Dave Lea Interview
by Paul (ral)

As is the case with most action movies, lead actors are considered too valuable to hurl through walls and windows. Usually this is where the stunt guys come in.

In the case of Batman and Batman Returns Dave Lea, previously a body guard and martial arts expert, took the blows for Michael Keaton. Paul Rodgers chatted with Dave about Batman, life in the movies and his most recent work - Cass.

Paul: Your first "gig" was in BBC's long running soap opera Eastenders.
Dave: I had already done a year on Eastenders, but I wasn't taking it serious - I was just having a good time and being paid well for it. I was getting a little hungry for a little bit of action when I was doing TV work and this came right along my way - perfect timing.

Paul: So Eastenders led to stunt work?
Dave: It was more like I just wanted to kick a chair or a table and do something a little bit more than dialogue. So in some scenes in TV work I would say "Can I kick a chair over when I walk past here, or can I do this or that?" and they would say "Why would you want to do that?"

The agent I had on Eastenders called me up and said "Hey, you wanna do a couple of weeks on Batman?" I had no idea what it was - I was thinking it was a TV show, I didn't know it was a movie set.

Paul: How did you go from "extra" to the position of stunt double?
Dave: When I was doing the "biker" role in Batman, there were about 5 of us sitting at a coffee table when the Batmobile pulls up. Everyone gets up to have a look at the car. Well I got up, jumped over the table, kicked the chair out of the way and made my way there. Tim [Burton] said "I like what you did there. That was good, do that again". They're looking at me asking how come I thought of it and they didn't! Anything you do is great for the camera.

I was doing the night shift, 6 in the evening to 5 in the morning as an extra with hundreds and hundreds of people around. At night time when everyone would be in the big tent telling their life stories to each other or getting wasted on whatever they were doing I would be out on the set just sneaking around practicing kicking and moving around - working out. It seems someone saw me doing that and brought my name up at a certain time when it worked out.

I was down there and the second unit director, Peter McDonald, asked me "Why didn't you tell me you did some of this fighting?" and I said "Well you never asked me." So then he said "Show me what kind of fighting you do".

There are three stunt guys in front of me and I said "Really, are you sure?" "Yeah, why not", he said. So I just unloaded onto these three guys not thinking I'm supposed to be only joking but I went for them.

"Woah, woah, stop, stop!" McDonald said. "Well you told me to go for them", I said. "Yeah, but not like that - just pretend". "I don't know how to pretend fight, I only fight for real". Back then I didn't understand a stunt-punch from a stunt-kick. I didn't mean that in an egotistical way - that's just what I knew.

Anyway, eventually they asked me to do this move and that move, flip up from the ground, do a punch here and do a punch there. Then they said "Ok, let's try the costume on!" It was a week later when I ended up putting the costume on. So I put the costume on, came back and they said "Now do the same stuff". I did and I made it work.

The next thing I'm signing a contract with Warner Bros and that was that.
Paul: I suppose a similarity to Michael Keaton under the cowl helped you a lot too?
Dave: During Batman the director kept saying "Dave...your lips!"

You know when you're gonna fight you grit in but he wanted me to pout my lips so I spent most of the time with my lips out to copy Michael. We did have the same "laugh-line" so the mouth thing was unbelievable to them - it was almost like Michael in a close-up which was as good as they could get. I think that's why they used me a lot more for movement.

Paul: Where they first costumes you put on the ones made for Michael Keaton?
Dave: The first one I put on was for Michael Keaton but I realized as soon as I kicked over my head or did anything it would just rip so then they ended up sending me to a place near Earls Court where they made the costumes and they had a whole bunch of them just made for fighting (and all the crazy stuff we were doing). They had more stretch and arm movement but still very, very restrictive.

Dave getting in costume for the Cathedral scenes

What was really funny was when I was doing the wardrobe for the costume I got a couple of Polaroid's taken by the wardrobe people. So now I was still doing the extra work in the night time and doing Batman in the daytime. When I was hanging out with the extras the next night I said "Hey guys check this out, it's me as Batman". "Yeah, sure Dave, sure", they said "Where did you go to...the circus to get that done?" I'm serious. They did not believe what I was doing in the daytime - so then Tim [Burton] walked past and said "Dave! Good job last night!" I said "Thanks sir!"

