stunt work

Pyrotechnics stunt exhibition by “Giant Auto Rodéo”, Ciney, Belgium.

Freestyle & Stunt Show 2007 – Landrévarzec

A stunt is an unusual and difficult physical feat or an act requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on TV, theatre, or cinema. Stunts are a big part of many action films.

Before computer generated imagery special effects, these effects were limited to the use of models, false perspective and other in-camera effects, unless the creator could find someone willing to jump from car to car or hang from the edge of a skyscraper: the stunt performer or stunt double.

Types of stunt effects[edit source | edit]

Practical effects[edit source | edit]

One of the most-frequently used practical stunts is stage combat. Although contact is normally avoided, many elements of stage combat, such as sword fighting, martial arts, and acrobatics required contact between performers in order to facilitate the creation of a particular effect, such as noise or physical interaction.

Stunt performances are highly choreographed and may be rigorously rehearsed for hours, days and sometimes weeks before a performance. Seasoned professionals will commonly treat a performance as if they have never done it before[citation needed], since the risks in stunt work are high, every move and position must be correct to reduce risk of injury from accidents.

Examples[edit source | edit]

Mechanical effects[edit source | edit]

A physical stunt is usually performed with help of mechanics.

For example, if the plot requires the hero to jump to a high place, the film crew could put the actor in a special harness, and use aircraft high tension wire to pull him up. Piano wire is sometimes used to fly objects, but an actor is never suspended from it as it is brittle and can break under shock impacts. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) is a kung-fu film that was heavily reliant on wire stunts.

Fire-breathing “Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band”, Chassepierre, Belgium

Vehicular stunts[edit source | edit]

Performers of vehicular stunts require extensive training and may employ specially adapted vehicles. Stunts can be as simple as a handbrake turn, also known as the bootleg turn, or as advanced as car chases, jumps and crashes involving dozens of vehicles. Rémy Julienne is a well known pioneering automotive stunt performer and coordinator. Another well known vehicular stunt specialist is Englishman Ian Walton, who was the helicopter stunt pilot and stunt designer for many 1980s films, notably the Bond film Never Say Never Again. Streetbike stunts, also known as “stunting” gained wide spread popularity in the early 2000s and continues to grow. It is based on wheelies but now goes much further than that.

Computer generated effects[edit source | edit]

In the late 20th century stunt men were placed in dangerous situations less and less as filmmakers turned to relatively inexpensive (and much safer) computer graphics effects using harnesses, fans, blue- or green screens, and a huge array of other devices and digital effects. The Matrix (1999) is an example for a film that extensively “enhanced” real stunts through CGI post production. The Lord of the Rings film series and the Star Wars prequel films often display stunts that are entirely computer generated.

Examples[edit source | edit]

Notable film stunts[edit source | edit]

