Stuntman who stepped in for Charlton Heston in Ben Hur relives career
Terry Browne is a polite and mild mannered 82-year-old, happy in the peaceful surroundings of his sheltered accommodation in St John’s Wood – particularly the tranquil roof garden.
You wouldn’t guess that Mr Browne earned his living and travelled the globe as a movie daredevil, performing stunts like plunging on horseback into a 30-foot ravine, jumping a horse across a foaming river, or standing in for Charlton Heston in film Ben Hur to crash a speeding horse-drawn chariot.
In a career that has taken him around the world and back again, he has tamed bucking horses to win American rodeos and wowed crowds in Spain by riding fighting bulls.
“Looking back, I’m very proud of what I’ve done,” he said. “I’m the only Englishman to have done a lot of it, and I think I always will be. Nobody else would be stupid enough to try some of the things I used to do.”
He certainly picked up a few bumps and bruises during his career as a stuntman, breaking more bones than he can remember and was once gored three inches deep after falling from a Spanish bull.
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He said: “If I went to Spain now, I would never have to buy a drink. They couldn’t believe an Englishman could do what I did. There’s even a bar in Mallorca named after me.”
In the famous Ben Hur scene he was in a chariot pulled by two horses which sped around the arena, until he pulled a leaver causing one wheel to fall off and send it flying into the air.
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The night before the stunt, one of his best friends was killed after being kicked in the head by a horse.
“I didn’t think too much about how dangerous it was, I just did it,” he said. “I just saw it as a job. I knew I could get hurt, but I didn’t worry about it too much, I’d just get on with it.”
He got his first break aged just 16, when he still lived in Devon.
Filmmakers, shooting locally, needed a rider to jump a wall and called in at the local pub to ask for volunteers. He put his hand up and has not looked back since.
He settled in London when the injuries got too much to continue, but may leave St John’s Wood for New Zealand at the end of the month to take part in a television series, if he feels his bones can handle the trip.
He said: “Looking back I’ve got no regrets. I liked doing things people didn’t expect me to.
“I remember the Americans at the rodeos looking at me and saying ‘who is this God-damn Englishman?’ They never expected me to beat them, but I always did.”