In a time where CGI reigns supreme, it is often easy to forget that many many of the action or adventure films we’ve come to know and love were in a time when CGI was a bit more expensive or scarce…or even non-existent. Here’s a little tribute to some of the stunts and stuntmen from films we know and love,that have set the bar high for other films and stuntmen to improve…or be humbled by!
We all remember Speed fondly (did you know Whedon did a rewrite on the script? It shows!) but a particularly memorable moment was when the bus did a 50-foot ramp. While the gap was CGI, but stunt co-ordinator Gary Hymes kicked some serious ass when bringing this gravity-defying stunt to life and we all thank him for it.
One of my favourites on the list, I have fond memories of years back being amazed by the chariot race in Ben Hur, though I wouldn’t be able to watch it now without wondering why Mr. Heston didn’t replace all the swords and spears with guns and rifles. The scene where Ben Hur races towards the remains of a broken chariot, and gets launched over the front, having to climb back up? Yeah, that is the work of Joe Canutt and let me tell you the kicker – the stunt didn’t go as planned. That was all Mr. Canutt himself, being badass.
Many of us might agree that Jackie Chan has, before a series of unfortunate comedic roles in the last few years, reigned as the king of doing his own stunts. Well, in 1992, Michelle Yeoh proved she was a chip off the ol’ block when she co-starred with Jackie Chan in Supercop, and did most of her own stuntwork… including driving a motorbike onto a moving train. Five gold stars to Michelle Yeoh, and the rest of the fearless Hong Kong gang.
Inspired by the film Stagecoach, the scene where our favourite archeologist is dragged underneath a truck, then climbing along the bottom, was performed by Terry Leonard and is said to have been a particularly dangerous one. Mr. Leonard had to go through extensive rehabilitation after attempting the same stunt, and failing, in Stagecoach.
Rick Sylvester has balls of steel. For The Spy Who Loved Me he base jumped off Mount Asgard with ski’s and a union jack, before descening 914 metres. The world’s greatest ski jump? Possibly, but as I stated earlier… balls of such solid steel, I’m surprised he didn’t plummet down at terminal velocity.
Martial arts legend Jackie Chan has never been one to shy away from dangerous stunts. A particular daring one in the film Police Story has him sliding down a pole in a shopping mall, shortly after kick-punching a few bad guys, dropping through wood and glass below. It is said he suffered burns on his hands and a a dislocated pelvis for his trouble. All in a day’s work for Mr. Chan!
I’m very fond of Tarantino’s tongue-in-cheek slasher action thriller Deathproof, but a particular scene that left me breathless was when real-life stunt woman Zoe Bell, as herself, is chased by Kurt Russell’s insane Stuntman Mike, with her holding on to the hood of a car. Exhilarating and terrifying!
For Goldeneye, stuntman Wayne Michaels plunged 750ft plunge off a makeshift platform off the side of Locarno hydro-electric dam on the Swiss-Italian border. Pushing his body to the limit and pushing the bungee cords to near breaking point, just thinking about this stunt makes me want to curl up in a little ball and cry like a girl. Terrifying stuff.
As mentioned earlier, the stunt performed in Stagecoach by Yakima Canutt would be duplicated many years later in Raiders of the Lost Ark. A classic among stuntmen, paving the way for years of daredevils to come.
Probably one of the first stunts ever performed, or to be made famous, was during the hurricane sequence in Steamboat Bill. During said hurricane, the entire front of an house collapses on Buster Keaton. How did he made sure he stood in the right spot to survive? By nailing his shoes to the floor. Let me repeat that. Nailing his shoes to the floor. Holy … hell.
Last Updated: June 27, 2013