Interview: The Shemp

Feature by   |  Jul 23, 2003

When ‘Left For Dead‘ hits the cinema, I will have been in more scenes than Andy Prior and Glenn Salvage combined. I will have performed more than 40 stunts, 20 hits and would have been shot, stabbed, punched, kicked, knocked, bruised, battered and killed in ways that would make most people grimace.

Yet I don’t get a credit on the film.  I don’t get a big pay check or even an invite to the premiere.  Who am I?  I am a shemp, a nameless, faceless actor (although most people wouldn’t even call me that!).  I am the guy who runs on, often in a beanie hat, or a thick coat, and gets hit.

So when the ‘Left For Dead’ team asked to interview me, AND write my own introduction, I was flattered.  But also I knew it was probably because no one else was available.

So, where did the term ‘shemp’ come from?

To shemp, or shemping, was a term coined by Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi years ago when they were making their Super 8 movies. People like Ivan Raimi would put on different costumes, playing different ‘parts’ to pad out the bad guy content. Or if the stunt was too insane to get your lead to do it, you get a shemp.  The ‘part’ usually consist of getting punched, kicked, stabbed, you name it.  The life of a shemp character in a film is usually a short one!

How long have you been ‘shemping’ for?

Well on and off for ten years.  I started working for Ross Boyask and Phil Hobden back in the days of ‘The Gauntlet’.  Over the years I have worked on almost all of the Big Cat/Modern Life? films.

Have you never considered becoming a ‘proper’ actor?  After all you have appeared in more films than Clint Eastwood!

That is true but no, alas shemps are often shemps for a reason.  Facial disfigurement, one arm, skinny, we wouldn’t make it on our own in the world.  Who would want to see this face on a poster?

Who are your idols?

I’m sorry I can’t name names.  It’s part of the Shemp’s code.  To be honest I really need you to take out Ivan Rami’s name from earlier, I could get into trouble for that.

Right. What’s been your best memory of ‘Left For Dead’ so far?

That would be the bench stunt.  Throwing myself over a desk 20 times, even using a trampet to gain height for what has equated to less than 1 second of screen time.  See that’s what we do, put our bodies at risk, twenty maybe even thirty times a day, as the Fall Guy said, “I’m the man that makes Eastwood look so fine” and that’s the same with ‘Left for Dead’. Any time you see Salvage throw an impressive kick, that’s me doubling for him [having checked this with the producers we are assured that this is not the case and at this point have edited a rather large chunk of this paragraph where the shemp continues to rant about his role in the film, etc etc.]

What’s next for you?

The car fight, I’ll be going into the windscreen.  And being hit with a bat.  And being kicked. You get the point.  Maybe even a Shemp’s union.  After all actors are covered, so are crew.  But us Shemps, we get worked long hours, for very little pay, we get the scraps of food from the table…

At that point, a large boot came into shot, knocking the Shemp out cold onto the floor. All humour aside though,  it is true that Shemps form an important role in low-budget feature films, after all these nameless, faceless heroes are often bad guy 20,022 from the left that make those scenes so more believable.

Don’t believe in Shemps?  Take a look at your favourite fight film?They’ll be the ones in the beanie, puffer jacket whose face you never see!

‘Left For Dead’ is available to buy now from

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