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Beyond the Spectacle: The Fall Guy Makes Stunt Performers More Than Daring Risk Takers

4 min read

Universal Pictures

Hollywood's obsession with CGI has reached new heights, but a recent film is daringly jumping back to the world of practical effects. Described as a “love letter” to , never phones it in during this raucous thrill ride. Director 's use of practical effects, his jabs at CGI, and giving credit where it's due amalgamates in a greater appreciation of stunt performance. But has The Fall Guy made enough of a mark in the cinema scene, carving out a pedestal for these hardworking people? 

Comedy, drama, romance, but most of all — action. Hollywood's newest blockbuster gets a lot right but is at its best when giving us epic stunt set pieces. The Fall Guy follows stuntman Colt Seavers (), a guy who gets blown up, shot, punched, thrown, and dropped for a living. Tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, Colt must fight real bad guys and win over the love of his life (Emily Blunt). The character and concept is based on the 1981 series of the same name, with Lee Majors as Seavers, a stunt man moonlighting as a bounty hunter. 

Leitch, who used to be a stunt performer himself, is paying tribute to the community he worked in. Having worked on TV productions such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997) early in his career, Leitch moved on to become Brad Pitt's stunt double four times over and others. He worked on Fight Club (1999) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) as a double and Bullet Train (2022) and Atomic Blonde (2017) as director. Leitch was not hesitant to reveal to Men's Health that across his career he has suffered several concussions, has broken his wrist in three places, and torn meniscus in both knees, describing this as “the usual”

The Fall Guy UK Box Office
Image: © Universal Pictures

Five stunt performers collaborated to create the protagonist. Logan Holladay, Ben Jenkin, Justin Eaton, and others made Colt a driving, parkour, fist-fighting, sword-duelling, and martial arts superhero. Similar to the Mission Impossible franchise, where Tom Cruise famously performs many of his own , The Fall Guy delivers a visceral experience that CGI simply could not replicate. 

But beyond the excitement, The Fall Guy serves a higher purpose. The film shines a spotlight on the often-overlooked role of stunt performers. The lack of a dedicated stunt performer category at the Oscars, a recent hot topic, is even referenced within the film. This has been continually pushed during the promotion of the film. It all started with Gosling and Blunt's presentation at The Oscars this year, in which they led a tribute to stunt performers hoping that a category would one day emerge. 

The potential impact is significant. The Fall Guy could pave the way for more recognition and opportunities for stunt performers by showcasing the dedication and skill required for these daring feats. This could mean increased safety measures and training and a long-overdue acknowledgement of their artistic contribution to filmmaking. As well as this, by portraying stunt performers as characters with their own motivations, The Fall Guy helps audiences connect with them on a deeper level. Providing humanity beyond the spectacle fosters a sense of respect for the dedication and physical demands of the profession. Gosling told the BBC: “The better they are, the more they disappear.” 

Universal Pictures

Leitch and Gosling discussed mental health among stunt performers for Men's Health and how important safety protocols are for them. The film itself takes a beat to highlight this, as Colt admits the demanding stunts he is often asked to perform hurt. Stunt performers have a universal signal they use after performing a stunt, which is the classic thumbs-up. Leitch explained that this has become so well used that it has become harder for performers to admit when they have been hurt. Also, Colt's self-esteem is hit when a stunt goes wrong for him. Calling attention to the risks involved in stunt work can lead to a renewed focus on safety protocols and better working conditions. This could benefit stunt performers in the long run. 

An increased demand for skilled performers and opening doors for future generations go hand-in-hand. The appreciation for stunt work can only be heightened by The Fall Guy, which could translate to a higher demand for skilled stunt artists. Productions may invest more in finding and collaborating with talented individuals, thus creating more opportunities in the field. Films celebrating stunt work such as this can inspire a new generation to consider this career path. With more recognition and potentially better opportunities, the future of stunt work could see an influx of passionate and skilled individuals. 

Whether The Fall Guy ignites a full-blown revolution in stunt appreciation remains to be seen. However, one thing's for sure: Leitch's film is a thrilling and timely reminder that behind every incredible on-screen spectacle, a team of real-life heroes is making it happen.