No one in the world is more stressed than whoever handles Tom Cruise’s insurance.
Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where our hero outruns a boulder? Harrison Ford actually did that. Ten times. The fiberglass and plaster boulder weighed 300 pounds and “might have crushed the star” if he hadn’t been so quick on his feet. Said director Steven Spielberg, “He was lucky. And I was an idiot for letting him try it.”
Hamilton said that she believed Soul Surfer was “one of the best surf Hollywood films ever made, in my opinion.”
Guy Norris, the supervising stunt coordinator on Mad Max: Fury Road, choreographed the action of the sequence where Max is running from the War Boys specifically so that Tom Hardy (Max) could do all of his own stunts. Norris aimed to create “a foot chase with same intensity as a car chase.”
The most complicated part of the sequence came at the very end, when Max leapt for freedom and the War Boys dragged him back in. But, Norris said, “Tom did it all.”
Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s stunt double Sophia Crawford, who worked with her on the first four seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, took over during the first fight between Buffy and her Slayer-gone-bad counterpart Faith. Karen Sheperd and Mike Massa were doubles for Faith and Angel, respectively.
According to Atomic Blonde stunt coordinator Sam Hargrave, Charlize Theron did “98 percent of her own action including fighting, running and those kinds of things.” She skipped only a few stunts that she was prevented from attempting due to insurance reasons, including falling down the stairs, so her double Monique Ganderton stepped in for those.
Vic Armstrong was Harrison Ford‘s stunt double for the first three Indiana Jones movies, and in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you can spot Armstrong jumping from a horse onto a tank.
Ford once sent Armstrong a photo of the pair of them together, with a note added: “If you learn to talk, I’m in deep trouble.”
When the script for the Malcolm in the Middle Season 1 episode “The Bots and the Bees” called for Bryan Cranston‘s character Hal to cover his body in 10,000 live bees, Cranston himself volunteered for the terrifying task. The “bee handler” used pheromones to attract the insects to Cranston, and then smoked the bees so that they would be more “docile.” Incredibly, Cranston was only stung once.
Heidi Moneymaker has been the stunt double behind Scarlett Johansson‘s Black Widow since the character’s debut in Iron Man 2. She’s pulled off many, many stunts, including one from The Avengers where she jumped on Captain America’s shield and he propelled her upwards.
In Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are forced by pursuing Stormtroopers to swing on a rope across a chasm in the Death Star. Hamill and Fisher did the stunt themselves, and when someone asked Fisher if she trusted Mark, she quipped, “The rope was the one to trust.”
During the fight between the Bride and O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill: Volume 1, you can catch a lot of Uma Thurman‘s stunt double Zoë Bell. Quentin Tarantino treated Bell like an actor, and would ask her questions about the psychological motivations behind her character’s incredible physical feats.
Here’s a clip about Zoë Bell’s stunt work:
Chloë Grace Moretz did the majority of her own stunts in Kick-Ass and its sequel, an experience she said gave her “so much physical confidence.”
Luci Romberg is Melissa McCarthy‘s stunt double, and she works with the actor so consistently that McCarthy had Romberg written into her contract. One of the most dangerous things she pulled off was hanging off of a helicopter in Spy.
Carrie Fisher was asked if she wanted a stunt double during the scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi when Leia kills Jabba the Hutt, but she emphatically refused. She later explained it was “the best time I ever had as an actor” and said that the “only reason to go into acting is if you can kill a giant monster.”
Cary Elwes did a lot of his own stunts in The Princess Bride, but he wasn’t the one to pull off that double flip during the duel between Inigo Montoya and Westley. A professional acrobat was brought in to make those cinematic gymnastics happen.
While filming Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zendaya (MJ) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man) were lifted about 110 feet in the air for a swinging stunt. Then, the director decided to reshoot the scene with the actors suspended only two feet off of the ground, and according to Zendaya, that low-stakes redo somehow looked better. But regardless of what ended up in the final film, she still did that stunt, damn it!
The other stunt Cary Elwes didn’t do himself in The Princess Bride was the long tumble down the hill he takes just before Buttercup realizes his true identity. (It’s the one where he’s yelling, “As you wish!”)
