Tony Swatton looks like he came straight from central casting — which is perhaps appropriate since, as blacksmith, he’s the mastermind behind some of Hollywood’s most recognizable props. The bearded, brawny Swatton scored his first feature film job in 1991, creating the titular appendage for Steven Spielberg’s “Hook.” Since then, he’s worked on more than 200 films, including “The Hunger Games” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises, as well as TV shows such as “Sleepy Hollow” and “Revolution.” At his Burbank workshop, Swatton forges everything from swords, to knives, to suits of armor — even one big enough for a horse.
Village Smithy: Born, appropriately enough, in Hammersmith, England, Swatton moved with his family to Vancouver as a child, and began cutting gemstones at age 7. He pursued his passion into adulthood, and eventually outgrew the space in his mother’s garage where he had set up shop, after the brood had relocated again, to Burbank. “The city took a look at it and said, ‘This is not a home business — this is an industrial manufactory, so you need to move,’ ” Swatton recalls. He’s been at his present, 3,600-square-foot workshop, for 23 years, and says he chose its name, “Sword and the Stone” so it wouldn’t compete with Disney’s “Sword in the Stone.” “That’s a good client of mine,” he says. “So I didn’t want to poke the Mouse.”
Pounding on Deadlines: Swatton is no stranger to the perils of working long hours surrounded by the dangerous equipment. He says he rarely gets enough lead time for a job, so lack of sleep and physical and mental exhaustion are occupational hazards. While working on a suit of armor for a McDonald’s commercial, he says he worked for four days straight. “I lost peripheral vision from exhaustion in my left eye and I couldn’t move my right arm when I was done,” Swatton says. “But I delivered the project on time.”
Getting His Thrills: He’s made metal-covered shoes and leg armor for Michael Jackson; the King of Pop wore the shoes on the cover of a 1991 issue of People magazine. Swatton continued to work with Jackson’s team to create elements for his London tour until the singer’s death.
Going Viral: Swatton is also the star of his own Web series “Man at Arms.” The show can be found on the AweMe channel from Defy Media and features a new prop weekly, including Captain America’s shield and Wolverine’s claws. Thirty-three episodes have aired, drawing just over 60 million views. He calls it forging ahead.