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What Does a Stuntman Do?

A stuntman might have been the cowboy shot from a roof in early Western films.
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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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A stuntman performs dangerous falls, car crashes and fights that require specialized training to complete without serious injury. Often filling in for the star of a movie or television show, the stuntman is seldom filmed close up and seldom stars in the picture. Some scripts call for the stuntman to be set on fire, while others feature the daredevil strapped to an airplane wing and taken into the skies. Typically trained in the art of skydiving, rock climbing and using explosives, it is not unusual to see this risk-taker attacked by animals, beaten by cowboys or dragged behind a horse through the streets of an old-time Western town with his boot "caught" in a stirrup.

Quite often, the stuntman is the unsung hero of a motion picture. Taking punches and gun shots that are intended for the movie's star to receive is the normal job of the stuntman. Men are not the only performers who take tremendous risk in the pictures, as women also perform dangerous stunts that are written into the female lead's role. One of the most commonly-used stunts in the movies is the high fall. This stunt has the stuntman falling from the top of a building or off of a bridge. Some of the earliest stunts were related to Western movies and had stuntmen falling off roofs of the town buildings during big gunfight scenes.

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The key fighting scenes commonly involve many stuntmen to complete the shot. Breaking tables and being thrown through windows, the stuntman adds a special type of realism to the scene that simple sound effects alone cannot offer. Many stuntmen are professional racers, which enables the stuntman to drive the vehicles in a realistic high-speed manner when creating high-speed chases and crashes. One of the most dangerous automobile stunts to pull off is the double head-on car crash. The stuntmen must calculate their speed very critically to avoid one car flying higher than the other and striking the vehicle in the windshield instead of on the bumper.

While the big stars receive much of the credit that the stuntman deserves, the movies are often made better because of the stunt personnel that add realistic danger into the mix. Occasionally, a stunt person will excel and break into the mainstream and actually star in a film. There are also some stars who do or have done their own stunts, such as some of the more famous martial arts heroes, comedians and cowboy actors.

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Discuss this Article

sunshined
Post 2

@John57 - When you mention the Indiana Jones set, I remember hearing that Harrison Ford does some of his own stunts.

I also know that Tom Cruise did some of his own stunts when they were filming Mission Impossible.

For some people, it is easy to picture them doing these action scenes themselves. I think it must be part of the challenge.

Jackie Chan has also done many of his own stunts and even suffered some broken bones from some of them. If you have seen very many Jackie Chan movies, this is easy to understand why.

I guess this is not just for the male actors, as someone told me that Angelina Jolie doesn't always use a stunt double either.

Does anyone know of other actors who like to do some of their own stunts? I am not surprised about the ones I am familiar with, but wonder if there are some unsuspecting ones that perform some of their own stunts?

John57
Post 1

My son loves action movies and scenes that probably involve a stuntman or two.

We recently took a trip to Disneyland and one of his favorite attractions was the Indiana Jones set.

You got to watch them as they filmed a scene and learn about some of the behind-scenes tips and tricks.

They even encouraged members of the audience to try out for parts in the scene, and my son was very excited about this.

Even though it was not a real movie scene, you got the feeling that it was. It also gave you a very close look at how some of these scenes are filmed.

I can definitely understand why many actors will use a stuntman for many of these scenes, because they really are putting themselves in some danger.

It is not unusual for trained stuntmen to get injured when working on scenes like this. These are usually the scenes that really make a movie exciting.

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