The above video is about Gary Zeller, a special effects director who seeks to perfect the art of fire stunts. He talks about how movies nowadays demand stunts as dangerous as being set on fire while wearing a bathing suit. As audience members, we don’t usually think about stuntmen in movies, but their work actually fits in with our class discussion about choreographed violence and the blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality in film. They are similar to professional wrestlers. Stuntmen have to be fearless, precise, and very athletic in order to perform the dangerous stunts on screen. As Zeller mentions, completing a stunt takes a lot of trial and error, as well as practical experience gained on set. Stuntmen are also skilled artists and innovators, putting their lives on the line to capture the audience with inventive, highly risky stunts. A lot of violence we see in films is accomplished by movie magic, but the stunts performed are very real. Stunt doubles risk life and limb every day, but remain voiceless and faceless, and seldom enjoy fame and recognition.
Of course, there are stunt men who have gone on to become famous. Tony Jaa has gone from being a television stuntman inspired by Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan to starring in the Ong Bak trilogy. The Ong Bak movies don't necessarily have the most fascinating storylines, but Tony Jaa's fighting is remarkable. He's not well-known in the West yet, but I'm sure he will be.
Can you think of other stunt doubles who have made it in Hollywood?