  • Safety Last
    Silent comedian Harold Lloyd climbed the entire height of a Los Angeles skyscraper without wires or nets. Harvey Parry, Lloyd’s stunt double, dangled from a broken clock face on the topmost floor above moving traffic
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
    The front of a house fell down with Buster Keaton standing in the exact position of an open window, leaving him unharmed. His stone-faced expression remained unchanged.
  • Zorro’s Fighting Legion and Stagecoach
    Yakima Canutt escapes his shooting enemies by dropping between the first set of multiple pairs of horses of a moving stagecoach, moves backwards underneath all the horses until, unbeknownst to the drivers, he climbs on back to attack them. He originated this stunt earlier, but these are its most famous performances.
  • Ben-Hur
    Joe Canutt, son of famed stuntman Yakima Canutt, doubled as Judah Ben-Hur when he rides his chariot over the wreck of a competitor. He was launched over the front of his chariot and barely managed to hang on to the front as he climbed back up.
  • The Great Escape
    Pursued by Germans, Bud Ekins as Capt. Virgil “The Cooler King” Hilts jumped his motorcycle 60 feet (18 m) over a barbed-wire fence.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    Trapped by a posse, Butch and Sundance leaped off a cliff into raging waters knowing that the “fall will probably kill [them]”. Mickey Gilbert doubled for Robert Redford and Howard Curtis for Paul Newman.
  • Papillon
    Papillon makes his final bid for freedom by leaping from a cliff into the sea. Dar Robinson doubled for Steve McQueen, his first major stunt in a Hollywood film.[citation needed]
  • Live and Let Die
    Ross Kananga as James Bond used three crocodiles as stepping stones to reach safety on the other side. Kananga, who owned the crocodile farm seen in the film, and after whom the main villain is named, did the stunt five times wearing the same crocodile skin shoes as his character had chosen to wear. During the fourth attempt, the last crocodile bit through the shoe and into his foot.[citation needed] The fifth attempt is one seen on film, with the tied-down crocodiles snapping at his feet as he passed over them.
  • Live and Let Die
    In the same film, Jerry Comeaux as James Bond jumped his speedboat 70 feet (21 m) over a police car, a record that lasted for 15 years.[citation needed]
  • Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em
    One of the best known episodes for its use of stunts, “Fathers’ Clinic”, Frank Spencer (played by Michael Crawford, who performed most of the stunts in the show[1]) skating at a roller rink, accidentally broke off from a conga line, bursting through the fire exit and on a hellish journey through the city streets, dodging buses and cars, ducking under lorries and crashing into a baby shop.[2][3]
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
    “Bumps” Willard as James Bond driving an AMC Hornet leaped a broken bridge and performed a 270 degree roll in mid-air. Willard was paid £30,000 for the stunt, which was held under Eon Productions copyright for several years afterwards. He successfully completed the jump on the first take.[citation needed]
  • The Man Who Would Be King
    A major character dies when the rope bridge he is standing on is cut. British stuntman Joe Powell volunteered for the stunt after the rest of the stuntmen refused.[citation needed] He fell 80 feet (24 m) onto cardboard boxes balanced on the edge of a ravine. If he had missed the boxes, no safety wire or parachute would have stopped him falling to the bottom of the ravine. The stunt was made more dangerous because the rope bridge caused Powell to spin as he fell.[citation needed]
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
    Rick Sylvester, playing James Bond, escaped the bad guys by skiing off a cliff on Mount Asgard then releasing a parachute. Sylvester waited two weeks for the weather atop Mount Asgard to change.[citation needed] Finally he had a 15 minute window to make the jump. Five cameras were meant to record the stunt, but only the master shot worked.[citation needed] Sylvester was allegedly paid US$100,000 for the stunt.[citation needed] As he fell, one of his skis hit the parachute on its way down.
  • Moonraker
    The initial freefall stunt sequence was done with the stuntmen’s clothing modified with special breakaway patches to conceal lightweight parachutes.[citation needed]
  • Hooper
    A.J. Bakunas as Hollywood stuntman Hooper, leaped from a helicopter onto an airbag 232 feet (71 m) below, a record that endures to this day.[citation needed]
  • Highpoint
    The hero fights the villain atop the world’s then tallest freestanding structure, Toronto‘s CN Tower, and the villain loses. Doubling the villain was Dar Robinson who opened his parachute just 300 feet (91 m) from the ground after a fall lasting six seconds. Robinson was paid US$100,000 (£61,862.04).[citation needed]
  • Chandrahasam (Moonsword)
    In this Indian action film, action star Jayan hangs on to a ship crane and is elevated to a height of around 200 feet.
  • Conan the Barbarian
    Corrie Jansen leaped 182 feet (55 m) from a cliff, a record freefall for a woman.[citation needed]
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
    Indiana Jones climbs underneath a moving truck and is dragged along behind it before climbing back on board. The stunt was performed by Terry Leonard. Leonard agreed to do the stunt only if his good friend, stuntman Glenn H. Randall Jr., was driving the truck.[citation needed]
  • Smokey and the Bandit II
    The Bandit leaps his Pontiac Trans-Am motorcar from the back of trailer, setting a record[clarification needed] that has not been broken.[citation needed]
  • Sharky’s Machine
