Overdue Industry Recognition For Stunt Work

Opinions – we all got ’em…Even Trial By Films does.  When we do, we’ll let you know.  This is one of those times.

The purpose of a film critic, and to a larger extent – film award bodies, is to pay homage to excellence in film.  It is, in essence, an assessment of the individuals that collectively create a piece of art.  The Academy Awards is the benchmark for providing industry approval for a job well done.  The Academy bestows awards to all of the team members that make up a film – directors, screenwriters, actors, designers, effects specialists, musicians, editors, etc.

There is one category of technical achievement that is left out in the cold – Stunt Work Coordination.

Let’s take a look at a couple of the Best Picture winners from the last couple decades, and imagery from their iconic moments:

The Hurt Locker




Russell Crowe wasn’t behind that mask as he caught the sword mid-gallup in the heat of battle – it was a stuntman.  And it wasn’t Jeremy Renner being blown off his feet by an explosive – it was a stuntman.  Why is it that stunt-people go unheralded, when make-up artists and sound engineers receive their annual commendation like everyone else at the Academy Awards?  Here are a few potential reasons:

Argument: In recent years, the importance of the live-action stuntman has been underwritten by computer based effects.

Rebuttal:  Even with the comparably cheap costs for CGI work, audiences favor practical stunt work.  Two of the most cited action films in recent history both primarily utilized practical stunt-work; Mad Max: Fury Road and The Dark Knight.

Argument:  Identifying and rewarding stunt teams will overshadow the stars of those films.

Rebuttal:  Natalie Portman won the Best Actress award for 2010’s Black Swan; but when it came out that much of the dance routines were filmed using a stunt double, questions arose about Portman’s deserving of the award.  Audiences had attributed the work of the stunt person to Portman; and we never got to applaud the stunt person performing the dance sequences.

The highest grossing and most seen films in the industry are almost always blockbusters rife with stunt-work.  Stunt practitioners risk their lives and stunt coordinators spend countless time storyboarding in order to fulfill the director’s vision.  They deserve to be recognized for their contributions to film.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG Awards) woke up in 2007, with the inclusion of the award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble’.  Moving forward, when reviewing applicable films, stunt-work will be accounted for at Trial By Films.  It is long overdue that the industry’s preeminent award ceremony, the Academy Awards, follows suit.


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