At 26, Sam Parham is a veteran traceur. Having worked on major Hollywood feature films like Snow White and the Huntsman, World War Z, and the upcoming All You Need Is Kill starring Tom Cruise, Parham has found success turning the discipline into a career. But don’t envy his roster just yet. Despite the A-listers he’s worked alongside and a recent performance tour with his team, 3RUN, Parham is at the core a Basingstoke, U.K. native who puts his friends, family, and passion for parkour above anything else. We spoke to him about his career, training, and how he holds it all together.
How did you decide to commit to parkour and freerunning full time?
Sam Parham: For me, it was totally organic. At the time, I was already working with 3RUN and going to school. We started to put videos out on the Internet and became recognized as one of the leading teams in the world. The next thing I know, I had graduated and was out in the country doing my first job. It was a really cool and exciting time.
What sparked your interest in Hollywood?
SP: From making a name for myself in the freerunning/parkour world, I was offered the opportunity to perform in commercials, TV shows, and films. In doing so, I began to learn more specifically about stunts and what was needed to qualify as a professional stuntman beyond just being a freerunner.
For those just starting out, what’s the process of booking jobs?
SP: Booking jobs is always very different. Sometimes I go on auditions, but often I book work directly. I like to think a lot of that comes from building a positive reputation in the industry through skill, ability, hard work, and a positive attitude.
It must be tiring at times, though.
SP: It’s great, and I really enjoy doing what I love for a job. But I still have to wake up at 5 a.m., drive an hour to the studios, work 12 hours, drive home at night, not see any of my family, wake up, and do it again the next morning.
But you still have a much cooler job than most people.
SP: It really is a dream come true. The ironic thing that happens, though — and I’m guilty of it — is that you always want more. I remember when I was 19 years old, all I wanted to do was be in a commercial. And then I was asked to be the lead character in one, and my mind was blown. And now I’m doing them quite often, so it doesn’t have that same impact. I’m always thinking, “OK, what’s the next thing?” But I do have to sit there and remind myself how fortunate and grateful I am. I never ever want to lose my gratitude.
You’ve worked on some pretty big films and shows like World War Z and Game of Thrones. What would you consider your breakthrough role?
SP: I was fortunate enough to play the lead in a Nestlé commercial and since then, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of big names on a lot of big projects. Often I find it is the smaller, more intimate jobs that are more enjoyable. I feel blessed for every opportunity that comes my way.
Do you ever still have that “Oh, my God” moment on a set?
SP: Sharing a spaceship with Tom Cruise [on All You Need is Kill] while he tells us of how his weekend went and singing songs in between takes was surreal.
That’s pretty insane! Is there anyone you’d still get starstruck by?
SP: Jackie Chan, of course!
You’re insanely busy. What does a regular day look like as far as work and training?
SP: Every morning, I do weights and conditioning exercises for about an hour. After that, I go to 3RUN’s freerunning center and practice with the guys for two hours, and then do training outside for two to four hours. That consists of a lot of climbing, flips, and jumps. Very leisurely, casually, practicing moves, pushing my body to practice on hard surfaces, and never relying on the comfort of soft gyms.
But you must notice the physical effects.
SP: When I was younger, I used to just bounce around off the walls. Any nicks or injuries I could recover from within a week. Those days seem to be gone [<<<italics Chuckles>>>]. I do find I have achy muscles. I’m at the stage where I take it more seriously in terms of some kind of structure and go to the gym each morning to condition. I try to eat a lot healthier, and give my body what it needs to deal with what I’m putting it through.
Parkour can be physically and mentally draining. What’s your mantra?
SP: Dedication and hard work will always overcome natural ability and skill.
Some would say you’ve kind of hit the top, career-wise. Is there anything else you’re still aiming for?
SP: Honestly, I’d love to be able to shoot more of 3RUN’s action stuff and teach people. Thomson Cruises hired us for a commercial and we got to do the whole package: storyboard it, shoot it, edit it, etc. It was a dream job because we were entirely in charge. I love being a stuntman, and I’m so appreciative, but doing more video producing with my best friends … it’s the best thing ever.