    Sharky (Burt Reynolds) shoots the villain, who then falls back through the window of the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. To achieve the effect, stuntman Dar Robinson ran at the window, then at the last moment, spun around to go backwards through the glass and land on an airbag. It is the highest freefall (220 feet (67 m)) from a building without a cable or parachute.[citation needed]
  • Blue Thunder
    Renegade cop Roy Scheider, flying the state-of the-art “Blue Thunder” helicopter, is chased by a police helicopter down storm drains in Los Angeles, weaving between bridge supports until his pursuer eventually crashes.
  • Project A
    A stunt featured Jackie Chan hanging off a real clock tower and falling through two ripped canopies used to break his fall before hitting the ground. Chan has described the stunt as a homage to Harold Lloyd in the film Safety Last.[citation needed]
  • Romancing the Stone
    Vince Deadrick Jr. and Terry Leonard as Joan Wilder and Jack Colton jumped from a car as it fell over an 80-foot (24 m) waterfall.
  • Back to the Future
    During the skateboard chase, Marty McFly runs over the top of Biff Tannen‘s convertible, front to back, and rejoins his skateboard behind the car.
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
    While rampaging through a mall, Genghis Khan rides up to a trampoline, does a somersault off of it, and lands back on his skateboard.
  • Police Story
    Many dangerous and real life stunts in this Jackie Chan film were done without wires. Scenes include Chan hanging on to a double-decker bus window by an umbrella handle, as well as a mall fight scene at the end featuring many stunt team members performing tumbles, falls and flips through various objects including glass window displays, stairs, escalators, etc. The finale featured Chan jumping and sliding down a mall post covered with wired lights before smashing through a wooden canopy.
  • Stick
    Dar Robinson asked to play the part of the albino killer so the audience would be more shocked by the villain’s death. Without cutting away, Robinson was filmed falling backwards off a hotel balcony emptying his revolver at Reynolds’ as he fell. A thin cable ran up Robinson’s leg to a harness around his waist to arrest his fall just feet off the ground.
  • The Living Daylights
    This was the third variation on a stunt that had appeared first in Moonraker and then in Octopussy; James Bond battles a bad guy while they are both hanging outside a plane. In this case, Bond and the villainous Necros fight as they cling to a cargo net filled with bags of opium hanging out the rear of a Soviet cargo plane. All three stunt sequences were done with ace parachutists Jake Lombard and B.J. Worth. Lombard, who had previously doubled for Roger Moore, took the part of Necros here, while Worth finally got to play Bond by doubling Timothy Dalton.[citation needed]
  • Amsterdamned
    Nick Gillard as Eric Visser jumped his speedboat over a bridge in Amsterdam, breaking the record set in Live and Let Die.[citation needed]
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    Vic Armstrong as Indiana Jones rode his horse onto a ledge and jumped onto a moving tank.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
    The killer robot T-1000 flies a helicopter in a freeway chase after a S.W.A.T. van driven by The Terminator and at one point flies under an overpass.
  • Cliffhanger
    Corrupt Treasury agent Travers hijacks a jet carrying US$100 million, then slides down a cable to the villains’ Learjet. British stuntman Simon Crane performed the stunt. When the film’s budget was not large enough for the $1 million needed to complete the sequence, lead actor Sylvester Stallone agreed to cut his salary by the same amount.[citation needed][citation needed]
  • Speed
    Stuntman Billy Morts doubled for actor Keanu Reeves as L.A.P.D. cop Jack Traven, who rips the door off a Jaguar sports car then leaps to the open door of a speeding bus, his feet scraping against the ground.
  • GoldenEye
    Wayne Michaels as James Bond bungee jumped over a dam to break into a Russian chemical weapons factory. Michaels reached 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) during the jump and came perilously close to the sloping surface of the dam, which was studded with irons struts that could have torn him to pieces. The stunt was further complicated as Bond had to take out a gun during the fall, which threw Michaels off trajectory.
  • Khiladi 420
    Indian actor Akshay Kumar performs a dangerous stunt where he climbs onto a small airplane while it is moving, stands on top of the plane as it flies a thousand feet high, and jumps from the plane onto a hot air balloon, all in a single take.[4]
  • Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior
    Thai actor Tony Jaa performed a number of stunts for the film, suffering injuries such as a ligament injury and a sprained ankle. One scene involved fighting while his trousers were on fire, which spread upwards and burnt his eyebrows, eyelashes and nose during filming. Despite this, he did several more takes after that.[5]
  • The World Is Not Enough
    Echoing The Man with the Golden Gun, Gary Powell as James Bond put his boat into a 360 degree roll, wrecking a gun emplacement on a villainess’s boat.
  • Casino Royale
    Sébastien Foucan as an African bomb-maker eluded Daniel Craig‘s James Bond using Parkour-inspired movement. Foucan’s (and the stunt’s) notation in the opening credits were a first.
  • Merantau
    In one scene, Indonesian actor Iko Uwais performs a jump from one building to another. Another stuntman, playing a henchman, chases him and attempts to do the same, but Uwais hits him with a bamboo pole in mid-air and the stuntman falls three stories to the ground.
  • Singh Is Kinng
    Indian actor, Akshay Kumar jumps from one moving elevator to the other at a height of 110 feet without any safety measures.
  • Sapoot
    Akshay Kumar jumps from a building and hangs on to a skid of a helicopter as it flies hundreds of feet above the ground. At one point, Akshay Kumar hangs only by his legs and then jumps off from the helicopter to a moving truck.

