How Stuntmen (and -women) Work

Motorcycle stunt rider, Thinkstock

They get blown up, shot, drowned and thrown out of windows on the silver screen - and we don't even know their names. Stuntpeople are the unsung heroes of the movie industry. Learn the ins and outs of the stunt world and how one becomes a stunt person.

Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. Chuck Bryant and this is Stuff You Should Know.

Chuck Bryant: Well, Jerry had an itchy trigger finger today. Did you hear him there?

Josh Clark: Yeah, she's ready to go home.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she's like come on. 3, 2, 1 go.

Josh Clark: You guys aren't my entire life.

Chuck Bryant: I know. We like to think we are, but we're like .1 percent of Jerry's life. She's giggling in there; she's quite the adventurer.

Josh Clark: How you doing, man?

Chuck Bryant: I'm great, man. I'm ready to jump from a tall building or roll a brand new car.

Josh Clark: Man!

Chuck Bryant: Sorry.

Josh Clark: Well, that was what I was going to ask you, so I guess you did the intro for us.

Chuck Bryant: Go ahead; let's pretend like that didn't happen.

Josh Clark: No, it's fine. You were just doing what, the theme from Fall Guys starring Lee Majors. The 1980's awesome TV show with probably the best truck ever featured in a TV show.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that GMC. Man, that thing is sweet. You know dudes recreate that truck. If you Google, there's a lot of guys that have like made that truck for themselves.

Josh Clark: For good reason to, it's a cool truck.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and it's interesting that the Fall Guy points out a couple of, the show itself points out very important things as far as stunt men go. One is that he had to moonlight as a bounty hunter. And that's kind of one of the things we'll learn is that there's not a lot of work out there to go around. It's tough to make it as a stunt man.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you get punched.

Chuck Bryant: B, if you look at the lyrics to that theme song, man, he is really salty about not getting the glory and the girls.

Josh Clark: Mainly the girls and the glory, but when he winds up in the hay it's only hay like hey, hey.

Chuck Bryant: The song complains about not getting glory or women and that is one of the hallmarks, though, of the stunt person is to remain anonymous.

Josh Clark: And to be bitter about it.

Chuck Bryant: I guess so, very few stunt people you've ever heard of.

Josh Clark: Well, yeah, the Academy of Arts and Sciences that gives out the Academy Awards, the Oscars.

Chuck Bryant: Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences.

Josh Clark: Yeah, they don't have a category for stunt people. Never have and the reason some people give is because they like to remain the anonymity and the illusion that's provided by stunt people filling in a doubles for stars.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, but you can win a what's the award?

Josh Clark: You can win an Emmy for best stunt coordinator.

Chuck Bryant: True or the stunt award. They have their own stunt awards.

Josh Clark: Oh yeah, the Tourist World Stunt Awards.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you could win a Tory.

Josh Clark: They took a hiatus. I saw that there was 2010 and they're having stuff for 2012, but couldn't find anything about 2011. So if you know what happened to the Tourist World Stunt Awards for 2011, we are curious.

Chuck Bryant: Interesting.

Josh Clark: Let us know.

Chuck Bryant: So thanks for listening.

Josh Clark: Let's talk about the history of stunt people. They pretty much have only been around as long as you've had motion pictures, right? There wasn't much of a need for them before then. I mean, maybe for like a show or something like that like a Wild Bill Hickok Show. You could call them stunt men, but really you kind of want to differentiate because you can also say alright so people who ride horses standing up on a horse's back; that's a stunt person.

A guy who is like in the X Games, those extreme sports kids that all the kids are into these days. That's a stunt. These are by technically stunt people. What we are talking about are movie stunt people. The whole point to their craft isn't to do a 580 on a bike unless somebody asks them to. What they want to do is create what you would just take for granted like wow that guy just got clocked.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: No, he didn't actually get clocked. That was a stunt man who knows what he's doing and that was a carefully choreographed scene that just flew right past you, but your brain still just absorbed it as that man just got punched even though that didn't really happen.

Chuck Bryant: That's right and we will probably slip into the stunt man here and there instead of stunt people. Of course, there are tons and tons of stunt women, but we'll say stunt persons or stunt man and like luckily there are women now. Back in the day, they would dress men as women to do stunts many times.

