Being the real Spiderman- interview with William Spencer

by Ruxandra Stoian

William Spencer is an unique and talented stuntman, who combines skating tricks that pops up in his mind with circus exercises, slackline and a lot of adrenaline.

He played different roles, but he is well known through his Spiderman act.
I got to talk to him about what inspired him and how it feels to be doing all this madness, without being afraid.

From very dangerous exercises, like running on lines tied to cars, while driving, from insane jumps on high buildings and to very creative tricks, William made his own style.

It’s hard not to appreciate his constant effort, practice and most of all, his order in what may seem chaos.

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Sophisticart: – Hey William! Tell me, do you remember how you started skating and how old were you?
W.S: – I tried to skate as a kid when I was 9 or 10 with my older brother who was brilliant at it, so I was just kind of doing it, or rather trying to do it because he was. But I was in no way actually good at it.
Sophisticart: – You combine parkour with skating, slack lining and stunts that other people probably haven’t even thought about. How did all the other sports merge into a single activity?
W.S: – They never merged actually, I just don’t put things in categories. So if you see me combine things, I am just doing what comes natural if you don’t think about things in boxes already. If you are not in a box then you don’t have to think outside of what is not there in the first place.

Sophisticart: – I’ve tried walking on a slack line and it involved a great focusing power, besides practicing, of course. Have you tried some meditations? What happens in your mind when you are walking on a line, or doing stunts on tall buildings?

W.S: – I do in fact like to meditate and I find a lot of use in it. I find that for me, meditation is the lack of thoughts going through my mind, on purpose, like a starving of the body of food. If you starve the mind of thoughts on purpose, then you let yourself build up a taste for what is to come, which means the first thoughts that you let back in are so full and have such detail and focus because you have gone without for so long.
Like taking the first bite after starving for three days, you can taste it all to its fullness with no comparison or noise to cloud a pure thought, with no distractions in it.

So when I am on top of a building or doing something that is scary, I just let my mind only do what is needed at that time and nothing more, so as to not have useless thoughts when they are just not helpful. So I just down all thoughts and partners that are not helpful, much like what I do when I meditate or at least my version of it.

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Sophisticart: – What was the tallest building you’ve ever tried jumping from?
W.S: – 6 stories but it was in a Spider-Man movie and on a safety line, thank goodness.

Sophisticart: – Do you practice bouldering or other climbing activities? If so, any favorite mountains?
W.S: – Yes I have and do. I am from Colorado so I spent many years rock climbing and bouldering with an outdoor club my middle brother Bennett was in charge of at school. It is such a fun thing to do and a great way to get to be well rounded at climbing anything in general, from buildings to old stone walls to rope. I like the climbs outside of Las Vegas actually. Not so much the gambling, but the climbing is good.
Sophisticart: – “Mind over body” seems to be a saying that applies to your activities. Is there a passion for martial arts as well? Have you practiced anything like that?

W.S: – Yes, I trained in Wado-Kai karate as a kid and earned a black belt in about 4 years. That was such hard work as a kid.

Sophisticart: – What was your best record that you’re proud of? No matter if it’s in skating, parkour or slack lining and others.

W.S: – I found out the other day that I still have a record for the fastest qualifying round for Ninja Warrior, from the first time they started doing it in the US. I thought that was crazy that it still stood. People kill that course now; it’s fun to watch how good people are now.

Sophisticart: – I’ve seen you’ve been collaborating with Richie Jackson and made a good job in skating. How did you start working with him?

W.S: – We meet randomly in the middle of the street in Santa Monica one day while I was on my way to an audition. He said he could tell who I was by my walk. It was like a movie the way it all happened. It was very funny in a certain unexpected way.


Sophisticart: – You’ve been working in film industry as well. What movies got your attention and how did you end up doing stunts for Spider Man and others?
W.S: – You know I really enjoyed Kung-Fu Hustle and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Such flawless wirework and skill put into a big film is always cool to watch. They inspired me to think what I really would want to do in a movie if I ever got the chance. I ended up wanting to do more than skate because I realized that movies were a lot of what I really looked up to and liked the way they made me feel when I watched them. So I wanted to be a part of them existing. I just came out to LA and tried to jump in however I could and stunts was the most fun way I found to start out with. I got the Spider-Man job through my friend Ilram Choi. He is an amazing stuntman and person and has always had my back. I am so thankful to know him; he hooked that up.
Sophisticart: – How does it feel working in a movie with great actors? Have you been practicing more than recording for a normal stunt for yourself, or did you simply let things go normally?

W.S: – It is always fun to watch people do what they are good at and acting or good actors are no different. They have a way of captivating in real life as well as on film or maybe more so from time to time. I don’t usually go about things in a standard way because that is just kind of how it comes out, not because I am meaning to.  Stunts I do my own way unless of course for the movie or actor I am doing them for wants me to do it in a certain way. Then I will match action or body movement to them if needed to make a better over all performance.
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Sophisticart: – What role in any movie would you like to play?

W.S: – I would like to play a role like Buster Keaton or Jackie Chan: a well rounded performance that requires the skill of being believable and also doing all the action and comedy and just being who you think the character is, on film. A person who is well rounded enough to do it all, to tell a story worth telling.

Sophisticart: – What was the hardest trick you’ve ever tried?

W.S: – There is a whole list of tricks I have not done yet and keep trying until one day I get them. It’s a long list of hard things I wish I could pull off and have not yet. But I never give up on them and won’t until I can’t try them anymore. Not for pride, but because I don’t want to give up. It is the one thing I can control in a world where almost everything else is out of our control.

Sophisticart: – Any tough injuries you’ve got and how did you get over them?

W.S: – My left ankle does not have many tendons left attached, so that can give me trouble from time to time, but I cannot complain too much. I am very lucky my body seems to be holding up pretty well, all things considered.

Sophisticart: – Is this world of stunts, a world with no fear? Or better, how do you overcome fear?

W.S.: – To overcome fear is to figure out a way to make sense of what does not make sense to your brain. To make it capable of seeing a way through what at first seems too crazy to try or too scary to not make you flinch and not be able to commit in the first place. It’s about realizing which things are just scary and which things are hard and scary. To separate that means you can break things down and make them doable instead of a task too big to do.

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Sophisticart: – As a kid you wanted to work in a circus, or where do you got your inspiration for circus tricks in skating?

W.S: – All the things I see in my head come out when I skate. So I don’t like the circus in the way you would think. I like that it exists but I don’t draw from it directly.

Sophisticart: – What athletes inspired you over the years?

W.S: – Buster Keaton, Natas Kaupas, Jeremy Klein, Michael Jordan, Daniel Ilabaca, Tony Hawk.

Sophisticart: – Any music that inspires you when skating?

W.S: – I can’t really listen to music when I skate…I can’t concentrate…Maybe classical if I had to listen.

Sophisticart: – Favorite landscape for stunts?

W.S.: – Rooftops, for sure.

Sophisticart: – Any new projects you are in right now?

W.S: – Yes, I will have a new skate part out by the end of the year, I hope, and a project with RedBull, I hope, and a chase video with a friend of mine Estrojen, and also hopefully a video with Jaws if we can make the timing work. Oh, and hopefully a full movie I wrote at some point in the next couple years.

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