05 Jan Fact Friday – Stuntmen
Last night we took a bus into town to watch a bunch of stuntmen get set on fire to attempt setting a Guinness world record. Can you image being set on fire and walking ON FIRE for 30 seconds?
It was just the best thing to see, like effing wow.
They walked down in this long line wearing the full gear and as Fysh pointed out it looked kinda like someone had set zombies on fire and he wasn’t far off. The gear that they wear over their face along with the gel just makes them look so damn creepy. I posted a video of it on our Instagram – cupcakemummy – and the thing you can’t get from the film is that you could actually feel the heat of the flames as they walked past.
Guys, I WANT TO BE A STUNT PERSON! Flip, I always thought it would be pretty cool but hell watching that I completely missed my calling in life. Fysh is still talking about it and considering his built maybe I can live my stunt dreams vicariously through him one day ;)
So of course here are Five Fabulous Facts about stuntmen (and stuntwomen of course)
- Stuntmen have their own awards – Stuntmen are actors (in fact, from a business perspective, they are members of the Screen Actors Guild, so they receive the same benefits and pay as other actors). But unlike other actors, stuntmen aren’t eligible for Academy Award recognition. To remedy this, stuntmen organizations have created a forum to honor excellence in the field. The Taurus World Stunt Awards feature multiple categories, from best fight scene to best vehicle stunt. Stunt coordinators, who virtually co-direct elaborate stunt sequences, are also recognized.
- Jackie Chan started off as a stuntman – Stuntmen often work closely with Hollywood stars, taking them through the ins and outs of complicated stunts. But some stars were once stuntmen themselves. Consider Jackie Chan. He started as an apprentice in the China Drama Academy at the age of 6, where he trained non-stop in music, dance and traditional martial arts. Needless to say, this physical background gave him the credentials to leap into feature films, doing stunts in Chinese martial arts movies. But his big break came when the film world looked high and low for the next Bruce Lee. Clearly, the emphasis would not be on looks and acting alone — the next Bruce Lee would have to be a real stuntman, as martial arts fans wouldn’t accept a second-rate substitute. Enter Chan, who combined comedy with realistic stunt work to become an international star.
- Stuntmen are paid to get hurt – At its heart, Hollywood is a business. Stuntmen exist because the injury or death of a primary actor can end a production, whereas stuntmen can be replaced. Jackie Chan has noted that all of his stuntmen have gotten hurt, although he’s quick to point out that safety precautions are more prominent in American films. Injuries, though frequent, are not well reported. This problem is of concern; in fact, part of the focus of the Taurus Awards is to raise money for injured stuntmen and their families. Deaths are not common, but they do happen. During the filming of the Bruce Willis film Tears of the Sun, stuntman, Michael Barber, was killed in a skydiving sequence.
- Old stuntmen don’t have to retire – You might think that a career built on athleticism would have a rather small window, but you’d be wrong. In truth, as long as they remain willing and able, stuntmen can keep going. Ron Cunningham, an Englishman who calls himself “The Great Omani,” claims to be the oldest working stuntman — he’s over 90. He has been known in his old age to walk on a bed of nails and smash glass bottles against his neck. However, most of his gigs these days are for charity. Perhaps a more realistic career move for an older stuntman is to go behind the camera as a stunt coordinator. As stunts become more and more elaborate, the director yields to the stunt coordinator, who orchestrates both the action and the cameras for the stunt sequences.
- Each stuntman has his specialty – While stuntmen share certain traits (athleticism and attention to detail, for example), they do specialize in everything from fights to car chases. And yes, there are stuntwomen as well. There are three broad categories of stunts that a stuntman can work in: practical effects (everything from short falls to fighting), mechanical effects (stunts that require the aid of machines, like long falls or wire work) and vehicular stunts (which can range from cars to boats to planes). For those who attend stunt training schools, the emphasis is often on a broad education; students learn how to work with horses, use firearms and get burned (without getting burned). A successful stuntman is both a jack of all trades and a specialist, because not knowing enough can get you hurt, but only knowing how to do a few things will keep you from working.