Talk to me about stunts for even a minute or two and you'll see I've got a few chips on my shoulder. Stunt performers seem so unfairly unrecognised, so underappreciated, by the movie going public at large, and it's been a bugbear of mine ever since I first started falling in love with action movies. As it happens, it seems I'm a bit more burnt up about it than a lot of stunt people…
Previously, I have posted an interview with long-time second unit director and stunt co-ordinator Charlie Picerni; now that Knight and Day is available on Blu-ray and DVD, I was given the opportunity to speak to Cameron Diaz's stunt double for the film, Kimberly Shannon Murphy. They make a nice pair of contrasting chats.
Here are Five Things that Kimberly told me.
That Whole Thing About Actors Doing Their Own Stunts
In Knight and Day, with Tom and Cameron, they did do their stunts and they are stunts. I think anything that is action oriented is considered a stunt in the film industry. I would agree that the things we call stunts are the things that are high risk. There's a lot more to our job than actually performing the stunts and that is to rehearse everything, to choreograph everything, to make sure that everything's safe. There are plenty of actors who don't want to do their own stunts and then you come across others that really want to do as much as they can do and Tom and Cameron are definitely two of those people.
A lot of the action was on first unit, and we had the actors on second unit a lot as well. I think that any time you can get the actor to do as much of the action as possible it makes it look that much more real and with Tom and Cameron actually coming and doing the bull run and everything they did on the bike, it always makes it easier for the director to shoot it.
I just worked with Cameron on Bad Teacher for one day. She had a bit of a driving sequence to do, and whenever there's action to do in a movie, they'll always bring a stunt double just for protection, but whenever there's driving stuff Cameron does all of her driving herself. She did all of it in Knight and Day. When you see the car doing the 180, that was her, she enjoyed it the whole evening, she was laughing from beginning to end.
Recognition For Stunt Performers And Co-Ordinators
I've never honestly given it that much thought. It's part of our job to be behind the scenes. We have our own, we have the Taurus Stunt Awards that we do every year. So we're recognised within our own community, as the actors are recognised in their own community. It doesn't bother me that the awards aren't front page news. But they are televised.
I think that for any films that I've worked on, everyone appreciates everything that stunt people do and what they bring to the table when it comes to making a film. I've never felt unappreciated when it comes to what I do. I like being anonymous. For me, and for most stunt people, we're not in the business for people to be all over what we do. We do what we do because we love it and we love being part of the moviemaking process and that's enough for us.
Motion-Capture Stunts vs. Real Stunts
You can definitely tell the difference when something is happening for real and when it's happening motion capture. You're still doing the stunts, though, you're only in a motion capture suit with dots. The action is actually happening. But personally, for me, with films I've seen with motion capture I'm not that impressed. Even if it's really good you can tell that it's not live. I've done some motion capture during my career. [For which film] is a secret.
The Job Of Doing Stunts
I've done a couple of smaller acting roles that are attached to stunts. They want to hire somebody who can deliver a couple of lines and then get killed. I've done some of that, but it's not like, ever in my life, I was like "I want to be an actress". I'm happy with what I do.
When you're doubling an actor, if you have to do something for them, you definitely have to watch their demeanor, how they move and how they do things to replicate them, so that you do look similar when you do what you're needed to do.
Not until I was in it did I know that I wanted to stay in it. It wasn't something that I grew up saying that I wanted to do. I was a gymnast and this is all just kind of how my life went. A stunt co-ordinator was looking for somebody who was around my size to do a movie and to do a lot of gymnastics and wire stuff, and that's what I did and that's how I got the job. I really enjoyed it, so I kept pursuing it.
Anytime going into a stunt I do get that nervous and excited kind of adrenaline. I've never been afraid for my life, no. In my job I'm a thrill seeker, but I keep it all at work, pretty much.
There's no bad stunt person that works in the business. If they do one job and they don't work well, they normally don't get hired again. Anybody who's in the stunt business who's continually working is good at what they do.
Obviously, it's kind of a man's world. There's fewer movies you see of women doing action and there's more movies of men doing action, though I think that's starting to even out and there's more women doing action movies that centre just on them. That's definitely exciting to see, so I hope that continues and becomes a bigger thing.
Thanks to Kimberly for taking the time to chat with me. I'm a little bit of a cheerleader for Knight and Day, in no small part because of its well conceived and nicely executed action beats. Kudos to Kimberly and the film's entire stunt and second unit crews.