American actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980) makes it to the German-Swiss border in the World War II drama 'The Great Escape', 1963. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
The Great Escape's Barbed Wire Jump Used The Wrong Bike For The Job
While “The Great Escape” might be considered more of a “war is fun” film, John Sturges’ 1963 adaptation of the non-fiction book of the same name chronicles the prisoners and their efforts to escape the German POW camp Stalag Luft III in 1942. In addition to an incredible cast and story, the movie features a climactic motorcycle jump over barbed wire performed by stuntman Bud Ekins.
During the 2019 screening of “The Great Escape with Dan Snow,” another of the film’s stuntmen, Tim Gibbes, talked about Ekins’ feat and how they used the wrong type of bike. Gibbes explained, “The Triumph wasn’t really the right bike to be doing it in, it made things a lot more difficult. It was just an ordinary street bike with fancy tyres, one that you’d use to go to the shops.”
Steve McQueen wanted to do the stunt himself, but the crew voted against it. Gibbes shared, “It wasn’t a stunt Steve McQueen could have attempted, and the film crew wouldn’t have let him do it anyway as they had to ensure a big star like him didn’t get injured. Even Bud [Ekins], who eventually did the stunt, said he was only going to try it once and then I would have had to try and do it myself.”