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What Is a Stunt Double?

Professional stunt doubles with dwarfism often work as stand-ins for children.
Having practiced gymnastics or martial arts can be helpful for someone pursuing a career as a stunt double.
Stunt doubles might be used during a car chase scene.
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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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A stunt double is a person who performs physical sequences for television or movies that may be too dangerous or challenging for an actor or actress to execute. Action scenes tend to rely on doubles for stunts such as fighting scenes or jumping off buildings, but they can also be used to do any feat an actor or actress cannot physically do for a role, such as horseback riding or swimming. A professional stunt double is usually highly skilled in a variety of physical abilities, such as karate, gymnastics, or climbing, that can help ensure his or her safety when performing stunts.

When a stunt double stands in for an actor or actress during a scene, it is generally filmed from a distance so it isn’t obvious to the viewing audience that a double is being used. Although stunt doubles don’t have any speaking parts or close-ups, they need to have some physical resemblance to the people they are standing in for so the switch appears seamless. Stunt doubles wear the exact clothing the people they portray and even wigs if necessary. An actor or actress may use the same stunt double for all of his or her movies, especially if the double is the same height and size.

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To become a stunt double, a person can go to a stunt school. A stunt school teaches students the skills they will need for film stunts, such as how to safely perform fighting sequences, dodge oncoming cars, fall down stairs or jump from tall heights. Even though film sets have safety devices, such as harnesses or mats, the stunts can still be dangerous, so proper training is necessary. Many already have a physical career background before they pursue stunt doubling. For instance, professional wrestlers often go into stunt work because they have experience in safely performing potentially dangerous physical acts.

A stunt double is generally selected by a production’s stunt coordinator, who is responsible for casting and choreographing stunts. A professional stunt double can work directly for a stunt company that specializes in providing stunt services for television or film. He or she can also do freelance work part-time. Many stunt doubles break into show business by starting out in small acting or set crew jobs that allow them to network with film or television producers.

Some stunt doubles begin their careers as children. Although the actions young stunt doubles perform aren’t as dangerous as adult stunts, they may stand in for child actors or actresses for physical sequences, such as falling or climbing. Professional stunt doubles with dwarfism often work as stand-ins for children or babies for more dangerous physical scenes.

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genuinegypsy
Post 4

Check out the indie film "To Pull a Stunt" about a stunt double. It's on Vimeo and Amazon.

Phaedrus
Post 2

@Ruggercat68, my favorites were the stunt doubles used during fight scenes on the original Star Trek series. William Shatner and the other actor would lunge menacingly at each other and then the scene would cut to stunt doubles who looked nothing like the actors. They would do everything they could to hide their faces while "fighting". When one stuntman threw the other one against a wall, the scene would cut back to William Shatner wincing as he slid down that wall to the floor. The camera trickery may have been able to fool us kids at the time, but now it looks really obvious.

Ruggercat68
Post 1

I remember there were a lot of movies and television shows back in the 70s that used obviously male stunt doubles for female actresses. On the TV show "Happy Days", Fonzie started dating a fellow biker named Pinky Tuscadero. Neither actor could ride a motorcycle, so stunt doubles were called in to film scenes of the couple riding off into the sunset while holding hands. The stuntman playing Pinky was about a foot taller than the actress and had a beard. He also wore an ill-fitting pink wig.

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