In Praise of Action
We’ve all got to admit that without stunt people the movies we love would probably be lame. These brave men and women sometimes risk their lives just to create excitement for us to enjoy.
In 1903 the movie The Great Robbery employed a man to fall off a horse without getting too hurt. He inadvertently became the first movie stuntman. Although it didn’t start out as a profession, performing stunts became more and more necessary as Americans developed a taste for action films. Most of the scripts were Western-themed and required a lot of extras who could ride, shoot, and look convincing on camera.
The first accepted professional stunt performers were mostly clowns and comedians. In the early days of silent films the stunts were just part of the job. For instance in the 1923 film where Harold Lloyd can be seen dangling off a clock on a skyscraper, it’s really him hanging there.
Shortly after that more and more actors started to perform stunts in their films.
By the mid 1960s most of the stunt technology used today was already in operation, including airbags, air ramps, and bullet squibs.
These days the industry is very high-tech. One little jump off a cliff into water involves a lot of people working behind the scenes so it all flows smoothly and without injury. This also includes a huge amount of paperwork that needs to be put into place.
People think stunt men and women operate independently, but they are actually part of a team. Stunt people need to be very adaptable because no matter how many times they’ve been set on fire or have had to jump through a window, every job is different. Stunt people also are aware that they might have to do a stunt many times until the director says its perfect. Some stunts can take a whole week to set up while others take only minutes even though in the movie that particular scene might just last a few seconds.
A stunt person also has to be in peak physical condition and be ready to work at different times of day while wearing different types of costumes and gear. The set is not always glamorous or comfortable, you might be standing in freezing cold water for hours to shoot what ends up being a thirty second scene.
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