Tim had seen the dailies from the day before and they loved it - they went nuts. The other extras were like "Are you serious?"

I went from a cattle herd into my own trailer, my wagon and my own hair and wardrobe people - I was like a VIP. I was treated like royalty - it was great.

Paul: Did you have any input into the suits that were made for you?
Dave: The people that made the suits were great people. As long as I could do the splits or kick above my head I was good. The punches and big moves were fine - I could stretch that out, under-arm gussets and that. It was the legs - cause I would be ripping the costumes every day. They put extra material underneath and covered it up with latex so it would stretch more because other than that they were very tight fitted. The first ones I put on just kept ripping when I did the high kicks. They wanted the high kicks and I can kick high! Of course the cape would be hanging way down. I don't know how many pounds that cape weighted but it was ridiculous. The guys today have got it easy. They've got it lightweight suits and I got the hardcore stuff but I wouldn't swap it because I had to work hard and it made it challenging.

Paul: Can you describe the cape harness?
Dave: Over the shoulder. There were 2 metal plates in the front - they would fit on to where the chest plate was and then the Batman logo would go on there and then it would be riveted in with an allen-key. Then it would be glued down at the back - very different for me. It was all old-school but to me was hi-tech. Then they put the cowl over the top. The web parts in the cowl would be sprayed down around the back of the cape.

Paul: Which suit did you find the most comfortable - 89 or Returns?
Dave: I had a tough time with both. The suits didn't really improve until the 3rd film. There wasn't a lot of difference in the weight of the first two - the stomach was different but other than that they were very much the same.

Paul: So you kept doing the extra work as well as being Keaton's stunt double?
Dave: I was trying to keep the days and nights going because it was great money, but I couldn't keep it up. I stopped the extra work and stuck with the Batman costume and doubling Keaton.
Paul: I remember reading in newspaper about Dave Lea - the British stuntman - in 1989. Where you involved in much publicity at that time?
Dave: There was a lot of stuff going on, yeah. Also because I was body-guarding a certain model over in the UK at the time, [Samantha Fox], so that also caused a lot of publicity. I was also body-guarding other top celebrities in Europe...and I was in EastEnders. So everything was going on at once.

Paul: So you were doing quite well for yourself then?
Dave: Well yeah. I mean when you wake up, it's sunny; your grandmother calls you and asks if you were on the front of the Sunday paper or magazine - and then says "You bloody well behave yourself". Then I'd go buy it and look at it. I'd be on there with Sam Fox. Anita Dobson [in EastEnders] by day and Samantha Fox by night. That was the funny part of life.

Dave on the Pinewood set

Paul: What was your first day as stunt double on the set of Batman? Dave: The first fight scene was the back-alley with the swords and the guy getting punched across the dust-bin.

Paul: That was with Master Sken?
Dave: Right. That was my first fight scene and I had no problem with it. I thought "Wow I'm getting paid to fight. Now I'm having fun".

Paul: How many stunt performers were there on the Batman?
Dave: Now keep in mind, I was not a stunt man - I came in through the back door. I think now I would be a bit more careful in how that was done, but back then I had no idea. They had about 25 stunt guys on set.

Paul: How many stunt men played Batman?
Dave: As Batman, on the first one, there was me and another guy, Sean McCabe - God bless and rest his soul - who passed away quite a while ago. Sean McCabe was the original guy.

Paul: Was there much input from you into the fighting scenes on Batman?
Dave: Not really no. If I didn't know much about a stunt punch I certainly didn't know about the cameras either. So whatever they came up with I went out and did it. The second one was completely different. By that time I had already done "Tango & Cash". I did a crash course and I learnt real fast about fights, cameras and what works and what doesn't work. For example, Batman doesn't have time to do spinning kicks and have a fight with you unless you're the main guy. So if you take a punch of him you go down and you don't get up. Guys were coming in saying "Dave, we'll do this and do that" and I would just say "Why would you do that?" Batman's on the move - he doesn't stop. He doesn't stop to introduce himself. He's just bang, crash and on the move.

