David Terrence Richards, better known to the world as Terry Richards, stuntman extraordinaire, was laid to rest today in Ruislip, Middlesex, England. Though Richards featured in more than 100 films over his 50-year career, he’s best remembered for his role of the Cairo Swordsman in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Richards served with the Welsh Guards, and, after his service, went to work as a scaffolder in London. In 1957, a friend from the Welsh Guards told Richards about a film that needed extras with military experience.
“He was paid extra to fall off some scaffolding in a riot scene, which he did for a few extra pounds, and that was the beginning of his stunt career,” said his daughter in law, Lisa Thomas.
In the years that followed, Richards featured in nine James bond films, Zulu, The Avengers, The Dirty Dozen, Red Sonja, Kinapped, and The Princess Bride, among others. He performed as a stunt double for Christopher Lee, Donald Sutherland, Tom Selleck, Dave Prowse, and George Kennedy.
In addition to his mad stunt skills, Richards was recognized for his skill with heavy weapons. He taught Ray Winston the sword skills he used in Robin Hood, toured with a jousting show in the role of the Black Knight, and worked for 10 years in a jousting show at the Tower of London’s Beefeater restaurant.
At the 30th anniversary screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harrison Ford gave some background on how Richards’ role was ultimately defined. Ford was suffering from an illness that required frequent restroom trips. It was his idea to shoot the swordsman, rather than duel with him, simply because Ford wasn’t up to the rigors of filming a sword duel at that point. Ford added that Richards had “trained and trained” for the role, so he was rather disappointed. Still, this is the role we remember best 33 years later, and the Cairo Swordsman is commemorated as an action figure, and in Lego.
In a 2012 interview with Red Carpet TV, Richards commented, “Now it’s all CGI. After a day’s stunting when I was doing it, you really knew you did a day’s work, you were covered in bruises … I was doing a jousting thing and I broke my wrist, I’ve broken ribs, sternum, cheek bone … Now they’ve got all this body armour that they can wear, it’s a different ball game altogether.”
Richards died suddenly on June 14, 2014 and leaves behind a son, Terry junior; a daughter, Suki; and ex-wife, Adele. Richards was 81 years old.
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