On Sunday night, a stunt man was honoured at the Oscars. No, not an actual stunt co-ordinator on an actual movie, but Brad Pitt playing one. Indeed, one of the talking points from Pitt’s speech (one that was disappointingly forgotten about as the night progressed) was that the stunt people in Hollywood, the Cliff Booth’s to the actors’ Rick Daltons, should receive recognition from the most prestigious body in the film industry.
The Screen Actors’ Guild are a good example to see that some awards do exist for stunts. Best stunt ensemble this year went to Avengers: Endgame, a film which excelled in terms of its action sequences. But this is the only guild to acknowledge their work, and the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice, BAFTAS and Oscars ignore the incredible work that they do.
The relevance of stunt ensembles is arguably more pronounced than ever. Last year, there was serious discussion about the work that they do upon the release of John Wick: Parabellum, a stunning technical feat, and a movie which sells itself on brutal and high quality action sequences. In films like that, as well as other recent releases (Atomic Blonde, The Raid and even this year’s Birds of Prey), the stunt co-ordinators are as important as the Directors themselves. It’s clear that stark action is a new genre in itself in Hollywood, and it’s time that it was acknowledged alongside other filmmaking disciplines.
There’s a clear snobbery concerning the admission of stunt people into the elite circles of the Academy. Action is a genre which rarely rakes in the nominations, so an award which will give legitimacy to majority blockbusters and ignore the smaller awards fare is a step outside of their comfort zone. Heck there’s already a elitism present when it comes to other technical categories, all the way from the sound branch to production design. At BAFTA, the smaller awards aren’t televised and are given a small slot at the end of the broadcast, showing that the British Academy don’t see those categories as being of the same importance as the likes of acting or writing. It is true that there is probably less interest from the audience at home who simply want these ceremonies to be shorter, but by broadcasting them you increase interest. Shutting them out does nothing but reinforce the lack of attention they receive from general audiences.
It’s clear that Hollywood needs to bring more equality to the different aspects of filmmaking. It’s a team effort, and awards season is a way of acknowledging every part of that team. The people behind the stunts may not be the celebrity faces, and the sound technicians are hardly the subjects of gossip columns, but their work deserves just as many accolades, and the films we see today would not be the same without them.