Paul: Batman's style of fighting - it's quick and it's fast. Does it bear much relation to your style of HapKune Do?
Dave: HapKune Do is a style I learned in Malaysia. It's an amalgamation of all different styles put together - which suited me perfectly at the time when I was learning because I could learn everything. I had already studied the Filipino arts, studied with Dan Inosanto, studied the kicks, the flips, weapons, Kung Fu - all the time different stuff. I took all the moves and turned them into Batman moves...but you're not going to see Batman do a Tiger Claw or a Thai Boxing kick...so what I did was - whatever the move was I would turn it into a little bit more of the Batman character. On the first movie I didn't know who I was! I was in the costume jumping around like a lunatic.

Paul: How did you find the character in that case?
Dave: You've got to understand, there's a difference between Batman standing up straight and me putting the costume on, bending like a fighter and going in. I kept being told "Dave straighten up." "Walk this way, walk that way." "Keep you posture up. Don't hunch your shoulders." Everything is the character, and I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about - in keeping your back straight and chin up you're the character. You're not a boxer or a street fighter.

You know on the Cass movie - the hooligan fight. There are no martial arts, street fighting or bar-fighting. What is football hooligan fighting? Well, either you gotta be a genius to create it or you've got to have been there and lived it. So, you know, football hooligan fighting is something you can't teach. You can try to, but it's not easy.

Paul: I would say it's something you grow up with that becomes second nature.
Dave: Yeah. I'm not confessing I was a hooligan but I did have a certain education at Highbury when I was a kid.
Paul: Can you describe how the scene with Phil Tan, as the Joker goon, was played out?
Dave: The gymnastic scene? Where he flips towards me?

Paul: That's the one!
Dave: He was on a dolly coming in. He was on a dolly in the last piece, then it cuts and the spears come out of his feet. Phil's a gymnastic guy and he was flip-flopping up and down the floor that night. I would stand there, wait for the right timing, put my hand out and then this extension thing would come out of the palm of my hand and smash him in the groin. Which was the typical comedy of "Batman" - you come at me with all the crazy stuff, screaming, and I stand there and wait to the last second. I did the same in the alley scene - he comes at me with the sword, I wait and put a front kick into his face. So it always ends up with that kind of little humor with Batman.

Phil Tan coming at Dave "with all the crazy stuff"

Paul: Towards the end of the Alley scene there is a shot with Tracey Walter - was another scene shot? I have seen some behind the scenes footage with Tracey Walter's character, Bob, using a knife.
Dave: Wasn't me. I didn't hear about it. It could have been a pick up shot with Tracey and Michael - although Michael definitely wasn't doing any action.

Paul: We've already talked about your first scene on Batman - but what was the last scene you did?

Dave: The last one was the bell-tower with Clive Curtis. That was a good fight - that one I enjoyed more. Sean McCabe did a couple of shots - he was thrown though the wall - but I did all the fighting stuff. At one point, when Clive Curtis was coming after me he had this big block & tackle in his hand and I was backed up against the wall. He smashes the thing.

Now - when I turn my head the mask doesn't turn with me, it stays there. I'm trying to see where he's coming at my head with the big block and tackle - it wasn't until I just ducked, he clipped my Batman ears and the wall came out that I looked at it and said "What the heck is that? What have you got there?"

It was a real Block and Tackle! I said "Are you shitting me?? You gotta real Block and Tackle? Why did no-one wanna tell me?! I thought it was all props! If I didn't duck you would have just?" And he's [Clive] just looking at me saying "I thought you would have knew". I said "How would I know?"

And you know I kinda bonded with Curtis - he was a great guy - but when he was smashing that thing at my head? Oh my God!

Paul: Did you get to speak to Bob Kane at anytime on set?
Dave: No. I didn't get to meet with him. Although I did get to meet Adam West and Cesar Romero at functions and celebrity parties. I was introduced to them by my publicist. I also got to drive the original Batmobile from the TV show on the set of Returns.

Paul: How did you get to do that?
Dave: I knew the guy who owned the car. I was doing a Batman tour with the car around America at car shows and I said to him "I've got a great idea. Why don't we take the Batmobile down to the set?" Then I got permission secretly. One night when everyone was on the set, Michael, Tim, they opened the gates and I drove the car in and they just cracked up. I got Michael in it, Tim in it. It was just one of those moments you have to grab. Hey, the car drove great.

