Jumping out of planes, flaming buildings and driving cars at breakneck speeds might sound appealing to the five-year-old in every one of us. And, yes, there is a line of work that will allow you to do all these death-defying things and more, but the question is: is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Well, let’s take a look at the dirty truth behind stunt performers.
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1. Women Have It Worse
So, not only is income/salary disparity an issue but clothing is too or, for lack of a better simile, a lack of clothes. Let’s take a look at this hypothetical scenario: you are going to jump out of a moving train at the exact moment said train is passing by a series of pylons. You need to jump out of the train, hit one of the pylons and twirl around widely, crumpling into a mass of a broken human in the adjacent ditch.
Now, if you had to do that for the purpose of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, would you prefer to wear a shirt and pants (which you can hide ample armor and padding under) or skin-tight leather pants and a black bikini top (which I assume you understand you can’t hide any type of protection under… Well, you can hide one type but it involves a very different type of pylon… giggity)? I think all the sane people in the audience would prefer the shirt-and-pants outfit with generous padding and/or armor.
Well, many female stunt performers can’t op for the highly covered / armored / padded outfit. Exhibit A: the image of (humuna humuna) Milla Jovovich in what basically equates to a bunch of bandages in the movie The Fifth Element. Now, think of the poor stuntwoman that had to run, jump and fight with just a bandage between her legs. Hell, it would be awkward just trying to sit down in that outfit, let alone performing physically-demanding stunts. And can you think how bad that shit would chafe?
OK, so maybe The Fifth Element is a bit of an extreme. But think about how many movies you have seen where the leading lady is in a super tight, super revealing evening gown and extremely high heels. The actress will use her acting skills and be photogenic, but when the time comes to run across a slippery marble floor and jump out a window in a floor length gown and neck-breaking high heels, a poor stunt person has to do it… for continuity’s sake. Oh and here’s a stunt person that had to run out of a burning building in sexy underwear – because that’s what you want to be wearing when you are around anything that’s on fire.
2. It’s Mind-Numbingly Boring (Sometimes)
Due to budget restraints, most movies and big budget TV shows stick to a very strict and rapidly moving timeline. Of course in a profession where a plane flying overhead can derail an entire shot, necessitating reshoots, delays can be expected. On the other hand, you need to be available at a moment’s notice to shoot your (very physical, I should mention) scene. This is a further obstacle due to the physicality needed to perform stunts; you could have warmed up, stretched and be ready to go, and then all of the sudden asked to sit the hell down because you are soiling the diva directors “divine” vision. This also results in unpredictability, because the schedule could abruptly change and you could be asked to enact a stunt you had no idea you would be performing.
3. Cool Scars (That Cost You Pay Checks)
If you think that stunt performers’ entire life is like the B-roll of Jackass, you’d be grossly mistaken. It’s a job like any other: if you miss a day of work because of injury, you get replaced because, well (oh my God! I feel it bubbling inside me), THE SHOW MUST GO ON! And it makes no difference who the stuntman/woman is; they’re going to make them look like the actor they’re body doubling for in the movie, anyway. They spend many hours training to make sure they get up in the morning, put their suit or pantsuit on, grab their briefcase, kiss their husband/wife goodbye, go to work, jump out of various burning moving vehicles, and be healthy enough to do it the next day.
4. You Get the Sh*t Jobs
When you do stunts, you not only do the dangerous (and arguably fun) stuff but you also might have to do things that actors don’t want because, honestly, it’s unpleasant. Also, you sometimes might have to do scenes with non-stunt performers (see: actors) which could result in injury due to their lack of training. For example, something as simple as getting a pie, a cake, or someone’s privates smacked to your face might instead be tasked to a stunt performer. Rolling around on the dusty ground could also be relegated to a stunt person because what kind of monster would force their talent to ruin a $400 mani-pedi for the sake of one measly scene?
5. Even with Training
Even with extensive training, stunt performing is extremely dangerous work. During any given scene, a stunt can involve pyrotechnics, safety harnesses, time marks, and landing safety mats. And of course humans which can be injured by all those aforementioned items. Yes, even safety mats can injure you by proxy… meaning you get jacked up when you miss them. Scrapes and bruises are the norm, but serious injury happens too. A stuntman working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was paralyzed from the waist down when he violently hit a wall as a result of an explosion and then fell to the ground from quite a height. Meanwhile, during the filming of The Expendables 2, stuntman Kun Liu lost his life as a result of the practical effects explosions used for the film.
6. No Recognition
Sure you’ll see your name in the fast scrolling credits of the movie, but there isn’t an Oscar category for Best Stunt (but does have a freaking category for Best Makeup and Hairstyle). That epic 17-story fall you just took? Well, everyone will think it was actually the big Hollywood star that was “reworking the screenplay” with the 20-year-old intern in his/her trailer, which smelled like a hippie commune.
Do you still want to become a stunt performer? What is wrong with you?
If you can think of any other disadvantages of becoming a stunt performer, feel free to let us know in the comments section below!