Every year I love watching the Academy Awards. The films showcased are some of the best ever made, and it is great to honor the individuals that put so much into these unbelievable motion pictures. But this past year something was missing, something that needs to be there. It's the kind of thing when you realize it's absent from the Academy’s agenda; you can’t believe the event thought it could get away without having it. And I am not talking about a host. No, this missing necessity has been MIA since the start of it all, and it is such a crucial part of moviemaking. Many of the films that have walked away with Oscars would not be what they are if it was not for these brave men and women. These courageous, death-defying artists I am referring to are those that risk their lives to pull off the stunts in movies. And knowing this, one must ask why the Oscars do not have a category for Best Stunt Coordination.
The brave souls of the stunt community are like real-life superheroes for the entertainment industry. They are saving picture after picture in an almost thankless role with little glory. The majority of today's highest-grossing films contain stunt sequences that are jaw-dropping spectacles of greatness. They indeed are the stuff of legends. Franchises like Marvel, Fast & Furious, DC, Harry Potter, and so many more would not have achieved what they did if not for the next level dedication and brilliant execution of today's talented stunt performers. It would be nice if every actor was like Mission: Impossible’s Tom Cruise or John Wick’s Keanu Reeves, who almost kill themselves trying to make the next blockbuster. But until that becomes the case, Hollywood needs these brave coordinators, and they need to start being recognized.
This Oscar fiasco is crazy considering some of the films that have garnered the coveted gold statue. George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the wildest visual spectacles of the last decade and the stunts in that film should be considered legendary. If there was a Hall of Fame for stunts, there is no question that Fury Road makes it in hands down. The impossible car chase sequences were next level, and everything witnessed by audiences was incredibly believable for such a dangerous spectacle. And it's not just big pictures, either. Even The Revenant had some ridiculous sequences that, to look authentic, required the work of top-notch professionals. With The Revenant, if the acting, the direction, the cinematography was of Oscar-caliber, it's safe to say that the stunt work was as well.
This whole ordeal has really gotten out of hand. Last year, stunt performers boycotted the Academy Awards and are threatening to do so again at the next year's event. According to stunt coordinator Jake Gill, there have been various attempts made to get the Academy’s attention on how integral stunt work is to the filmmaking process and should be revered as much as sound design, cinematography, and editing. He has been fighting for this change for nearly three decades. Gill strongly feels his craft should be honored just like the other departments, which is something the Academy does not seem to think. When he sat down with Vulture, he had some interesting details to unveil on the situation.
“When I first approached them, they were extremely eager to help. As the years went on, they got tired of me. Now it’s hard to even get a meeting.” - Jake Gill, Stunt Coordinator
“We currently have 95 members in our group this year, and next year we will pass the 100-members mark that the Academy said was a prerequisite for a branch and possibly an Oscar category. I had always argued that our action industry is a smaller group of individuals than the other departments and that having 100 voting members was not needed. I’ve also argued that other Oscar categories had less than 100 members when they were given an Oscar category, but I was told that I was incorrect in that assumption.” - Jake Gill, Stunt Coordinator
This argument is so bonkers. There is no way around it. Stunt coordinators make sure the scene being shot look real but also they help ensure the safety of production. They are an intricate part of the system even if they are not performing the stunt. So basically, if every time you get a Tom Cruise willing to jump off tall buildings or a Keanu Reeves able to take down an army of bad guys in one shot, you still need someone to manage the risky ordeal. Actors go through rigorous training, and stunt people make sure they are prepared up until the moment of truth. So you can get all the immortal 50-year-olds you want—none of it will matter if you have don't have the right stunt pros on hand to make sure it all goes smoothly and safely.
“A stunt team designs the action, rehearses it over and over again to determine what looks the coolest, what hurts the most, what’s the safest. They train the actor for months. And even if the actor does it, the double does it as well, so they can edit it together. The stunt coordinators are responsible for keeping everyone safe.” - Janene Carleton (Stunt Coordinator - Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol)
The Oscar's holdout on stunt recognition isn't contagious among all awards ceremonies. Back in 2007, The SAG Awards started giving props to the industries daredevils by adding a well-deserved Best Stunt Ensemble category. Even other countries are quickly realizing the importance of this part of the production crew. Canada is getting in on the action by having their Oscar equivalent, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television award a prize for Best Stunt Coordination this year. So if SAG and Canada can get behind it, what is stopping the Academy? Are they just being old-fashioned, outdated, and stubborn? Because it feels like they are old-fashioned, outdated, and stubborn.
It really makes no sense as to why the Academy won’t give them a category. Stunt work has been such a crucial part of the filmmaking process. They have been essential in auteurs and studios being able to elevate their level of storytelling and expand the possibilities of what can be achieved on screen. So many beloved classics, hits, and fan favorites would be nothing if not for the work of these brave individuals. They are so much more than the ones falling for a living. So many actors, directors, producers, studio heads, and more owe their success and careers to the work these men and women have done. There really is no discussion to be had. It's simple, the Academy is stuck on stupid, needs to pull its head out of its ass and do the right thing. If this seems like an impossible, death-defying act for the Academy to pull off, I know some people who could help coordinate it so, in the end, everyone was safe, and it looked awesome.