Paul: Was it fast?
Dave: We didn't really pump it.

Paul: Did you get to drive the Batmobile from the Burton movies?
Dave: No, In England I came in the back door so they had a British stunt guy for driving that one. Then over for Returns they had an American stunt guy. My main focus was getting the fights, getting the action - falling off the roof-tops.

Paul: The hard stuff?
Dave: The fun stuff!
Paul: It was a couple more years before Batman Returns came around. Were you involved much before shooting?
Dave: Well by then I was already over in America. When I was on the set of Batman Jon Peters liked what I was doing and he asked me and Phil Tan to come and work on Tango & Cash with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. So we came over here [America] and we stayed.

So when Batman Returns came up - Michael Keaton was working on the movie "One Good Cop" and I had gone over to visit him. When I was over there he said "Dave, hey, we're bringing up the second one and I've recommended you". I then got the call to say he'd recommended me to double him again.

Michael is just one of those great, great guys - a real gentleman, but I made life easy for him. While I was doing all the dirty work he was reading the newspaper - "Let Dave do it!" On the first one I did so much of the work. On Returns I got him out there doing a bit.

Paul: Michael was more involved in fighting in Batman Returns?
Dave: Oh yeah, he did a few fights - like when he drives up in the Batmobile and Michelle Pfeiffer is being held up by a clown. So yeah he was involved more, definitely.

Paul: Cool. That's great to hear. So how much time did you have to get ready before shooting started on Batman Returns?
Dave: We had 6 weeks of prior training before we started rolling.

Paul: How was it getting back into the character for Returns?
Dave: I was already ready. Once I put the costume on for the second movie the character came straight into me - my body movement - everything. I was ready.

Paul: So during the choreography of Batman Returns did you train Michelle Pfeiffer?
Dave: Michelle had the whip and Anthony De Longis which obviously was another department. The rooftop scene and a few other bits had to be choreographed - and made a little "cat-like" in movements.

Paul: Were the Circus Gang real circus performers?
Dave: Yeah most of them were. The guy who played the big strongman, Rick Zumwalt, he was a good friend of mine, a great guy. The kind of guy you want on your side if you have a problem. He passed away from cancer a few years later.

The sword swallower was a legitimate circus performer. I had to pull that sword out of his throat a few times on camera.

Paul: How was it to do that scene? Was that nerve racking?
Dave: Well not really, you're there to do a job so you just focus on not ripping the guy's throat apart - but he showed me how to pull it out and I had to make it look like it was all in motion. We did quite a few takes to get it right but he was there because he could do the job. Everyone that signs up and takes the job knows that's what they got to go through. If you have to do it 10 times, you have to do it 10 times.

Paul: What did you think of Tim Burton as a director?
Dave: On the first movie I didn't work with him that much. He was 1st unit and I was on 2nd unit. On the second movie I worked with him a lot. You could watch Tim Burton's face (the way he's looking at the monitor) to see if you were good or bad. As the first AD [Derek Cracknell] said, "Dave, if you get to know what the director's looking at you'll know if you're on-que or not." If Tim's sitting forward with his hands on his face the he's worried about the take. If he sits back after the take then you know you've got it! Quite a few times when he would sit forward I would say "Tim I got it". Tim would say "Yeah?" and I would turn to Michael [Keaton] and say "We gotta do this, we gotta do that". Then I turn to the stunt guy and tell him to bring it on to Michael more. I tell Tim to roll it - bam, bam, bam - and Tim would drop his hands and say "Cut! Great!"

Dave getting to grips with Tim Burton on the Batman Returns set

Paul: So you would pre-empt what Tim was thinking - he wouldn't have to go to you and say "Change this"?
Dave: Yeah. If you're on the ball and you're looking at his face then you'll know. He's not a hard case director but he knows what he's looking for and you can dial into that when you work with him.

Paul: Would Tim be different on the set than he is off the set?
Dave: Yes. He definitely goes into work mode.

Paul: On Returns were any celebrities on set who weren't involved with the movie?
Dave: Yeah, a lot of people came by to visit. I was still pretty new at the time over there so I just involved with the work but a lot of people came by. If I use an example - when I was on "Hook" with Spielberg, we had Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins and Robin Williams. I mean so many people would come by to visit just to get a cameo on the movie with Spielberg! These stars turn up all the time.

