January 7, 2014

Stuntmen: Real Life Action Heroes

This has been a hotly debated topic for some time so I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts on the subject.

Stunt work has been around since the beginning of cinema with legends like Buster Keaton, James Lew, Vic Armstrong and many more risking life and limb simply to entertain people.

The thing is about stunt work is that it instantly immerses you in a movie and makes every action scene more authentic, whereas CGI usually takes you out of it due to how unconvincing it is.

You can’t just wake up one morning and say “I think I’ll become a stunt man”; there is a lot of training required and only a very select few are lucky enough to make it through.

Below are just some of the skills required to become a stuntman, according to the British JISC Stunt Register:

  • Fighting – A superior or expert level in combat, boxing or a martial arts.
  • Falling – An ability to fall from a variety of heights, including falling from three stories and above and/or a high level of ability using trampolines.
  • Riding and Driving – A high level of experience as precision driver with motorcycles and/or cars and/or superior horseback riding skills.
  • Agility and Strength – Superior gymnastics skills and/or expert ability in rock climbing.
  • Water – Advanced ability in scuba diving/underwater work and/or advanced swimming skills.
  • Miscellaneous Sport – A superior skill level in a relevant sport, such as tumbling, wirework or fencing.

Stunt work requires incredible dedication and discipline and the fact that the Academy doesn’t reward it after all these years defies belief… and yet they will reward someone for sitting at a computer creating digital images.

While promoting his recent actioner ‘Homefront’ Jason Statham gave his thoughts on the subject:

“I think it is an overlooked category, especially considering how much responsibility these coordinators have for some of the greatest entertainment in action movies. I mean, all of the stunt men—these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks. And then you’ve got poncy actors pretending like they’re doing [the stunts].” 

“For me,” he continued, “it’s a total injustice. They’re the ones getting busy. Then you have some guy standing in front of a fucking green screen screwing his face up pretending like he’s doing the stunt. To me, it’s like a farce. I have a real frustration with that because I know these coordinators. I train with them all the time and they are incredibly talented.”

Would you argue with the Stath? Thought not. He is known for doing the majority of his own stunts too so he understands the hard work that goes into stunt work.

Personally, I will always prefer watching real people preforming real stunts for films and fight scenes created by genuinely skilled choreographers. Let’s hope Oscar finally decides to create a category that rewards the brave men and women who risk life and limb simply for our entertainment.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.

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