The Egyptian Stuntman: Amr MacGyver

by Sherif Awad

Known in the film industry by the professional name of Amr MacGyver, Amr Sayed Mahmoud was born in Cairo with a great adoration to car racing which drove him to become a three-time champion in Autocross Race when he was only eighteen-years-old. During these days, late Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna was his role model.
However, it was in his preparatory years not in car arena when he was acquired the nickname “MacGyver” after the popular TV series starring Richard Dean Anderson that used to air on our national television in the mid-1980s. “I was trying to connect something in the power plug of my classroom when it accidentally caused a short circuit that burned out a whole floor”, laughed Amr who was exempted from his school (Amar Ibn Yasser School, for historical trivia). “Eventually, it was my father who gave me the nickname after paying the damages”.

Egyptian Cinema Amr MacGyver Sherif Awad

A happy coincidence made for Amr his first entry in film field when he was contacted by the producer of the Mohamed Fouad starrer Rehlet Hob (Love Journey, 2001) to realize a car chase that ends up with a crash on Al-Ahram Road. Because, at that time, there was no stunt team to do such things in Egypt, the producer first imported British stuntmen who, once arrived in Cairo, couldn’t shutdown the whole road like it is usually done in western cinema as part of the safety precautions. “After my realization of the stunt with success, I started to get many calls to do similar stunt works”, explains Amr who started to work not only in films like Sherif Arafa’s Fool El-Seen El-Azeem (The Great Chinese Beans, 2004) starring Mohamed Heneidy but also in music video like Asala’s Tasawar (Imagine) and in TV series like this year’s Al-Gama’a (The Brotherhood). “Stunt coordination became my profession after I had to quit car racing, which is a very expensive sport not that rewarding in Egypt”, he says.

Egyptian Cinema Amr MacGyver Sherif Awad

After working with Mona Zaky and Karim Abdel-Aziz in the film Abou-Aly (2005) where he realized a driving backward car stunt, Amr decided to form his own team, the one and only team of stuntmen in Egypt so far, in collaboration with South African stunt coordinator Andrew McKenzie who has more than twenty 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 Amr. “I started to work with McKenzie for few years until I gained sufficient experience to work and my team on our own”. Right now, the team includes a group of fitted young men who can climb walls and realize fight scenes with different weapon in addition to one young lady nicknamed Jojo who has become the stunt double for all our leading actresses…

Egyptian Cinema Amr MacGyver Sherif Awad

In the stuntmen field, 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 is frequent to do 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 in the Vancouver set of Dead Pool 2 coming 2019. “In Egypt, I always see what I can get most from the actor”, explains Amr who sometimes performs parts of the scene if not all of it. “As for the safety of my own team, we have our own special equipment and costumes. I am only one among my team who realizes car stunts since, till now, we don’t have the expensive remote systems to do although they are not that accurate. Until now, Egypt doesn’t have big warehouses were old cars can be used in certain shots featuring exploding vehicles. For the latter, I work with Egyptian pyrotechnic specialist Hany El-Maghraby”.
Aside from working on Egyptian films and TV series, Amr worked outside of Egypt on an European awareness campaign to prevent accident due to mobile use while driving or even walking on foot. although he has been working for a decade a half in stunts and special effects, Amr and his team aren’t members of the Egyptian Film Syndicate because they haven’t set a division describing their works along with directors, screenwriters and cinematographers.

So, what about Amr MacGyver’s favorite car chases in foreign cinema? “My favorite heavyweight car chases exist in one film: 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”. Amr tends one day to realize something similar in terms of car chases but at the same time believable and related to Egyptian environment. Next him, a new action comedy called Okdet El-Khawaga (Xenophilia) with Hassan el-Radad and Sherine Redda and a follow-up TV show to his 2015 Adrenaline where he made stunts with many Egyptian stars.