Paul: I know that Jon Peters and Peter Guber were on set a lot for B89.
Dave: Jon Peters was. Guber wasn't that much.

Paul: What about Returns? I have seen loads of photos and haven't seen them in one.
Dave: I've got pictures of them on set with me in my own collection. Mark Canton, Peter Guber, Jon and me.

Paul: I've read that Jon had a lot of input into the first film.
Dave: Jon's a very hands on guy. Very behind the scenes.

Paul: Was that the same case with the second one? Or had he less input?
Dave: Jon's as much involved as a producer as anyone can be - most certainly very much involved.

Paul:You built up a good friendship with Jon Peters from Batman then?
Dave: Yeah. Jon's a great guy.

Paul: Working on subsequent films with Jon led you to working with Sylvester Stallone.

Dave: Yeah Sylvester took good care of me. I mean I've been in four movies of his since. He made some good complements and helped me a lot in the business. He's great to work with - yeah - a good guy!
Paul: Let's go back to fighting for a while and talk about the big scenes in Batman Returns.
Dave: When we did the big street fight in Batman Returns I had about 10 guys around me - multiple cameras, multiple moves. I told the guys before the fight "Right guys, here's what we gotta do", I had 10 clowns around me; "we got 35 moves. We're gonna go for a master-shot. If I'm not where I should be - hit me! Just go for me. I will work it out. If you're not where you should be - I will hit you! Do not worry about it, do not stop, at the end we can give each other some love and some hugs...alright?"

So the ADE shouts "Dave are you ready?" "I'm ready sir!" There were 6 cameras all over the place.

Off we go - bam, bam, bam! We going through it and I think "Oh my god, I forgot a guy is gonna swing a harpoon at my head [laughs] and I just ducked in time, he just missed me, I turned around a little too much and there is a guy standing in front of me. I don't know what he was doing in front of me but I just head-butted him. Bam! He went down. But we carried on fighting.

Paul [laughing] : So the head-butt wasn't originally part of the scene?
Dave: No it wasn't - there was something else going on there! Anyway we finished that and everyone was clapping and cheering. They loved how real it was and how all the hits were on.

So the next day, I'm walking on the lot at Warner Bros and Tim had just come back from watching the dailies. As he walked past I say "Hey Tim, how you doing?" and he says "Good Dave. Good job!" So after 4 or 5 paces he stops and says "Dave...did you really head-butt that guy?" "Tim...would I do that?" He said "You're crazy man!" and he kept walking.

Paul: So what happened the guy you head-butted?
Dave: Well that guy turned out to be a good pal and he came up after and said "I loved it! It was real!" It was real, but there was nothing personal taken about it - it was just the way we worked.

You saw me and Michelle Pfeiffer on the roof-top? Michelle's got the heels on and I go in to pick her up - she nails me in the chest with a kick?

Paul: Yeah, great scene.

Dave: When she was doing it she was pulling back. I saw Tim's expression so I say "I got it Tim". "Michelle", I said, "I want you to really kick me". "But I've got stilettos on" she said. "Michelle just nail me. Don't worry, I've got all this protection on - the suit...everything - when I come down to give you my hand just nail me!"

The cameras roll and I go in to pick he up and she turns around and hits me with a back kick. The heel went right through my costume. It hurt like a bastard. I bounced back, fell off the roof top...and everyone went nuts. What a bruiser that was. Michelle was running over all concerned asking if I was ok. Tim said "Don't worry. Dave can take it".

Paul: So Michelle did a lot of her own fighting then?
Dave: Did she?!! On the roof top Kathy Long did a master shot but Michelle got up there and she went for it. She was twisting and turning - and I remember that rooftop was steep, it was quite tough. Actually that day Jack Nicholson came by the set to visit and he made a joke about how even though he wasn't working on the movie he was still getting paid.
Paul: Did you keep any souvenirs from the Batman films?
Dave: I've got a great Batman jacket that Jon Peters gave me on the first film. There were only 30 of them made - Italian leather. Never given out to staff and crew - nobody. Jon had them made for specific people. He gave us one each. There were crew jackets which were purple with Joker badges, but this one - I've got it locked away.

