The Magic Behind Tom Burke’s Amputated Leg Scenes in “Strike”

The BBC series Strike, based on J.K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike novels, was recently released in the United States under the name C.B. Strike. If you’ve watched the show, you’ll know that Cormoran Strike, the show’s title character played by Tom Burke, has an amputated leg. Radio Times investigated how the team behind Strike made this look so accurate, despite Tom Burke being able-bodied.

“It’s partly imitation, partly technical,” Burke told Radio Times. Michael Keillor, who directed the first three parts of the series, explained his inspiration.

I was very keen that we see the [prosthetic] leg off, [with] Tom and no leg all in one shot, not just done with a cutaway. And I’d seen this film, ‘Rust & Bone’, where Marion Cotillard gets both her legs taken off in an accident. So I kind of studied how they did that using green screen technology, [and] then we used trick photography to remove the leg.

In addition to using the green screen technology, they also hired a body double for Burke.

We also had a double, who was a very close double for Tom’s legs, who only had one leg but exactly the same injury. So we doubled up that whenever we’re going very, very close and seeing the leg.

Keillor explained why it was important that they really show Strike’s injury.

We didn’t wanna shy away from it. It’s a guy who’s lost his leg in an IED in Afghanistan. It’s so common now; we see these soldiers who have all sorts of different things. It’s in the public mind.

Even when the injury isn’t directly in view of the camera, Burke still needed to act appropriately, moving as if he were an amputee. He had to work with several people to make his movement in the show look as authentic as possible.

I asked as many questions as I could think of and spent about a day with a movement director called Toby Sedgwick.

And a guy called Barney [Gillespie], who is incredibly generous with his time, who had basically the same condition. And a day going upstairs, downstairs, sitting down, standing up. Sort of everything you could think of, trying to break it down to what one notices and what one doesn’t notice.

In the latest mystery, Career of Evil, Strike has to run on his prosthetic leg. Burke reached out to Barney Gillespie to ask what that would be like and if someone would actually run on a prosthetic leg.

And he said, [‘W]ell, you wouldn’t.[‘] So we talked about that more and [how] it would be really painful to run on one of those because it’s just not what it’s built for. You’d only do it if you really had to, so then it was [thinking], [‘W]ell, he really has to because of the situation they’re in, and yeah, he probably has got some kind of… pain threshold from everything he’s been through, and then there’s the point where he can’t go on any more.[‘] So there was a fair amount of imagination about it, as well as asking lots of questions.

If you’re in America, you can check out C.B. Strike on Cinemax and decide for yourself if Burke and the team have pulled off this bit of television magic. If you’ve seen the show, what did you think?