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Pyrotechnics stunt exhibition by "Giant Auto Rodeo", Ciney, Belgium Stunt Pyrotechnics Luc Viatour.jpg
Pyrotechnics stunt exhibition by "Giant Auto Rodéo", Ciney, Belgium

A stunt is an unusual and difficult physical feat or an act requiring a special skill, performed for artistic purposes usually on television, theaters, or cinema. Stunts are a feature 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

Practical effects

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 of practical effects include tripping and falling down, high jumps, extreme sporting moves, acrobatics and high diving, spins, gainer falls, "suicide backflips," and other martial arts stunts.[ citation needed ] Stunt airbags (or "stunt mats"), large deep airbags that may be the size of a small swimming pool, are typically used by professional stunt performers to cushion their landings from staged falls from heights.[ citation needed ]

Freestyle & Stunt Show 2007 in Landrevarzec, France Stunt 1298471366.jpg
Freestyle & Stunt Show 2007 in Landrévarzec, France

Mechanical effects

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/her 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. Hero (2003) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) are examples of wuxia films that use kung-fu and are heavily reliant on wire stunts. [1] The Matrix is an example of extensive wire and rigging work in Western cinema. [2]

Vehicular stunts

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 . A Guinness Book of World Records holder stunt driver, Bobby Ore, performed in numerous movies and events and holds a World Record for longest distance driven on two wheels in a London double decker bus (810 feet). [3]

Computer-generated effects

In the late 20th century stunt men were often 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 of a film that extensively enhanced real stunts through CGI post production. [2] The Lord of the Rings film series and the Star Wars prequel films often display stunts that are entirely computer generated. Examples of computer-generated effects include face replacement and wire removal.

Hong Kong action cinema

In 1982, Jackie Chan began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences in Dragon Lord , [4] which featured a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes required for a single scene, with 2900 takes, [5] and the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground. [6] In 1983, Project A saw the official formation of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and added elaborate, dangerous stunts to the fights and slapstick humor (at one point, Chan falls from the top of a clock tower through a series of fabric canopies).

Police Story (1985) contained many large-scale action scenes, including an opening sequence featuring a car chase through a shanty town, Chan stopping a double-decker bus with his service revolver and a climactic fight scene in a shopping mall. This final scene earned the film the nickname "Glass Story" by the crew, due to the huge number of panes of sugar glass that were broken. During a stunt in this last scene, in which Chan slides down a pole from several stories up, the lights covering the pole had heated it considerably, resulting in Chan suffering second-degree burns, particularly to his hands, as well as a back injury and dislocation of his pelvis upon landing. [7] Chan performed similarly elaborate stunts in numerous other films, such as several Police Story sequels, Project A Part II , the Armor of God series, Dragons Forever , Drunken Master II , Rumble in the Bronx , and the Rush Hour series, among others.

Other Hong Kong action movie stars who became known for performing elaborate stunts include Chan's Peking Opera School friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, as well as "girls with guns" stars such as Michelle Yeoh and Moon Lee. Other Asian cinema stars also known for performing elaborate stunts including Thai actor Tony Jaa, [8] Indonesian actors Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, and Indian actors Jayan, Akshay Kumar, Vidyut Jammwal and Tiger Shroff.

Stunts that have gone wrong

Recognition of stunt performers

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 , and 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; [9] despite the fact that few films of any genre or type could be made without them, stunt performers are still perceived as working mainly in action films. [10] Repeated campaigns for a "Best Stunts" Academy Award have been rejected. [11] [12] [13] [9]

In 2001, the first "World Stunt Awards" were presented in Los Angeles 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. [14] 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 or 2nd Unit Director.

Equality in stunts

In past Hollywood films it was common for men to double for women and White American stunt performers to double for African American performers, in a practice known as "wigging". [15] Veteran stunt man Dave Sharpe, a man of shorter than average height, often doubled for women in film serials of the 1930s and '40s. Veteran stunt performer Jeannie Epper, who doubled for Linda Carter in Wonder Woman, explained that the situation improved in the 1970's as actresses did not want to be doubled by men, and could be more convincingly doubled by a woman. [16] SAG-AFTRA union rules for stunt performers say that that to double an actor of a different gender or race the stunt must be so dangerous that there are no volunteers available of the appropriate gender or race. [15] For example in A View to a Kill , stuntman B.J. Worth doubled for the black Jamaican actress Grace Jones whose character parachuted off the Eiffel Tower. [17]

The future of stuntwork

A backlash against dangerous stunts following the fatal 42 foot backward fall of Sonja Davis off a building on the set of Vampire in Brooklyn . [18] Despite speculation that developments in computer-generated imagery (CGI) would make stunts unnecessary and reduce stunt performers to the status of body doubles, stunt work has increasingly been made safer and enhanced by CGI effects but stunt performers remain essential to provide a human quality to the action. [19] [20]