Paul: Do you have any good stories and memories from the Batman films that we haven't already talked about?
Dave: Well...during Batman I had Jack Nicholson by the collar lifting him up. He was looking down at me...just before the teeth fall out of his mouth...and as I was picking him up (he was a box so he would be higher than me but I still had to have my strength in my body) my body bent back. Jack started making fun of me. I start to laugh and the director shouts "Dave! Will you stop moving your body! You're supposed to be Batman!" Jack's making a complete fool out of me and I'm laughing my backside off. So everything's shaking, my back's breaking cause I'm supposed to hold him. He kept making fun of me and the more he made fun of me the more I laughed - and the more I laughed the more I got shouted at by the director.

After the alley fight, I was walking down the corridor to my room (we didn't have trailers cause we were filming on a studio lot) and I walked past Michael Keaton's room. "Hey kid", Michael shouts with his feet up reading the paper, "good job last night". I realized what he meant was as long as I was doing this he could sit and read the paper. The humor was there but I didn't get it at first. I got it now though.

Then Jack walked past me once - "Hey nice fight - keep it up. You're doing real good." I said "Thank you Mr Nicholson". He replied "Call me Jack". You know, you're with these powerhouses and you end up like "Cheers mate - taa".

Paul: From what I've read, Jack was very supportive of Tim [Burton]. Was he like that with everyone?
Dave: Yeah, he was great.

Paul: During Batman Returns, was there ever any talk about a third Batman film with Tim and Michael?
Dave: Yeah there was. There was a lot of talk about a lot of things but creatively it didn't work out. There were no details. I know that Tim was going to direct it. Tim's a creative guy, Michael's creative, studios are in the way and all kind of stuff happens. I still think Michael did the best job on the first two films for the original character and the portrayal of Bruce Wayne. I mean I'm always going to say that.

Paul: Oh yeah, I agree with you. Have you been asked to consult of any of the other Batman films?
Dave: No. The political status is - whenever another guy comes in he brings his own crew and you step aside. I worked on the third and forth ones. I did some parts on them. In the third one - when the Batmobile was driving up the wall I was one of the people in the building. I was sitting kinda upside down for a day and a half in a chair on cables attached to the wall. It was good fun.

Paul: I will have to re-watch that scene more closely!
Dave: Yeah. And in the forth one I was one of the security guards in the museum. I was dressed as an officer, my hair was tucked up and I got sent up in the air like 20-30ft. It was hilarious. You gotta keep involved.

Paul: So even though you work on film sets would you consider yourself a big movie fan?
Dave: No, but when I grew up watching movies with DeNiro, Pacino, Hoskins and all these people - you know what? Thank god I got to work with all of them. I am not shy to go up and say I like your work. Even with Tom Cruise. To be honest I wasn't a Tom Cruise fan and I told him this when I went to work with him on the MTV Movie Awards. I did tell him it was a pleasure to meet him though. He said "Well, thanks for your honesty" [laughs] and when I started flipping my legs around he said "How the heck do you do that?" I just told him that I had to watch out for the young guys coming up - and we just clicked. We had the greatest time.

Paul: On the topic of working with stars let's talk about one in particular - Sly Stallone.
Dave: As a kid (late 20's) I watched Rocky and said to myself "I gotta work with that guy one day" - and what happens? Four movies later and I'm still taking a beating off him.

How about this story....it was after Demolition Man came out and I was at a club in Beverly Hills. Some pals and myself were walking up the street and I saw Sly come out of the club. He's got his agent and about 4 or 5 people around him. I was about 100 yards away. One of my guys says "Dave, there's Sly!" "Yeah I see him". The traffic is going by and everyone sees him. As we walk past, Sly and me look at each other and I stiffen up and give him the body language. He reads me and I read him back. We get closer and Sly says "You got a problem pal?" I say "No - I think you've gotta problem". He says "Yeah? Well what do you intend to do about it?" By this time we are starting to circle each other. The people with him have no idea, the bouncers in the club are like "Oh shit!", cars are stopping and the body language is screaming violence. You could tell the people with him are thinking "Who is this lunatic? Is he after Rambo or something?"

