THE Oscars should give the stunt industry the same recognition it gives make-up artists, costume designers and sound design, according to a leading stunt man.
Ben Wright, who doubles for actor Chris Pratt in the next Jurassic Park, says his industry is unfairly ignored, despite the huge amount of work it puts into many blockbusters.
As well as pushing bodies to the limit and overcoming nasty injuries, the craft requires an increasing amount of technical work and choreography for set pieces that he says ‘puts bums on seats’ in movie theatres.
“There is more of a creative process in stunt work than people see,” said the former top class gymnast.
“We design and rehearse to the nth degree to make the stunt viable. You don’t just get up and give it a go. Of course there is an element of danger but it is a calculated risk.”
Ben, who has been performing since 2000, added: “We are one of the only departments that doesn’t get recognised, which doesn’t make sense. Why not us? I think there’s an old-fashioned mindset when it comes to what people think of stunt performers. Almost a preconception we just turn up to do the action that is too dangerous for the actors.”
“In fact, there is a whole process of action design to make the action sequence happen. This also includes training the actors for their part in the action or fight sequence.
“The stunt coordinator will break down the script and highlight the action, turning written words of the script into action sequences. Sometimes what the team puts together and the way it’s filmed is actually how they use it in the film shot-for-shot, same camera angles and creative ideas. There is a long, thought-out process from start all the way up to the point the stunt performer is actually sitting in the car waiting for the first assistant director to call action. In most films that have action, they use those sequences in the trailer to sell the movie, to put bums on seats.”
Ben, originally from Kings Lynn, in Norfolk, has doubled for a host of Hollywood hotshots including Armie Hammer in the Man from U.N.C.L.E, Chris Evans in Captain America and Chris Hemsworth in Thor 2 ’The Dark World’.
Nicknamed Big Ben, he says the industry has to mitigate its high risks through thorough preparation, and designing, rehearsing and perfecting the stunts. In order to keep his his body in top condition for two or three films a year, he has to enlist the vital help of leading osteopath Stephen Makinde at his Perfect Balance Clinic, in London. He said: “Stephen is part of the team a bit like a racing car team, he is the mechanic that fixes any issues I have so I can continue to perform at my best. He was the first one that understood what I had to deal with. Stephen sometimes has to help me rehabilitate old injuries while managing new ones”
“As a young gymnast we had access to the top health professionals in the country, but I rate him so highly as a practitioner that I would not see anyone else. He’s the best.”
Ben is one of a number of in the industry that strongly believe stunt actors deserves the same recognition as other departments. He believes many people think stuntmen are just risk takers – but “nothing could be further from the truth”. He added: “It is great when you get to do things out of your comfort zone. For example, I got to dive over a submarine into the River Mersey on Captain America.
“But I believe in the creative process we go through to achieve that kind of shot – getting away from the idea of just smashing yourself up and getting on with it. The British stunt industry has some of the best performers in the world and they make me want to continually raise my game and keep raising the bar.
There are some industry legends and actors petitioning for the recognition of the stunt department at the Oscars. The World Taurus awards is the stunt industries own ceremony and the Screen Actors Guild Awards has had a “best stunt ensemble” category since 2007.
Ben said: “The stunt industry has become so creative over the years that I strongly believe we deserve the same recognition as other departments that already get an award at the Oscars. We are all part of the same team that gets the movie made. Personally, it is not about winning the award but about seeing the stunt industry getting the recognition it deserves. When I tell people I am a stuntman the normal question is what is your most dangerous stunt? There is a preconception there. There is a lot of talent out there, you have to keep upping your game and honing your skills.”