British stuntman Gary Connery has worked on James Bond, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Batman films and stood in for the likes of Gary Oldman, Rowan Atkinson and John Hurt. But on Wednesday the spotlight turned on Connery himself, as the 42-year-old became the first person to leap from a helicopter and land safely without a parachute.
Over the Oxfordshire countryside and above a huge crowd of spectators and journalists – not to mention his horrified wife Vivian, who remarked: “he is obviously totally bonkers” – Connery leaped out of a helicopter at 2,400 feet and sailed towards a 350×45-foot wide landing strip, made out of 18,600 cardboard boxes stacked 12 feet high. Wearing a $1,500 wingsuit to slow his descent, Connery still reached speeds of up to 80mph. The nail-biting flight took a full minute to complete.
The Daily Telegraph reports “a heart stopping 30 seconds as he disappeared into the crumpled heap of cardboard before he re-emerged jubilant,” from the boxes, which reportedly cost $30,000 and were assembled by 100 volunteers.
Speaking to the press after his triumphant landing, Connery said:
“It was absolutely wonderful. I’m really buzzing. I’m in a really strange place right now … Landing in the boxes was so comfortable and soft – I clearly got my calculations right.”
It’s not like he hasn’t had any practice. Connery made his first parachute jump at 23 as an Army recruit, and since then has performed nearly 900 sky dives and 450 base jumps, including leaps off the London Eye, the Eiffel Tower and Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square.
When The Sunday Times, – which first reported on Connery’s planned jump on April 1st – asked him if he was mad, he replied: “No, not at all, but I think you might be … going to work in an office dressed in a suit – that’s mad.” Well, we can think of a crazier suit.