Stunts that have gone wrong[edit source | edit]

Stunt-based television shows[edit source | edit]

Reality competition television shows such as Fear Factor and Going Straight have required contestants to complete stunts to win prize money.

Recognition of stunt performers[edit source | edit]

Films such as Hooper and The Stunt Man and the 1980s television show The Fall Guy sought to raise the profile of the stunt performer and debunk the myth that film stars perform all their own stunts. Noted stunt coordinators Hal Needham, Craig R. Baxley and Vic Armstrong went on to direct the action films The Cannonball Run, Action Jackson, Joshua Tree. Vic Armstrong became the first stuntman to win both an Academy Award (for developing a descender rig as a safe alternative to airbags) and a Bafta award (for lifetime achievement in film). But the status of stuntmen in Hollywood is still low; despite the fact that few films of any genre or type could be made without them, stunt performers are still seen as working mainly in action films. Repeated campaigns for a “Best Stunts” Academy Award have been rejected.

In 2001, the first ‘World Stunt Awards’ was held in Los Angeles. Presented by actor Alec Baldwin, the event had A-list stars presenting the statues to Hollywood’s unsung heroes. Arnold Schwarzenegger was presented with the first “Lifetime Achievement” award. He presented the awards in 2001. The awards show hands out eight awards: Best Fight, Best Fire Stunt, Best High Work, Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Man, Best Overall Stunt by a Stunt Woman, Best Speciality Stunt, Best Work with a Vehicle and Best Stunt Coordinator and/or 2nd Unit Director.

Equality in stunts[edit source | edit]

In past Hollywood films it was common for men to double for women and White American stunt performers to double for African-American performers. Veteran stunt man Dave Sharpe, a man of shorter than average height, often doubled for women in film serials of the 1930s and ’40s. It is now against union rules for stunt performers to double an actor of a different gender or race unless the stunt is so dangerous that there are no other volunteers, for example when B.J. Worth doubled for the black Jamaican actress Grace Jones parachuting off the Eiffel Tower in A View to a Kill. The rise of action heroines like Angelina Jolie and African-American stars like Will Smith has offered wider opportunities for stunt performers from diverse backgrounds.

The future of stuntwork[edit source | edit]

A backlash against dangerous stunts following the death of Sonya Davis[citation needed], coinciding with developments in Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) that make such stunts unnecessary threatens to reduce stunt performers to the status of body doubles. And yet a backlash against films that resemble video games could lead to a resurrection in pure stuntwork. Films such as The Matrix and Mission: Impossible II have shown how CGI and stunts can be integrated for maximum effect. But – if for no other reason than safety – it is doubtful that the records established by Hooper and Sharky’s Machine will be broken anytime soon. A new sub-genre of eastern martial arts films exists which emphasize the actors performing their own stunts, deliberately using wide angles and unbroken shots to show each stunt in its entirety. Examples of actors doing their own stunts include Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa.

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ “Comedy – Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em”. BBC. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  2. ^ 13:00 – 13:45. “Desert Island Discs – Castaway : Michael Crawford”. BBC. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  3. ^ “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em | A Television Heaven Review”. Televisionheaven.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-10. 
  4. ^ Stacey Yount, Akshay Kumar on Filmi things, BollySpice, 2 March 2008
  5. ^ Franklin, Erika. May 2005. “Alive and Kicking: Tony Jaa interviewed”, Firecracker Media (retrieved on December 15, 2006)

External links[edit source | edit]



This article uses material from the Wikipedia article stunt work, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.