Kristen Stewart did her own horseback riding in Snow White and the Huntsman, despite the fact that she, in her own words, “hate[s] ’em.” She traces her phobia back to a childhood incident where she fell off a horse and broke her arm.
Crazy, Stupid, Love used a stunt double in place of Emma Stone during the scene where Ryan Gosling’s character shows off using the Dirty Dancing lift. Stone tried to do the move herself, but having been traumatized by a childhood experience when she fell in a gymnastics class and broke both her arms, she was like “a possum who had fallen from a tree.” She took the day off to watch Labyrinth in bed and recover, and the scene was reimagined so that it could be shot through a window in the rain, disguising the double.
Daniel Craig is known for doing his own stunts as James Bond, including one moment in Quantum Of Solace where he jumped out of a three-story building and landed on top of a moving bus. According to chief stunt coordinator Gary Powell, Craig is “not a lover of heights” but did the sequence anyways, even though he had to jump before the bus was even underneath him.
While Liam Neeson did his own fight choreography in the Taken films, whenever his character needed to be captured “flying through glass” or “jumping buildings,” his friend and stunt double Mark Vanselow took charge.
Isla Fisher was really chained up in a water tank while filming Now You See Me, but the mechanism that was supposed to safely release her failed and she ended up stuck underwater for almost three minutes. People watching the scene didn’t realize she was in trouble, and thought that she was just “acting fabulously.”
Bobby Holland Hanton, Chris Hemsworth‘s Thor stunt double, severely injured himself while standing in for the actor during the gladiatorial fight between Thor and the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok. He (and I’ll warn you now, this is graphic) “snapped my groin off the bone” while doing a “jumping flip kick.” He healed up just fine, but it “took a little while,” which I can only assume is a massive understatement.
In Back to the Future Part III, Michael J. Fox‘s character Marty McFly is almost hanged, until Doc Brown shoots the rope and frees him. While shooting the scene, the rope was too tight around Fox’s neck, and he briefly lost consciousness before anyone realized something was wrong. Fox wrote in his memoir, “I swung unconscious at the end of the rope for several seconds before Bob Zemeckis, fan of me though he was, realized even I wasn’t that good of an actor.”
Caity Lotz does a lot of her own fighting as her Arrow and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow character Sara Lance, but she leaves “taking falls or getting hit or being thrown across the room” to her “awesome” stunt double. She also doesn’t like to risk scenes where she’s thrown through glass, because the timing is so tricky and it can be a risky thing to pull off.
The “craziest stunt” Daniel Radcliffe was ever allowed to perform himself in the Harry Potter films can be found in the fourth entry, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. While filming the sequence when Harry is running from the dragon, Radcliffe was attached to a 40-foot wire that was only there to catch him at the very end of being “properly in free fall.” He was 15 at the time.
In Unstoppable, Chris Pine‘s character had to jump from a moving truck onto a moving train. Pine’s stunt double Daniel Stevens did the trick, “all without using safety lines.” Stevens named it as his most memorable stunt experience so far.
You can’t talk about actors doing their own stunts without mentioning Tom Cruise, who is famed for putting the “action” in “action movie star.” One of his most incredible feats is the time he held onto an Airbus A400M as it took off in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Airbus said it was “impossible,” but despite the many dangers involved — including the fact that “no harness in the world” could keep Cruise attached if the pilot went too fast, and the possibility a bird could hit him with the impact of a “cannonball” — Cruise made it happen.
Adrianne Palicki starred as Ms. Perkins in John Wick, and though she was certainly up for the challenge of doing her own fight choreography, her stunt double Renae Moneymaker (sister of Heidi Moneymaker, Black Widow’s double) stepped in when the time came for John Wick to throw Ms. Perkins through a glass window.
And finally, here’s another absurd Tom Cruise one. For Mission Impossible: Fallout, Cruise got certified as a helicopter pilot in six weeks, whereas it normally takes three months, by training 16 hours a day. At certain points during the chase scene, Cruise was dangerously close to the other helicopter, and visibility was low. Despite the imminent doom, Cruise was apparently “having the time of his life.”
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