See also


  1. Crabtree, Sheigh (2006-12-17). "High-wire act raises the bar in fight scenes". The Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  2. 1 2 Vineyard, Jennifer (25 March 2019). "The Matrix's stunt coordinators and choreographers reveal how the iconic fight scenes were made". SYFY WIRE.
  3. "Stunt driving is pay-to-play | | Camarillo Acorn" . Retrieved 2017-01-31.
  4. "Dragon Lord". Love HK Film. Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  5. "Dragon Lord (DVD Description)" . Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  6. Everitt, David (August 16, 1996). "Kicking and Screening: Wheels on Meals,Armour of God,Police Story, and more are graded with an eye for action". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2020-04-02.
  7. Jackie Chan. "Jackie's Aches and Pains: It Only Hurts When I'm Not Laughing". Random House . Retrieved 19 December 2012.
  8. Andrew Perrin (October 18, 2004). "TIME Asia Magazine: Hitting the Big Time -- Oct. 25, 2004". Time (magazine) . Archived from the original on 2005-01-13.
  9. 1 2 Brennan, Jude (2014). "Stunt Actors Remain Oscar's Forgotten Heroes". Forbes.
  10. Sengupta, Deepayan (25 June 2019). "Movie Stunts: Not Just For Action Films". Birth.Movies.Death.
  11. Price, Allan (21 February 2013). "Why do stuntmen not have an Oscar?". BBC News.
  12. Marotta, Jenna (2 April 2018). "Helen Mirren Wants Stunt Performers to Be Eligible for Oscars". IndieWire .
  13. Jonathan Handel (26 February 2016). "Stunt Community Rallies Outside Academy Building for Oscar Recognition". The Hollywood Reporter . Archived from the original on 2016-02-26. The rally is part of a 25-year effort to create a category for stunt coordinators at the Academy Awards.
  14. Dore, Shalini (24 May 2001). "Kudos for crashes". Variety.
  15. 1 2 Longwell, Todd (March 1, 2019). "Hollywood's Stunt Industry Grapples With Issues of Race, Skin Color and Blackface". Variety (magazine) . stunt coordinator shall endeavor to cast qualified persons of the same sex and/or race involved.
  16. LaPorte, Nicole (25 May 2007). "Danger smashes gender barrier". Variety.
  17. Maud Adams. Inside A View to a Kill (VCD/DVD). MGM Home Entertainment Inc.
  18. Lisa Respers (12 February 1995). "Stuntwoman's Family Sues Over Fatal 42-Foot Fall on Set : Courts: Mother seeks $10 million, saying studio did not provide proper safety equipment. Defendants have made no comment". Los Angeles Times . air bag that was to cushion Davis' fall instead reacted like a huge balloon, causing the young woman to bounce, slam into the building and hit the ground
  19. Verini, Bob (24 January 2008). "SAG recognizes stunts for first time". Variety. some have found irony in recognizing a community at the exact moment when CGI advances seem destined to render that community irrelevant — or at best secondary — to creating thrilling action on film.
  20. LaPorte, Nicole (25 May 2007). "CGI meets mayhem maestros". Variety. Would computers displace stunt work?

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Martial arts films are a genre of action films that feature numerous martial arts combat between characters. These combats are usually the films' primary appeal and entertainment value, and often are a method of storytelling and character expression and development. Martial arts are frequently featured in training scenes and other sequences in addition to fights. Martial arts films commonly include hand-to-hand combat along with other types of action, such as stuntwork, chases, and gunfights. Sub-genres of martial arts films include kung fu films, wuxia, karate films, and martial arts action-comedy films, while related genres include gun fu, jidaigeki and samurai films.

Action film Film genre

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of events that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, rescues and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a mostly resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a dangerous villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in computer-generated imagery (CGI) have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common tropes of the genre include explosions, car chases, fistfights and shootouts.

Jackie Chan Hong Kong actor and martial artist

Chan Kong-sang, known professionally as Jackie Chan, is a Hong Kong actor and martial artist known for his slapstick acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, and innovative stunts, which he typically performs himself. He has trained in Wushu and Hapkido, and has been acting since the 1960s, performing in more than 150 films. He is one of the most popular action film stars of all-time.

Stunt performer Person who performs stunts

A stunt performer, often referred to as a stuntman or stuntwoman, is a trained professional who performs daring acts, often as a career. Stunt performers usually appear in films or on television, as opposed to a daredevil, who performs for a live audience. When they take the place of another actor, they are known as stunt doubles.

Stunt double

A stunt double is a cross between a body double and a stunt performer, specifically a skilled replacement used for dangerous film or video sequences, such as jumping out of a building or from vehicle to vehicle, and for other sophisticated stunts. Stunt doubles may be used in cases where an actor's physical condition or age precludes much activity, or when an actor is contractually prohibited from taking certain risks. A dance double performs the dangerous or physically difficult dance parts of a character's role.

