In the early eighties, my twin brother and I were in Junior High and we were fascinated with movies. We spent our days after school and on weekends making our own 8mm film productions with our friends and family. During school hours we would dig for books in the library that would help us make better productions. We found very technical books on sound, special effects, acting, editing, and set design. For kids making productions in our backyards, those books helped a little. But back then, we didn’t have budgets, or equipment, or computers or any of the stuff that well-funded productions had.
Then I read a book that gave a real insight into what it was like to work in the studio system and to what life was like on a real movie set. I realized then that the books that I found to be the most useful were usually autobiographies from the experts themselves. I wanted to hear it straight from them. Not instruction, textbook, dry how-to’s…but stories told of why and where and what. Those books taught me the how, by their examples.
That book was STUNT MAN: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF YAKIMA CANUTT. That book had two other side effects on me; a deep love for movie stunts and a very deep respect for stunt performers, stunt coordinators, and second unit/action directors. Over the years I have come to realize that these people that put life and limb at risk for our entertainment have been the most under-appreciated group in the Industry. For many decades, within the studio system, they weren’t even given proper credit for their stunt work in the movies as the studios wanted to give the audience the impression that it was the actors themselves who did all the action on screen. In some cases, they are, but in most, there is a large team of highly trained professionals putting together some of the most breath-taking moments you will ever see on screen.
And to what is, to me, the biggest travesty in film production – – to this day, there is still no category for an Academy Award for stunt performers, stunt coordinators or second unit/action directors. Yakima Canutt was the first stuntman ever to receive an Oscar…and it was to be for the only thing he qualified for, a lifetime achievement award. The stunt performers that followed were given awards for technical achievements, most notably for creating gear or equipment that made stunts safer. The Taurus World Stunt Awards started in 2001, is the only award I know that recognize achievements in movie stunts.
This book started out like a lot of other books do; as a blog. (If you’re reading this, you just happen to be reading the blog, talking about the book I wrote based on the blog!) I started with the idea of singling out one movie a year as if that movie won the Academy Award for best movie stunts and as if I was the only voter. I want to make something clear: there are many, many great movie stunts each year, but I only chose to highlight one film for each year of the last 100 years. This book is not to be a catalog of all the movie stunts of all time. It’s not an encyclopedia of movie stunts.
In honor of these unsung heroes of motion pictures, I have written and compiled this information about the Best Movie Stunts over the years and the men and women who have performed them and the stunt coordinators and second unit directors who have created some of the best movie moments of all time.
For now, if you want to look at the book proposal, it’s called 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts.
371 Pages, full of over 300 color and black and white photos!
Here’s the Blurb:
Unsung heroes. Stunt Men and Women, along with Stunt Coordinators and Second Unit / Action Directors have created some of the most thrilling moments ever seen in the movies. 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts celebrates those moments and the Stunt Teams behind them. To be truly effective in creating this movie magic, these people have been risking their lives and serious injury and have virtually remained unknown, and unrecognized for over a century.
Going back over the last 100 years, 100 Years of the Best Movies Stunts, picks 1 movie every year to recognize their stunt achievements and to tell the stories, incredible trivia, and interviews from the people that were there behind and in front of the camera. From Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd in the early days of cinema through the exciting westerns with Yakima Canutt and John Wayne to the silver screen of the swashbucklers of Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn through the golden years and the thrilling cliff hanger serials like Spy Smasher, Captain Marvel and the grand epics like Ben Hur and Spartacus to Hal Needham, Vic Armstrong, and Terry Leonard and fantastic car chases to James Bond, Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible with stars like Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan, modern hair-raising thrill-rides we see on the big screen today.