Inside Hollywood's best stunts -- A Hollywood stunt expert picks his favorite film moves of 2005

By Gregory Kirschling
February 03, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Every year since 1990, Jack Gill has been lobbying the Academy — on behalf of his fellow Hollywood stunt coordinators — to institute a new Oscar category honoring the year’s best stunts. And every year since 1990, the Academy has turned him down flat. He’s starting to get mad. ”Stunt people are asking me to demonstrate in front of the Academy Awards this year, which is something I don’t want to do,” says Gill, 50. ”But I want the Academy to see that they’ve left us by the wayside for so long and they’ve made a mistake.”

”Well, we don’t think we’ve made a mistake,” says Academy president Sid Ganis. ”You have to make choices, and we’ve made the choice to not create a category for stunts. There are other disciplines and other artistic contributions that there are no categories for.” Naturally, Gill has a counterargument. ”Look, these stunt coordinators and the people they hire are risking their lives for the public’s entertainment, and there’s no other group or department head that can say that,” he says. ”And we still can’t get a category?” Gill — who got his start jumping the General Lee through barns on TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard — has 100-plus films to his credit, and over his 28-year career he’s broken his neck (on Blues Brothers 2000) and his back (twice).

Since stuntmen are staying home on Oscar night, we asked Gill which five 2005 films he’d nominate for their stunts, if he could. Note the absence of CGI-heavy blockbusters like King Kong and Revenge of the Sith. ”Stunt coordinators can see the difference between an actor standing in front of a greenscreen being manipulated digitally and a stunt coordinator out there designing sequences in the real world,” he insists.

BATMAN BEGINS
STUNT COORDINATOR: Paul Jennings

”I got a feeling that Batman would probably win the Oscar. It’s very digital, but they had a real Batman car in there and it did some real crashes. Also, they made the character darker, and it finally looked like Batman was really gonna do some damage. They didn’t drop back to the same old fight scenes, where Batman throws a punch and the bad guy goes 50 feet down the street and stands back up again.”

MR. & MRS. SMITH
STUNT COORDINATOR: Simon Crane

”Almost every single page in the script is action-oriented. Then you’ve got the comedy aspect. That’s what swayed me on this film: They play husband and wife, and play lovey-dovey, but they also have these huge fight scenes where it doesn’t look like they do any real physical harm to each other.”

THE ISLAND
STUNT COORDINATOR: Kenny Bates

”It’s no-holds-barred, gritty, and not digital. This is how it was done in the old days: Let’s crash as many cars and do as many radical camera angles as we can. It’s an old-school look at real stunt coordinators. The highway chase is what sold it for me.”

KUNG FU HUSTLE
STUNT COORDINATOR: Yuen Wo Ping

”Studios have been crazy about wire fighting ever since The Matrix. And it’s different from greenscreen because with wire fighting, you’re at the physical location with 15 cranes. It’s tough to do, a logistical nightmare. And Wo Ping is fantastic. He’s the model.”

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