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What it’s like to be a Stuntman

Stuntman

We all know movies are better with explosions. It’s a simple fact of life. Like how the sky is blue and snowboarding is more difficult in the Summer. Most movie-goers can conjure up an image of James Bond walking casually towards the screen as a building is blown to pieces in the background. The Silver Screen is often filled with explosions, high-flying action, and life threatening situations which, in real life, would be pretty intense! But because so many are familiar with the tricks-of-the-trade of the movie biz (CG animation, safety wires, and the like) the audience can be left wondering just how dangerous or how real a stunt really was. Every stunt-filled movie has a team of brave stuntmen and women who put themselves in harm’s way to make fictional characters like James Bond look like some of the coolest cats around. People still say that right?

Even though stuntmen fill in for the big names in a picture film, their life on the set isn’t always so luxurious. As this article on HowStuffWorks.com states, “A shoot can often take place in uncomfortable situations -- they might spend hours partially submerged in water or have to do a location shoot on an icy mountain or a hot desert...Only a very few top tier stunt people make six figure annual incomes.” Filmmakers and stuntmen alike want to make sure stunts go as smoothly as possible without injuries. And that takes planning and preparation. Without the necessary precautions things can go bad--like how they did for Hal Needham when working on a stunt involving flipping a car on a beach.

It probably doesn’t sound like the craziest of stunts right? They just gotta flip the thing over. But since the stunt will be filmed on a beach they can’t do it the conventional way. Using a ramp, for instance, is only possible if it can be hid behind bushes or something similar. So now there’s a problem. Hal has to figure out how to flip this car over using unconventional means. So all of a sudden, explosives are in the picture. The idea was that Hal would have some people weld a cannon through the bottom of the car on one side so that the explosion from a shot would flip the car over (Jalopnik.com).

What you might have thought would not be among the most life-threatening stunts in Hollywood just got a lot more dangerous. Long-story short, they end up putting too much powder in the cannon and the car flies about 30 feet in the air with Hal inside it! As you might have guessed the car was pretty damaged. Probably beyond the capabilities of any Phoenix auto repair shop! The end of that work day for Hal concluded with “a cracked vertebra, six broken ribs, and a punctured lung,” ...with the added bonus of missing teeth. Ouch!

Yeah, unfortunately this Phoenix auto repair shop can’t fix that either!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (12/21/2016) Scott Swigart (Flickr)

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