Josh Clark: Yeah, there's a lot of cross dressing back in the day.

Chuck Bryant: There was until they decided hey, women are people too and they can act and do stunts just like guys can.

Josh Clark: Right, we can put them in danger just as well. So there wasn't much call for stunt people for movies before movies just by definition. Don't be ridiculous, but right out of the gate when we started making movies, we started needing people to do stunts. The earliest people who are doing stunts were actually comedians. Slap stick comedians like Buster Keaton had a very famous early stunt.

Chuck Bryant: Steamboat Bill Junior.

Josh Clark: Is that what he was in?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, the very famous you've probably seen it in Hollywood Legends of the Screen clips on AMC. It is the famous shot where the front façade of a house falls down and would have been on Buster Keaton, but he is saved because the attic window or attic door was open. So it just falls all around him and there was careful measuring in place because if he would have been off by a few inches, he would have been dead.

Josh Clark: That was a real thing. The earliest stunts were nothing but the real thing. Apparently, if you had like somebody hanging from like the skeleton of steel skyscraper, you needed that shot and that's what the guy did.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and Ed the Grabster wrote this one of course. Ed points out that back in the day before they called them stunt men, they were just like let go find someone crazy enough to do this. That guy craft service looks crazy enough to do it. Let's go see if he wants an extra 20 bucks.

Josh Clark: And he does because like back in 1902, 20 bucks was a lot. So as the film industry grew and grew early in the 20th century, we went from nothing but Slap Stick Comedies to things like Westerns and Action flicks and all of a sudden all those people who really can ride on the back of a horse standing up became stunt people as well. As stunts became more and more complex, the idea of having somebody whose job and specialty was to just do this stunt and make it look like the actor, the star, was doing it. It started to really develop.

Chuck Bryant: Flash forward even more, the 60's and 70's is when things really came around as far as stunt technology, developing things like squibs which we will talk about for gunshots and air rams, is that what they're called?

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's like a pneumatic lift. It just shoots you up into the air like with a human cannonball, but like if somebody if a grenade blows up by somebody -

Chuck Bryant: And you see the dude fly up in the air.

Josh Clark: He was on a ram.

Chuck Bryant: Right and then other things like airbags and more technology with cars with the rollcade. It just got more and more complex. Now, of course, we have CGI which replaces a lot of stunts in many cases.

Josh Clark: Yeah, not necessarily to a better effect. Like all I have to say is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where it was like they suddenly cut to drawings of Harrison Ford swinging on a lasso.

Chuck Bryant: He is famous for doing his own stunts, though.

Josh Clark: He didn't do them in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Chuck Bryant: Well, that's because he's 89 years old and he would die.

Josh Clark: He was awesome in Bruno.

Chuck Bryant: I didn't see that. Was Harrison Ford in that?

Josh Clark: Yeah, for about two seconds.

Chuck Bryant: Did they do like gay jokes to him something?

Josh Clark: They didn't even get that far.

Chuck Bryant: Did he just shut it down?

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's hilarious. But anyway, stunts throughout this progression of stunt people, safety has gotten better. I think that is just what we are trying to say, to the point now where they're not even used. It's CGI, but there's always going to be room for stunt people. The fact that it's gotten safer is much better, but there's still an element of risk to it no matter what. As Grabster points out, if a stunt didn't present some sort of risk, there would be no need for stunt people at all. Actors would do it, but the actors can't always do it.

Chuck Bryant: That's right. And when you want to call in a stunt person is when they either have a specific skill that they're really good at like fake martial arts or I mean real martial arts, but fake hitting and kicking.

Josh Clark: Fake martial arts like Que Kwong like stuff you just made up. It's a lot of like front kicks in the air.

Chuck Bryant: That's what you practice. Sword fighting, staged combat like we've talked about stuff like that, they are trained to fall. Safely fall I guess I should point out. It just basically is a safety factor on one hand and it's a financial factor on the other because you can't have your main actor or actress going down with a broken leg for four weeks. So you put your stunt person in there and keep your actor all nice and safe in their trailer. Or you want to be shooting two things at once, so you have your second unit out there shooting the fast cars whizzing by in the car chase. Then you have your first unit shooting the actor inside the car driving a lot slower and acting like it's really fast.