<i>Project A</i> (film) 1983 film by Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung

Project A is a 1983 Hong Kong martial arts action-comedy film starring and directed by Jackie Chan, written by Chan and Edward Tang, and produced by Tang, Leonard Ho and Raymond Chow. The film co-stars Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, and was released on December 22, 1983.

<i>Police Story</i> (1985 film) 1985 film by Jackie Chan

Police Story is a 1985 Hong Kong action-crime film written and directed by Jackie Chan, who also stars in the lead role. It is the first of the Police Story series featuring Chan as Hong Kong police detective "Kevin" Chan Ka-Kui, starring alongside Brigitte Lin and Maggie Cheung. Chan began work on the film after a disappointing experience working with the director James Glickenhaus on The Protector, which was intended to be his entry into the American film market.

Wire fu is an element or style of Hong Kong action cinema used in fight scenes. It is a combination of two terms: "wire work" and "kung fu".

Yuen Wah is a Hong Kong action film actor, action choreographer, stuntman and martial artist who has appeared in over 160 films and over 20 television series.

Hong Kong action cinema is the principal source of the Hong Kong film industry's global fame. Action films from Hong Kong combined elements of Hollywood with Chinese and Hong Kong cultures such as Chinese opera, storytelling and aesthetic traditions, along with new action choreography and filmmaking techniques, to create a culturally distinctive form that went on to have wide transcultural appeal. In turn, Hollywood action films have been heavily influenced by Hong Kong genre conventions, from the 1970s onwards.

<i>Dragon Lord</i>

Dragon Lord is a 1982 Hong Kong martial arts comedy film starring and directed by Jackie Chan, who also writer with Edward Tang and Barry Wong. It was originally supposed to be a sequel to The Young Master and even had the name Young Master in Love until it was changed to Dragon Lord. The film experimented with various elaborate stunt action sequences in a period setting, serving as a transition between Chan's earlier comedy kung fu comedy period films and his later stunt-oriented modern action films.

<i>Heart of Dragon</i>

Heart of Dragon, released in the United Kingdom as Heart of the Dragon, is a 1985 Hong Kong action drama film directed by Sammo Hung, who also starred in the lead role. The film co-stars Jackie Chan, Emily Chu and Mang Hoi. It also features Yuen Biao serving as the action director for the film.

The Taurus World Stunt Awards is a yearly award ceremony held midyear that honors stunt performers in movies. It is held each year in Los Angeles. The first awards were given out in 2001. The deciding committee has been around since the year 2000. The awards were created by Dietrich Mateschitz, the founder of Red Bull. The awards statue was sculpted by Austrian artist Jos Pirkner, and is a figure in the form of a winged bull.

Scott Leva

Scott Leva is a stuntman and stunt coordinator who began his career as a gymnast and entered stuntwork in the 1970s.

<i>Police Story</i> (film series) Hong Kong action film series

Police Story comprises seven official Hong Kong crime-action films, starring Jackie Chan, directed by Jackie Chan, Stanley Tong, Benny Chan, and Ding Sheng, and produced by Raymond Chow, Leonard Ho, Jackie Chan, Barbie Tung, Willie Chan, Solon So and Yang Du. The first film Police Story was released on 14 December 1985. The film's success led to three sequels, a spin-off and two reboots.

Bradley James Allan is an Australian martial artist, action choreographer, actor and stunt performer. He worked in the Hong Kong film industry as a member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and now choreographs action scenes in Hollywood films.

ActionFest was an annual film festival in Asheville, NC, started by Carolina Cinemas and Magnolia Pictures founder Bill Banowsky and action director/producer Aaron Norris, along with Dennis Berman and Tom Quinn. ActionFest was the first film festival in the world devoted exclusively to action film. It was also the only film festival in the world that honoring stunt performers, filling a void caused by the decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences not to recognize stunt men and stunt women in its Academy Awards. ActionFest's stated mission was to "recognize, honor and appreciate the remarkable efforts of these amazing people who risk their lives every day to make Hollywood films look exciting and great."


CZ12 , also known as Chinese Zodiac, is a 2012 Hong Kong action-comedy film written and directed by Jackie Chan, who also starred as the main character in the film. The film is the third movie of a franchise that began with Armour of God (1986) and its sequel, Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991).

Roger Winston Yuan is an American martial arts fight trainer, stunt coordinator / performer, and actor who has trained many actors and actresses in many Hollywood films. As an actor himself, he also appeared in Shanghai Noon (2000) opposite Jackie Chan, Bulletproof Monk (2003) alongside Chow Yun-fat, the technician in Batman Begins (2005), and as Sévérine's bodyguard in Skyfall (2012). He is a well-recognized choreographer in Hollywood.