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The man who’s ‘never had a proper job’

We speak to local man Rick Fry about his unusual career (amongst other things...)

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Rick Fry is as close to a real life action hero as they come. Just outside the knowledge of you and I, he goes about conducting a life that would not be out of place on the silver screen. This Dorset man has dived on shipwrecks, beneath gas rigs and nuclear power stations, and basically anywhere else you might expect to find a bond villain. Last year he spent five weeks in Kuwait training the coastal defence team on search and rescue tactics. To top it off, when he isn’t living as though he is starring in a film, he is involved in making them. We spoke to Rick back in the summer as he stepped off set as ‘marine co-ordinator’ for Tim Burton’s movie Dark Shadows, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp.

Hi Rick, can you tell us about the latest movie and working with Johnny Depp?

To be honest I’m not at liberty to say too much, but it is always exciting working at Pinewood [Studios] on a big production like this. There can be any number of films being shot at one time, so it’s a busy environment for film. I spent some time with Johnny at a ‘bar’, made for the movie, and he is a really genuine guy.

What were you doing on set? It’s my job to coordinate the water-based scenes. This means ensuring that everything is ready to go when you hear ‘Action’. The shot has to look good and everybody must be kept safe. A good example, which I can talk about, is in Robin Hood [Directed by Ridley Scott in 2010]; there is a scene where Russell Crowe swims out from under a boat to fight the bad guy. I was in the water with Russell the whole time ready to tap him on cue to emerge, and then only feet from the shot whilst the fight scene took place.

Have you had any frightening experiences? (Rick chuckles) In my career? Yes one or two. Not so much on the films but I’ve been

nearly drowned by a student who lost their mouthpiece on a dive and thought mine might be a good alternative - that was pretty scary. Another time I managed to get tangled underneath a ship in the Thames!

Wow, what happened there? Well, it was a sugar tanker that had become stranded as some rope got caught in its propeller. The conditions were pitch black in the water, to the point where even a torch seemed only to reveal more darkness. As we worked on disentangling the rope, the cut ends became a real hazard. Down to my reserve air supply, and still fifteen feet under, I got my equipment snagged by the rope and had to break free.

As the discussion develops, it is clear that Rick has an assortment of these tales. He recounts them with a relative ease that is not quite matter-of-fact but nonetheless accepted as a normal part of working life. His calm demeanor and ability to take things in stride is no doubt due to a wealth of experience. It gradually becomes clear he boasts a CV that would make Action Man blush.

That is frightening! Are you like this naturally, outside of work? Absolutely. I still enjoy diving for recreation and I like to drive boats. I am also a keen climber, sometimes making trips to the Alps or up to Scotland to go ice climbing. I volunteered for mountain rescue in the peak district for seventeen years. One of my proudest achievements is leading the team from Derbyshire for four of those. You are on call 24/7 all year round.

What motivates you in this work? It is exciting, and challenging – very worthwhile to me. A rescue mission could take anything from an hour to three days being the longest I experienced. You are trawling the mountains looking for lost people, hoping to find survivors. Most of the time things go ok, and sometimes you aren’t so lucky.

What are you up to now? I’m moving back to Poole to work on a maritime security project. I will be training people who wish to work commercially aboard cruises or other maritime services. This involves the process of abandoning ship and survival techniques.

Sounds like a fascinating area of work, particularly regarding the Costa Concordia tragedy earlier in the year? Yes. Never before has an incident like this been so well documented. We have video footage, and living divers who worked at the scene. It is important to use these tools to learn how to improve for the future.

You can expect to see some more of Rick’s cinema work in the near future, including the newest offering from cutting edge British film director Danny Boyle, ‘Trance’ (Due 2013), which stars James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson. Far from overawed by his experiences with A-list celebrity actors it’s not difficult to see a genuine passion for the type of work Rick does more than anything else. … I just wonder whether he needs a side-kick.

Rick diving for fun off chiswell beach, Portland.

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