So Sly says "What you gonna do about it then?" We square up to each other and I say "Let's find out then shall we?" Then we just rushed each other, gave each other the biggest hug and cracked up laughing. Sly introduced me to his group then "This is Dave. He's my fight guy." They were about to call the cops [laughing]!

It's those moments that you could just savor forever - from the point of view that:
You've just watched Rocky when it came out. Then one morning you're listening to Capital Radio and you hear he's down there so you jump in your car and go to the radio station. He walks out and there are 10 people around me. You've got a stupid little $2 camera, you see this guy who's your idol - you ran in the rain, you ran in the show and did your training to the Rocky music - and you go up and ask him to sign a picture. Then you ask to have your picture taken (which is a really stupid picture to take cause you're sticking your head in front of him!). You get that picture and it's everything to you.

Many years later Jon Peters went to Sly and said you gotta meet this guy Dave - he's unreal. I couldn't wait to meet him because he was so inspirational. I'm standing in front of him and show him the picture that was taken. He looks at it and he goes "Wow!" From then on we just hit it off. Paul: At this point in time it is almost 20 years since you last put on the Batman costume on set. Since then you have been very busy indeed. I would like to talk about your most recent movie released though - Cass.
Dave: Have you seen the Cass movie yet?

Paul: Yeah I watched it a few weeks ago. I was very impressed. To be honest I'm not a big fan of football or hooligan movies but Cass actually struck me as more of a strong character driven movie. Nonso Anozie was excellent and I have always enjoyed Paul Kaye's work.
Dave: It's a very character driven movie and not just like Green Street - fighting. The fighting had its place in it but I took the movie on because I really liked the story.

Paul: I have to say your character Bingo took a bit of a kicking!
Dave: Awhh my god. That's when you take a bunch of guys who know absolutely nothing - have never worked before - and you've got to do magic with them. The only way to make it work is to take a beating. Pad yourself up and down, no rehearsal, no choreography and just go for it.

Paul: It was a much more personal film?
Dave: It was. Firstly because of how I met Cass. If destiny or fate ever had a purpose - meeting Cass was it. That was quite something. I was working on a movie with Vinnie Jones and every time I came to London to work I'd buy a couple of books. I noticed a few gangster / celebrities were bringing some out; so I bought a few of the books. One particular book I bought was by Cass Pennant - "Cass". I read about this guy. It was around my time and area (when I was in London). I lived in North London and it was all in East London. I read a few other books by other guys and I thought how funny is this - these guys have all been hooligans or trouble-makers and they write books about themselves!

At the same time I was researching over here because I had always wanted to do a London gangster movie - but a real good one, a period piece. A couple of producers in England really liked the idea so I said "Let me do the research". That's why I got into the books.

So anyway, I'm back in London on this movie with Vinnie Jones and one day I'm I come to the set playing one of the bad guys and I see this black guy sitting at a table. I thought "I know that guys face - where do I know him from?" I went up to Vinnie Jones and said "Vinnie, is that the guy over there who wrote the book about himself?" Vinnie said it was. So I went over to him and I said "Excuse me, is your man Cass?" He said "Yeah". "Pleased to meet you", I said, "My name's Dave. I read your book and I really enjoyed it. Congratulations. Good luck with everything your doing." He said "Aw thanks".

So I walked away. Later in the day Cass walked up to me and he said "You're Dave Lea?!" The guy is 7ft tall - he's huge. I said "Yeah". He said "You used to body guard Sam Fox". "How the heck did you know that?"

He said "I know quite a lot about you. You're a bit of a top geezer in North London". I hadn't heard someone use that term for a while. The next day he walks in and gives me this book called "Bouncers". And he told to read page so and so. So at lunch time I went through the book and there's this guy talking about me - so I read it with great interest. It turns out that way back in the eighties there was a bar up in Tottenham. I got booked in it to do an appearance with Samantha Fox. Cass got called by a couple of heavy boys in East London to look after this bar one night because there was a top model coming in. So he turns up at the bar to do security (it wasn't as organized as it is nowadays). The place is packed out.

His story was that he was in there supposed to look after this top model and she turns up with her mum. But?every time he tries to get near this guy's getting in his way and cutting everyone off - walking her here, walking her there.
In the book he was cursing "Who is this geezer?"

