Flirting with danger

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Flirting with danger

World-renowned escapologist Jonathan Goodwin cheats death every time he executes a life-threatening stunt. Asha Chowdary talks to the daredevil about his latest show, ‘The Incredible Mr Goodwin’

He grapples with a rattlesnake, swings aloft a helicopter, swims with the sharks and allows himself to be buried alive. Does he emerge unscathed? That is the question that will hold you spellbound as you watch the thrills-a-minute acts of Jonathan Goodwin, the legendary escapologist. As he takes his audiences through a whirlwind of death-defying adventures this year, you get a chance to watch him closely and view his feats on television’s hottest new show, The Incredible Mr Goodwin.

Often called the new Houdini or the super hero of our times, Goodwin is an escape artiste who cheats death and extricates himself from extreme dangers each time, without seemingly batting an eyelid. But the skill that goes into each incredible stunt takes months and years of practice and hard work. 

Houdini’s influence

“I read a book about Harry Houdini when I was seven years old,” begins Goodwin. “I remember becoming fascinated with him as a character. I wanted to be just like him and to learn his skills. That’s basically when I decided to become an escapologist. I think it was characters like Harry Houdini who inspired me to be like them.”

As to what we get to see on his new show, Goodwin is happy to elaborate, “In the Discovery show, you will see me hanging from the London Eye using only a burning rope, survive after being bitten by a venomous snake, being buried underground and even shooting a bulb in my wife’s hand after being blindfolded.”

There is no moment in any of the dangerous situations where Goodwin can relax, buoyed by his years of experience and expertise. “Each stunt has a different situation and different dangers are involved,” he explains, adding, “If you are hanging with a burning rope on London Eye, you probably can’t think what will happen next moment, but my practice and experience of 20 years enable me to do so.”

Looking back on his fascinating repertoire of work, Goodwin reminisces about some of his best stunts. “I think my favourite situation from the series is when we did this exciting stunt. Yakima Canutt is considered the father of Hollywood stuntsmen, and he did a stunt where he climbed onto a stage coach, when it was moving at an incredible pace.

He climbed on top of it and then down and later underneath it. We created a modern version of this stunt. I was in a car that was driving down a runway at 60 miles an hour. I climbed out of the car and climbed all the way underneath it, side to side, and back in on the other side. That was a pretty intense experience, but I’m proud of it and I think they ended up shooting it beautifully. I can’t say that I am the only one who can do the stuff I perform. Anyone can do this if they are prepared,” he says.

Fear is not a factor that an escape artiste can consider, but, are there some moments that are scary even for him? “I am not scared, but certainly you do find your adrenaline pumping sometimes,” he replies and adds, “For instance, I’m not a big fan of heights but I do some of these stunts where I am up very high, like, hanging from a helicopter or dangling from the London Eye. They were pretty adrenaline-fuelled situations. But, you know, part of my job description is for me to be able to sort of control those fearful emotions, and keep all of that at bay so I can concentrate on the job at hand and get through whatever it is that I’m doing.”

Living on the edge

When asked about the kind of training and skill that is required for a profession like this, Goodwin attributes all his expertise to mind power. His mantra for success seems to lie entirely on focus and strategy. “I think determination and hard work is all you need at the first step. Apart from this, you need to be accurate, strategic, calm and concentrated,” he explains.

There have been some difficult moments for Goodwin during his career, but like all escapologists, he has taken it in his stride, always looking forward to the next big thing. There are many more dangerous stunts planned for him up ahead, and he is looking forward to doing them. “We’re working on it now. It’s not like most other TV shows where you have to finish series one and roll straight into the next one,” he says and goes on to explain the process.

“I’ve basically exhausted myself doing the first series. It was probably the biggest challenge that I had. And in order to create series two, you know, I have to go back to the drawing board and start training and learning all these skills. So it’s not a quick thing, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get it done and it should be out next year. So, we’ll have to wait and see and it also depends on whether my body holds out.” 

The show promises to be an awe-inspiring treat for those who enjoy watching a real life superhero dodge death each time. As one of the finest escape artistes in the field of escapology, Goodwin has been a daredevil in more ways than one. He has been burned at the stake, hung from cable cars and buildings, has been locked in a box with 2,00,000 bees and escaped from each of these situations without being harmed.

If you are looking to escape from our humdrum world of little excitement, watch this escapologist in action. Life can take on a new magic when the impossible suddenly looks possible by the sheer dint of skill and style of one man. 

The Incredible Mr Goodwin airs at 10 pm on weekdays, on Discovery Channel.

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