We all encounter them in movies – people fight each other, things are getting blown up, a dude jumps from a tower, someone getting shot at, etc. Stunts are part of almost every movie or series and it is almost impossible to not include them if you want at least some action.
Many stunts have to be carefully coordinated and planned, as they could go horribly wrong either injuring the person performing it or even end in a fatal result. There are different kinds of stunts which can or should be only performed by professionals who are specialized in the respective form of stunt. For example, stunts made with vehicles cannot be done by just anyone who has some general experience with stunts. It takes someone with specialization in stunts with vehicles in particular. Vehicle stunts include handbrake turns, car chases and crashes.
Some stunts are less dangerous to do. Take a look at stage combat for instance – you probably have watched two or more people engaging in violence with each other, whether it is a fist fight or a battle with swords. It is like a performance where the performers have to practice “fighting” for many hours. They do not actually hurt each other, but the point is to create an illusion. You could imagine it as some sort of choreography. Filming with a camera also comes with a plus point since you can take advantage of shooting from different angles. While stage combat is probably less dangerous than a vehicle stunt, you could still accidentally hit your partner and hurt them.
There are some actors who do perform the stunts by themselves and they are not always so easy themselves. Let’s take a look at a few dangerous movie stunts!
Stunts by Tom Cruise
Many of you have probably seen this movie or at least heard of it. If you watched it you most likely are already familiar with the famous Airplane scene where Tom Cruise holds onto a plane and it takes off. The crazy part about this is that the famous actor actually did this – it was real. At the height of around 1,524 meters in the air, Tom Cruise dangled from the airplane holding onto the door. He also wore special contact lenses which helped him to open his eyes while flying, since it would normally be not possible to do so at such high speed. Of course, he was wearing a harness with strings which was attached to the aircraft as a safety measurement. But it still could have gone horribly wrong.
For another stunt in the movie ‘Mission Impossible: Fallout’, Tom Cruise even broke his ankle. In that particular scene he is jumping from building to building, but at one point the gap is too big and he sort of crashes with his right foot into the wall, breaking the ankle. Despite that, he still finished the scene to the end.
Jackie Chan Light Pole Stunt
For the movie ‘Police Story’ (1985) Jackie Chan had to perform a dangerous stunt. In a scene which is nearly at the end of the movie Jackie Chan has to chase some criminals in a shopping mall. He is a on a higher floor than them which means he has to find a way to get down to them quickly. What they did here was that Jackie had to jump from the railing onto a pole and slide down several levels. But the pole was decorated with tiny light bulbs which he would break through while sliding down. On the ground below him was just a huge box filled with candy to protect him when he falls to the floor. Jackie Chan himself was very nervous and worried about this stunt, as it came with many risks like the lightbulbs could cause burns or even shocks. The stunt was a huge hit and he completely nailed it. But he did suffer a second degree burn on his hands.
In ‘Police Story’, however, there was another stunt that Jackie Chan had to make that ended not so well. He actually fell through a display of glass and had to be admitted to the hospital.
I have actually read about movie stunts, and how wrong it can go. I read that the stunt double of Harry Potter was fatally injured in a stunt scene, which left him paralysed from the waist down. It is scary how wrong a stunt can go if it is not carefully thought through, or a prop like a rope becomes loose. I am under the impression that we as viewers do not really think so much about the amount of work that is behind all those cool looking stunts, and also the fact that the stunt doubles place themselves in potentially harmful situations.