Some stunt actors are calling for a boycott of this year’s Oscars for the Academy’s refusal to put in a category awarding the best stunt in films. Despite the incredible skill that go into stunts and the risks stunt people take to perform a great action scene, they are not being properly recognized for their effort. The Oscars have awards in other technical areas such as makeup, set design, and special effects all the while stunt people remain in the dark.
Stunt actor Jack Gill has been campaigning for inclusion in the Oscars since the early nineties. Last year, over a hundred stunt performers from throughout the industry protested outside the Academy's office and gathered over 50,000 signatures including big names like Steven Spielberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger on a petition demanding recognition during the awards despite being one of the oldest professions in Hollywood.
In the early years, circus performers would be hired in chase and other action scenes. As stunts got more elaborate in the 60’s and 70’s, stunt actors had to perform greater feats. Many multi-million dollar franchises including Rambo, Terminator, James Bond, and Indian Jones relied on the visibility of stunts as each tired to outdo the other.
In Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the remake of Mad Max, stunt actors were praised for their efforts and professionalism. Stunt actors plays a huge role in making the film experience authentic, yet the labour of it often goes unrewarded. Stunt actors aren’t paid millions of dollars or put on the front of movie posters like leading men and women like Tom Cruise, Jason Statham, Dwayne Jonson, and Milla Jovovich.
Stunt workers train to become the best as stunts increasingly become more challenging, even with more CGI effects. It takes a lot of planning and rehearsals to ensure that everybody knows what their role is. While computer generated effects offer a much safer experience for all involved, many audiences are turned off by the saturation of such visuals, no matter how realistic they are, and crave something ‘real’. There is a rising fear amongst stunt worker unions that such progress will put a lot of people out of work, which would be another good reason for the Academy to include a Best Stunt Work category: Increased visibility for the work would remind audiences of its worth in the industry.
Many of the problems regarding the lack of a major award from the Academy lie in industry politics. It has been argued that there aren’t enough stunt performers in the Academy itself to constitute an entire category. Of the 6,687 Academy members, only around twenty are stunt actors. In addition, stunt performers are not the Academy’s priority as it is has been criticized in the past few years for it’s lack of diversity in its membership.
As the big names of the movie industry make an appearance at this year’s Oscar ceremony, there will be many questions. One of them will be when will stunt performers get a category of their own? Judging by the Academy’s focus at the moment, the answer appears to be not anytime soon.
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