At the end of the night Cass goes up to the two guys who hired him and says "I'm trying to do my job but this guy?who is he? The boyfriend? The manager? Who?" They told him "That's Dave Lea - the minder. Be careful. Don't get in his way!" He says "Now you tell me! I was about to pull the guy!"

Anyway - I'm reading this in the book and thinking "Is he serious? The guy is like twice my size!" Not that size matters but respectfully I'm just saying.

So he says "But I gotta be honest. I watched that guy as a body guard that night and you would never have known he was there until you stepped close to the client - then you knew he was there. I watched the way he worked - he never put himself in front, he always let the star be the star and he was like the furniture." Cass went on to be Frank Bruno's bodyguard and he said that the best lesson he ever got in celebrity-minding was watching me.

The next day I went up to him and I said "Are you serious about this?" and he said "I wrote that two years ago about you and I always wanted to thank you. I watched you that night and I couldn't believe it. The way you moved - I just watched because that guy definitely knows something. Who is he?" I said [laughing] "If you had of grabbed me you probably would have found out!"

So now that I've connected with the guy I then told the Assistant Director "You see that big guy there? I want him to be behind me on all my scenes now with a gun." So now Cass is doing extra work learning about the business which I really admired. Now I've got Cass in the frame with me - he's my guy behind me now. We had that kind of fun and then later he invited me to a birthday party of his which I went to. There were all these people from East London. What characters they were - I tell you Paul! Now they're all giving me their books so I can take them back to Hollywood.

When I came back to London I met up with Cass and hung out with him. I just generally liked this guy. There was something charismatic about him. After about a year and a half he sends me this message that says "Dave, I've just had my movie green-lit. Would you consider being the coordinator on it?"

Cass Pennant and Dave Lea (image copyright of Cass Pennant) www.casspennant.com

His book "Cass" had been turned into a script. When I read it and it turned out to be a 70's / 80's period piece, it was football hooliganism and it was shot in London - I couldn't say no. I called the director [Jon S. Baird] and he said "What do you see?" I said "I see two thirds of a great character driven story and I see some hooligan stuff here". He said "Thank you for telling me that - because I've got coordinators over here telling me I can do this and I can do that, but that's not what the movie is all about. It's about a black kid growing up in racist London."

From there I got involved and the director wrote in the character Bingo [played by Dave]. I've always wanted to go back to London and get involved in a time period piece - I just loved it. You know I would have done that one for nothing. On the set you've got the original hardcore ICF [Inter City Firm] guys (plus second and third generation) as extras. We had a great time, I looked after them all and they were really good to me. To piss them off I would wear an Arsenal shirt under my jacket. Cass told me "Dave the guys love you cause you walk over and hang out with them. You're just like one of them". How else could I be?

That was a long answer Paul, but it was a personal endeavor and it was one of those movies you just get your teeth into and really get on with it. It was hard work, it was emotionally draining but I really loved every moment of it.

Paul: You're doing a new film called "K"?
Dave: It's done. I did that with Tamer Hassan who worked on the Cass movie. I was sitting at home one day and I get this call. Tamer is on the phone saying "Dave we're in trouble. We're doing this movie and we need some help with the fight scenes. Make a deal and please come over and help us". When I got on the Cass set I said "You know Tamer I'd like to mix it up with you some day on the screen. I think we could have a good fight together".

He had a lot of respect for me. He is a nice guy and helped me out a bit when I was over in London so I thought I would take a cut in price and go over there and help him out. So I worked over there on the K movie. How it turned out or what's going on with it I have no idea.

Paul: Looking back on your time as Michael Keaton's stunt double - how would you sum it up?
Dave: Great times. I'm a lucky guy. I'm a very lucky guy. I'm an English man who came over to play an American hero - how good is that Paul?

Paul: It doesn't get any better than that! Finally, what have you learnt from working in the movie industry?
Dave: Don't ever forget where you came from. I don't have to tell you I'm the only guy that did this or that. No. There are other people around and they deserve as much credit as I do for life - for without those people we may never get an opportunity.

I would like to give a huge THANK YOU to Dave for giving up his morning for this interview. It was an enormous thrill for this "bat-geek" to get to talk to him about the Burton movies.

You can see more Batman-related photos of Dave on his website - www.davelea.com

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