the action scenes if not all of them. “As for the safety of my own team, we have our own special equipment and costumes. I am the only one among my team who does car stunts since, till now, we don’t have the expensive remote systems which are not that accurate anyway. Until today, Egypt does not have big warehouses where old cars can be used in certain shots featuring exploding vehicles. For the latter, I work with Egyptian pyrotechnic specialist Hany El-Maghraby.”

Our very own MacGyver does have hope that one day Egyptian action sequences can compete with Hollywood’s best. “My favorite heavyweight car chases exist in two films: the 2003 Bad Boys 2, which was directed by Michael Bay with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence starring as two edgy Miami super cops, and the recently released Baby Driver. One day, I want to be able to do something similar in terms of car chases but that is at the same time believable and related to the Egyptian environment,” says Mahmoud. He expresses disappointment that although he has been working for a decade and a half in stunts and special effects, he and his team are not members of the Egyptian Film Syndicate, which has yet to recognize stunt workers as part of the cinema industry.

Mahmoud recently worked on a new action comedy called Okdet el-Khawaga (the foreigner complex) with Hassan el-Radad and Sherine Reda, and is working on follow-up tv show to his 2015 Adrenaline where he performed numerous stunts with Egyptian stars.
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