If you want to see how much the stunt work matters even to a "serious" film, look at a movie like the Denzel Washington drunken pilot drama Flight, which was showered with awards. But the stunt work received almost no recognition, despite the entire movie being built on it. The scene that kicks off the movie's story, where Denzel Washington prevents a plane from crashing, involves an interior scene of a plane that's flying upside down. It's the scene that was in every trailer and TV spot. Putting that together required 50 people to hang upside down from mock airplane chairs for hours without losing feeling or hurting themselves or anyone else.
Now think about what that movie loses if that scene -- the event that drives the rest of the plot and that the characters spend the rest of the runtime referring to -- isn't authentic. If the stewardess bouncing her head off the wall had been less convincing, it would come off as comical, ruining the tone right out of the gate. There's an incredible level of skill and dedication (and actual, physical pain) required to make that scene work, but you never even thought about it specifically because they did their job so well.
Contusions are the signpost of quality.
Of course, none of this is a complaint -- you'd have to be crazy to complain about a job where people tie you up in wires, launch you into the sky, and then pay you money for it. It's like being a professional amusement park ride. But everyone goes nuts lavishing praise on Tom Cruise for doing his own stunts, as if it's unthinkable that any mere human could do such a thing. So why not throw some recognition to the people who do it every day? I promise you, movies would not look the same without them.
J.F. Sargent's stunt work can't be seen anywhere because he's afraid to leave his office without a helmet, but you can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
Related Reading: For ANOTHER look inside the film industry, check out these behind the scenes details our Dick Joke Journalists dug up. We've also got the inside scoops on legal prostitution and modern espionage. Oh, and if you've got a flight soon it's probably best to read this expert's perspective on why the TSA sucks so hard.
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