*Note* Here is a post which I wrote years ago and was going to use as an introduction to my picks for the Best Stuntwork Oscar, starting with 1960. For some reason I neglected to post it, so here it is – it’s pretty bad.**
Since pretty much the dawn of cinema, there have been stunts and stunt professionals- men and women willing to put their bodies and lives on the line so that the gaping masses can stare up at the screen and say ‘Holy Shit, that was awesome!’, or in the case of Keanu Reeves ‘Wow’, or in the case of idiots ‘Pff, I could do that’. Chances are that if you have been to the cinema this year (or ever) you will have seen a big budget effects extravaganza littered with huge action set pieces and minor stunts you may even have missed. Even if you’re some hipster who only watches Polish short films from the 30s, wears ridiculous sweaters, and brushes their teeth with feces, you probably know that those in the stunt business have a damn hard, cool, and underappreciated job.
Unlike, say, sound editing (or in some extreme cases cinematography, writing, anything) stunt work is something which is immediate and which everyone can witness if not appreciate. For example, when you watched all those kids being blown into the sky in The Hunger Games, or those faceless baddies been kicked in the balls and thrown down stairs in every 80s action movie ever, you understood that a stunt had taken place for your entertainment. You may not have appreciated the amount of time, work, and planning which went into a particular task, be it falling off a horse in Braveheart or racing/crashing a car in the Bond series. Even after decades of lobbying, it seems that those in charge of The Academy Awards do not understand or appreciate this work, which is frankly ludicrous.
Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I have fed upon a diet of Spielberg and Lucas, worshipped at the altar of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Van Damme, and occasionally suckled at the teat of Bay. I love action, I need action, and I expect to see at least 30 characters getting seriously hurt in every film, each in more over the top ways. However, whichever age of Hollywood you were raised on, influenced through, and subsequently broken by, stunts have always been there. Whether it was Harold Lloyd dangling precariously from a clock in the 1920s, Buster Keaton narrowly avoiding being crushed by a house, John Ford’s Western epics of the 30s and 40s, Butch and Sundance leaping off a cliff in the 60s, or Jackie Chan dangling precariously from a clock in Project A, the fact is that some of the most iconic moments in the history of cinema have been thought up and executed by some of the craziest shits this side of Charlie Sheen’s toilet.
So, until the time that these guys are recognized officially by people more important than me, I will strive to do my part to remember and regale the people who have provided me with some of the greatest vicarious thrills of my life (watching someone else receive a mouth-gift via glory hole counts as a vicarious thrill, right?) until I find something more meaningful to do with my time.