Ian Bruce Jamieson, who makes his lovely seaview home on Cape Panwa, could be described as Phuket’s very own ‘Superman’ having lived an amazing life as a stuntman, bungy jumping entrepreneur, film director, author and marketing guru all over the world. Ian’s incredible career rivals that of his friend and fellow daredevil Evel Knievel, with whom he worked on several occasions, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that he might be some sort of maniacal brute covered in scars and breathing fire. In fact, Ian is a charming, softly-spoken gentleman who immediately puts you at ease with his self-deprecating humour.
The setting in which we sat down for supper together was as breathtaking in its beauty and elegance as some of Ian’s escapades have been for their terror and danger. We were guests at the luxurious poolside restaurant of My Beach Resort on the beautiful, west-facing beach on Cape Panwa overlooking the waters of Chalong Bay, while watching the most glorious Phuket sunset unleash its transcendent embrace. My Beach Resort is an elegant, stunningly-situated escape and has been featured in the Michelin Guide for Thailand for the past three years. It offers several dining options with menus ranging from authentic southern Thai cuisine, to their famed ‘Meat Me’ Sunday lunch with wagyu steaks, lamb chops and many other meaty treats (Tel: 076 305 066-69 for details or Line @mybeachphuket).
Ian and I sat outdoors at the poolside in the resort’s stunning beachside setting watching the pyrotechnic magic of the sky’s sunset colours, while enjoying a selection of super-healthy dishes accompanied by glasses of delicious grape-based libations.
I asked Ian how he first became involved in the death-defying world of stunts. “In many ways it was by mistake as many of my exploits seem to be! At school in Adelaide, I managed to fracture my skull pole-vaulting, and then at 16 I was paralysed in a car crash, so I missed the last year of school. I desperately wanted to get into films, and I thought that being a stuntman would help me do that, so I enrolled in a stunt school. After nine months of training, I was the only one of 130 enrollees who was still active… all the others had either been hospitalised or dropped out!”
By this stage of Ian’s story my jaw was already languishing in my soup, as he continued, “Against all the odds, I did become a stuntman and worked in films and shows all over the world, including with Evel Knievel who became a good friend. I wrote two books about my adventures, firstly ‘Bring on the Stuntmen’, which was published in 1981, then quite recently I published ‘Kaskader’, which means stuntman in Polish, focusing on my three-month tour of Poland in 1986. It describes an appalling accident I suffered when I made a jump from a high tower and my legs hit the landing pad, but my body crashed into the ground. I was injured quite badly, but still managed to perform again after just three weeks of rest, which endeared me greatly to the Polish audiences. The book is also an account of the fascinating period of Polish history during which the terrible nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl occurred nearby, as I travelled the country with a subtly hidden Geiger counter recording both radiation and events.”
Eyes boggling out of my skull, I asked Ian how he came to make Phuket his home. “I set up my own film company making action documentaries and first came to Thailand in the mid-1980s to produce a documentary titled ‘Pirates of the South China Seas’. I immediately fell in love with the exotica of Thailand and in 1991 moved to Phuket to live with my wife and children. After returning to live in Australia for a while, I eventually moved permanently to Phuket in 2004, just in time for my house in Chalong to be deluged in the tsunami. I even have my damaged Aussie passport from that time as a souvenir.”
At this point, I was about to say that this was an event that probably seemed like a rather boring day at the office for a man like Ian, but I managed to restrain myself.
Ian went on to appear as a stuntman in many successful films doing the dirty work for stars like famous Aussie actor Jack Thomson or James Bond star George Lazenby, while they took the credit. He transitioned from film stunts to live shows, as they were more lucrative and that led him to the wonderful world of bungy jumping.
Ian continued, “I nearly died several times during my stuntman career and was even struck by lightning, and I promised my wife I’d quit after my accident in Poland. I thought a less dangerous means of earning a crust was called for and I could see the potential in bungy jumping. Frankly bungy jumping terrified me, as I’m afraid of heights (really??) and because you can actually see what you are doing and where your body is hurtling. In stunts, I was always blindfolded so there’s only the stress of actually stepping off the platform to conquer, then concentrating on hitting the landing pads in a safe and secure way.
“I set up Tarzan’s Bungy Jumping in Kathu in 1991 and then franchised it out to Greece, Poland and then Moscow in 1994, in Gorky Park within sight of the Kremlin. Kazakhstan and Indonesia followed and then in 1997 I sold the lot and moved back to Australia for my son’s education.”
Since Ian moved back permanently to Phuket, he has split his boundless energies between writing and publishing his book, managing a range of bungy, stunt and film projects and working as a consultant and entrepreneur. It was through the latter that we first met in 2005 when I was writing for Art Asia Press and Ian was working with them as their General Manager. We became friends and as a result I now found myself sitting opposite this extraordinary man who had recently become a grandfather for the fourth time, trying to make sense of his complex journey.
I put it to Ian that he was perhaps really two people in one… the incredibly brave, dare-devil adventurer and the mild-mannered, erudite businessman and entrepreneur. I had the distinct impression of having hit a nail most emphatically on its head. “Yes, I’m a Gemini you see, and I think you’re right that two conflicting personalities live inside me fighting it out for dominance.”
Driving home from our lovely supper I thought that maybe Ian’s fascinating character was an apt metaphor for Phuket’s own dilemma when it emerges from the COVID nightmare. Will Phuket emerge in a well-balanced, thoughtful way, or will it throw itself headlong off a high platform back into the mayhem of short-term profit and damn the consequences? Only time will tell, but whatever the future, Phuket remains a fascinating place because of such charming locations as My Beach Resort and such unique characters as Ian Bruce Jamieson who call this lovely island home.
Click here to see video of Ian’s accident in Poland in 1986.
A general clip of many of his stunts can be seen here.