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.
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.