Every nameless goon, hardened bad ass, psychotic athlete, innocent bystander standing in the wrong place, unfortunate driver, or tumbling martial artist is integral in the world of motion pictures. We love to see the human body beaten and maimed, discarded and thrown; the stunt actor gives us that sweet release. Over the years, daring men and women have been dragged, literally and figuratively, through the rocky terrain of Hollywood and beyond. With Oscar season behind us, we can take a moment to reflect on the status of the stunt crew in modern movie making: Stunt Actors and Coordinators. To help us smash apart some ideas about this daredevil world, TheNerdStash interviewed a stunt actor who’s worked on various Marvel films , prime time television, commercials, as well as upcoming AAA projects. For the sake of personal privacy, we will be referring to him as Mr. X.
Taming the wild flying dog: STUNTS!
Come, join the conversation —
NerdStash: Stunt performers in movies are often seen as extreme athletes with a penchant for punishment. Is this a broad vision of stunt actors? If so, has this hurt the community of stunt actors in any way?
Mr. X: Some newbies start out thinking that all it takes as a stunt person is to fall down and pretend to hurt yourself. Unfortunately, for them, the actual job is much more complex and requires a pretty high degree of flexibility. Getting hurt is never the end, but a possible means to getting the shot. The best stunt people make a horrible accident seem real, but will do it safely and never have a mark on them. Obviously, when you are doing action anything can happen, but the goal is always to capture good action without being hauled off in an ambulance.
: With the Oscars having come and gone we saw a serious discussion about stunt actors and their recognition. An article from Deadspin
reported: “Stunt performers have been lobbying for Oscar recognition for 25 years. This year, they collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition
urging the Academy to honor them.” Why do you think this type of advocacy is happening now in 2016?
Mad Max: Doing Work
: The short answer is because of Mad Max: Fury Road. The long answer is kind of complex. Stunt people have always been an integral part of movie making. However, the sad fact is many amazing stunt performers and coordinators rarely receive recognition. One problem is that the very existence of stunt people dispels the “movie magic” that the actor is doing the action all himself. I think another issue comes from the mentality that stunt people are just replaceable parts in the machine known the movie industry. (Which we kind of are.) The academy who votes are hardly the every man who slave day in and day out to create beautiful works of film art.
NerdStash: Do you agree with some in the movie community that your line of work should be placed under the “Sci- Tech” Oscar branch? Would you consider this more of a technical side of movie making?
Mr. X: Stunt work, especially if you’re coordinating, is an intricate job. I think that best action coordinating or stunt coordinating is worthy of a category by itself. Coordinating big stunt scenes is just as important as directing good acting when it comes to action movies. Both are necessary to move the story forward, but both are different skills entirely and deserve independent recognition.
Mr. X: I think there are many groups including Stuntmen Association (also Stunts Unlimited, 87eleven, Brand-X, etc…) are all capable of representing the stunt community, and, in fact, are already doing it well. I think what needs to happen is for all of the members of the stunt community to rally together regardless
of their particular “group”. I think we are starting to see more of this now with issues like Oscar consideration.
NerdStash: Would allowing the stunt community to be represented in events like the Oscars end up opening the door for other neglected groups in the movie making industry make inroads? E.G. “Best Motion Capture Performance”. Does this change the idea of who and what should be awarded and recognized?
A Stunt Woman Flying By
Mr. X: I hope so! There are so many hard-working people in this industry that deserve way more credit than they’re getting. With stunt work, it is still a department that you see on screen, but they also do a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure the action looks good. A good production assistant or assistant
director is just as important as the faces and action seen on screen, and they usually are some of the
hardest workers on the set.
NerdStash: From your perspective, what is driving this new age of action-heavy (which leads to stunt-heavy) movies being so popular?
Mr. X: I think there are many factors that contributed to this boom. One was the writer’s strike. When studios realized that the writers held so much sway in the story-telling of the industry, companies began more action driven stories rather than having too much dialogue. It’s much easier to keep audiences entertained with explosions and lasers than deep human drama. Also, I think the action is a universal language in storytelling that supersedes cultural barriers.
What do you think about the stunt community? Is it changing with the times or is there still more room to grow? Sound off in the comments below.
Gaming from the swampy flatlands of Florida since 1989, Alex D’Alessandro is always looking for a way to stay inside and escape the southern heat.