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Stunts

July 31st, 2009

Jake GyllenhaalI came across this picture the other day and I thought, wow this guy’s a mess, who is it?  It turned out to be Jake Gyllenhaal, I thought, wow what happened?!’  Apparently this is him in good shape!  He did weeks of working out with trainer to the stars, Simon Weston, for his role as a sword swinging warrior in the movie, Prince Of Persia : Sands Of Time.  Maybe he’s doing his own stunts I thought, well only if you call taking your shirt off a stunt.

It’s become quite the thing for serious actors to use that most enjoyable method of getting into character.  Eating.  Rene Zelwegger of course, Charlize Theron, George Clooney, and Robert De Niro.  Then there’s the actors who use the other enjoyable method of getting into character.  Not eating.

Michael Fassbinder lost 33lbs for his role as Bobby Sands in Hunger, much to the distress of his worried mother.  Christian Bale’s mother always Hunger the moviethought he was weird and didn’t blink an eye when he told her he was losing 63 lbs for his role in, The Machinist.  The only stunt he had to do was to remain standing every day.

But Bale and a number of other actors do do their own stunts and spend a lot of time getting fit for just that.  Bale did all his fights and a lot of stunts on the Batman movies, even though no one could see it was him.  Seems like his mum was right.  Shia La Boeuf did most of his stunts in Transformers, likewise Matt Damon in Bourne, Tom Cruise in MI and of course Daniel Craig in Bond…does those he can be seen in.  Most actors stand clear of the dangerous stuff though, like Hugh Jackman, I know this as I know his stunt double!

These days though, it’s harder to impress audiences, as in the back of their minds, they don’t see a 200 foot drop, they see a green floor.  So the trend is moving back to doing it for real. Indeed, Still from the movie The Great Escapebefore green screen, doing it for real was easier and cheaper though a little more dangerous, but that was kinda the point, it looked it.

Among the most talked about stunts by stunt people, is Steve McQueen’s motorcycle jump in The Great escape. Or I should say Bud Ekins, McQueen’s friend’s jump, of 60 feet over a barbed wire fence on an old, heavy bike.  Seems nothing by comparison to the sewer jump in Terminator 2, but then the Terminator was held up by wires.

Stunts held audiences in awe in the silent days, it was their 3D, and it was probably in this period that stunt drivers discovered how fast your could crash a car before injuring yourself.  The stars of the day were Buster Keaton and Harold Harold Lloyd in Safety LastLloyd, who made sure their fans knew they were doing their own stunts.  In, Safety Last, 1923, Lloyd dangles above LA while holding onto the bending hands of a clock.  But, was there the roof of another building just below him, out of shot?

No tricks in Buster Keaton’s, Steamboat Bill Jr, 1928, when the whole side of a house falls on top of him, except for the open top window which falls around him exactly where he’s standing and he lives!  As risky as it looks, apparently there was only two inches between the window and Keaton’s shoulders. Phew.

Still from Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonThe most impressive contemporary innovation in stunts, was the introduction of wirework, known as ‘wire-fu’,  attracting audiences to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, which took the martial arts genre into the fantasy genre as performers fought while flying among trees and over buildings. Also known for the remarkable swordplay featuring actress Michele Yeoh.  Hollywood of course, quickly hired the Chinese masters of the technique in an attempt to attract audiences to their own films, but it’s not quite the same.

Serious injury and death are not uncommon, most recently in John Woo’s, Red Cliff, during which one person died and six were injured during a major naval battle.  Indeed at this year’s Taurus World Stunt Awards, a grant was awarded to the stunt performer injured while doubling for Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows.

Big action movies like Watchmen have a large list of stunt credits, over 60 in Watchmen, but you’d never recognise them, which is kinda the point.  And even Christian Bale and Jake Gyllenhaal are likely to appear in at least a few shots where their faces are turned away from the camera.

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Admissions Up

July 14th, 2009

The half yearly figures for box office and admissions in the US from January to the first week in July, show an upturn since the same time last year.

harry-potter-half-bloodAccording to box office tracker, Hollwood.com,  revenue is up 11.64% with last year’s $4.87 billion topped by this year’s $5.438 billion.   This means attendances are up by 9.06%, not big but at least it’s not a drop.  It’s thought it’s mainly the kid’s movies that have attracted the larger audiences, for films including Harry Potter, Twilight, Transformers etc, though some store for a good year end is being placed buy the hoped for success of Avatar in December.

Even so, a business making over $5 billion in six months can’t be doing bad.

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Psycho

March 20th, 2009

Psycho Poster

I remember when Hitchcock’s Psycho first came out – I wasn’t actually there of course – but he made this most unique and creepy trailer. When it was actually released, there were many reports of people finding it so aweful, in the scary sense, that there were screams and people were fainting in the theatres. It was suggested of course that this was a publicity stunt, and then I read that people were fainting at UK screenings of Saw III. In Stevenage of all places, and then Peterborough and Cambridge. Ambulances were called. It may have been sickening, but really.

East Anglian Amubulance spokesman Gary Sanderson said, “In 19 years with the ambulance services I haven’t seen anything like this. There were three separate call-outs to the Cineworld cinema in Stevenage on Friday night.”

I thought this was just more PR, but then last night I saw ‘Watchmen’ in London – where we’re used to this kind of movie, and much to my dismay, one of my friends actually fainted. A guy. Now it was pretty violent to be sure, but really.

Watchmen Poster‘Watchmen’ is indeed a most excellent movie and I was amazed to see the list of end credits was probably longer than our entire Glossary! A crew of over 600, not surprisingly dominated by the Visual Effects department followed by the Art Department then the stunt team. The stunts were exceptional, as was the art department and the visual effects, some of which were done by MPC in Vancouver. Now MPC – the Moving Picture Company originated in London as a commercials company and are now huge in Visual Effects in London, LA and Canada. Indeed many pictures heavy on Visual Effects, farm-out work to many companies just to get it done so MPC London can work on projects from anywhere in the world. One area of movie making where there will always be jobs for people who like the dark.

My favourite ‘Watchmen’ credit was ‘Truck Costumer’ looks like we’ll have to update our glossary already, but let us know what you think they do. No prizes, just grateful thanks from our Glossary Editor.

In the UK, we rarely, if ever, have movies with such a large crew, but despite the downturn, business is still good. Last year there were 111 films made in the UK, some of course were foreign productions shooting here, but 66 were British films, including, Easy Virtue, The Damned United, Lesbian Vampire Killers, Bronson, An Education and of course Harry Potter and Quantum Of Solace.

The Film Council, does a huge job of promoting the UK to producers from the UK and abroad with info on tax incentives and a crew database.

So, a lot of productions and hopefully more this year, looking for crew – both for shooting, visual effects and other post-production roles. One Brit project already in pre-production is The Lost.

I was talking to an actress friend of mine who’s phone is always ringing, not a big star regretfully but I wondered how she does it, “Let people know you’re there” she told me. Simple. People need to be able to find you to offer you a job.

One great way of being in front of a lot of potential employers is to register your profile with Production Wizard. It’s free and allows you to detail many different skiils.

Keep watching.  Justice for all.

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