The Fall Guy shows stunt people are undervalued

Still, it relies on a driver being able to roll the car expertly well. Just as old Hollywood producers hired rodeo stars to perform daring riding feats in Westerns, champion racer Holladay was enlisted to achieve their historic goal. The sequence takes place on a beach in Kurnell, Sydney, as a nod to the 1974 John Wayne thriller McQ and its climactic beach chase, which featured the first cannon-assisted roll captured in a movie. The stunt involves attaching a cannon-like device underneath a car that fires toward the ground, and propels the vehicle into a series of rolls when triggered by the driver.

In practice runs, Holladay hit seven rolls, the record previously held by the Aston Martin DBS driven by Daniel Craig’s Bond (stuntman Adam Kirley) in Casino Royale (2006), but on the day they outdid it. “We picked a car that was as tall as it is wide so it just wants to roll, then you find the balance point of that vehicle to put in the device that flips it over,” he explains. “Then it’s all in the technique of how you drive it: how much air pressure is in that cannon? You could crank that thing up so high, the car will go 10 feet off the ground but we want to stay low and short and just go horizontal.”

While these stunts might last mere seconds or minutes, the planning took five months. “It is dangerous but it’s an art,” says Holladay. “We’re not out there winging it like daredevils and seeing what happens.” One of the few stunts Gosling himself performs is a one-shot scene ending in a wire fall, which Jenkin rehearsed before the actor got anywhere near the rigging. “I did it so many times before at different speeds, at various heights, just to make sure that the system is working well,” he says. “Everything you see [is a product of] months and months of calculations, rehearsals and safety plans.” 

Stunts over the last century

Trial and error was the norm for early performers like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in their silent movie capers but Harold Lloyd’s 1923 film Safety Last! was credited as one of the first films to implement safety protocols and pre-planning. The car chase became a must-have after the release of 1958 crime drama Thunder Road, thanks to stunt coordinator Carey Loftin and his dedication to realism and suspense in depicting high-speed stakes on wheels.

An increasing demand for risky sequences in action movies more generally soon followed, so the Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures was created in 1961 in order to reduce the number of injuries and deaths by offering professional training and qualifications to stunt people. In the 1960s and 70s, the growing popularity of martial arts films from Hong Kong set a new benchmark for energetic fight sequences, spearheaded by stuntmen-turned-stars Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba, while the slapstick inventiveness of Jackie Chan’s iconic stunt choreography from the 1980s onwards is still being referenced across Hollywood action films today, from Marvel’s Shang-Chi to John Wick and, of course, The Fall Guy.

It should be said, of course, that incredible stunts have not just been a male endeavour. American stuntwoman and racer Kitty O’Neil, who trained with Robinson and is still known as the “fastest woman in the world,” set a high fall record in a 1979 episode of Wonder Woman of 127 feet and had an action figure made of her by Mattel a year later. Elsewhere, Jadie David, former stunt double for Pam Grier in the 1970s, is often credited as the first professional African-American stuntwoman and, among other things, performed a pioneering fire stunt without the aid of a protective fire suit on 1975’s Mandingo.

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