Josh Clark: But like shouting and moving the steering wheel back and forth a lot. Maybe there's somebody rocking the car. What's that called?

Chuck Bryant: Poor man's process. I guess we should say this. When you're in a car, you either have a camera rigged on your car where it's the real car with cameras attached to it.

Josh Clark: We've done that.

Chuck Bryant: Or the car is on a process trailer which means a lot of these shots you see of someone driving and you're like they're not even paying attention to the road. It's because the car is sitting on a trailer and being pulled by a truck

Josh Clark: Or it's got a little rock to it.

Chuck Bryant: Or you do the poor man's process where the car isn't going anywhere -

Josh Clark: And you have PA's pushing on the outside.

Chuck Bryant: Pushing on the outside, little tricks with lighting to make it look like headlights going by.

Josh Clark: We've done that.

Chuck Bryant: It's really neat in the end to look at a scene that's poor man's process and think, wow! They're not even really moving. It looks so good.

Josh Clark: See if you can pick it out in the Stuff You Should Know TV series.

Chuck Bryant: They could probably pick it out.

Josh Clark: So it's financial. It makes sense. Also, one of the other reasons people use stunt people is they come with a set of skills that the average actor doesn't have.

Chuck Bryant: A particular set of skills?

Josh Clark: Exactly. It makes them very dangerous to you. So you can either hire a stunt man who looks like your star to carry out like a combat scene or -

Chuck Bryant: Sort of look like your star.

Josh Clark: Or you can teach your star. You know, spend all this extra money and time training the star to the skill in a crash course. So most of the time it just makes sense to just hire a stunt person.

Chuck Bryant: Chances are you're going to get a mix. In a big action movie, you're going to get all three. You're going to get some CGI. You're going to get some stunt people and these days you're going to get real actors doing some of the real fake fighting.

Josh Clark: Doesn't Tom Cruise do a lot of his own stunts?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I've got a list of actors who prefer to do their own stunts.

Josh Clark: I didn't mean to jump the gun.

Chuck Bryant: No, the Cruise is famous for that.

Josh Clark: I was reading this and I was like I wonder if I would do my own stunts. I would do some. I would say sure I want to learn how to sword fight. Teach me; that's something I want to know. I'm certainly not going to shell out for myself ever. So let's go ahead and learn now.

Chuck Bryant: Good point. I would do my own stunts.

Josh Clark: It depends. Heights, no way!

Chuck Bryant: I would do that. I would jump off of something. So California state law and of course they're shooting movies all over the place now and the union rules of Hollywood have really made it pretty safe these days. You're still going to find injuries and you're occasional death on set which is really awful.

Josh Clark: Well, there always have been since the beginning, deaths and injuries.

Chuck Bryant: Howard Hughes.

Josh Clark: Yeah, the movie Hell's Angels which we must have talked about in the Hell's Angels podcast. I'm sure we did because I think we talked about the origin of the name.

Chuck Bryant: Which is from the air combat?

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's what they think.

Chuck Bryant: The fighting hell cats.

Josh Clark: That was one of the theories, but there were three maybe four fatalities because they were doing real dog fights with airplanes and there were a lot of crashes. So that was a movie where people died.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, very famously The Twilight Zone the movie. Jennifer Jason Leigh's father Vick Marrow and two little Vietnamese kids died when a helicopter crashed into the water where they were crossing a river. That's on YouTube by the way.

Josh Clark: I know. It's pretty awful.

Chuck Bryant: It is and I saw it recently because I was just curious. I had always wondered how it went down in my head because I've heard the story since the movie came out since I was a kid. I always wondered what were the logistics and how did that go down?

Josh Clark: It's pretty bad to watch because it just goes totally out of control.

Chuck Bryant: It does. So I would not recommend that, but you do have to enter your age by the way to watch the video.

Josh Clark: I saw.

Chuck Bryant: On set, the AD is ultimately responsible. The assistant director for everyone's safety and in fact on our own little TV show, the one we had fake guns on the set just as props. We didn't even use them in the scene, but just to have a fake gun on the set the AD has to announce to the whole crew and show them the gun and say it's fake. It's not real. Look at the barrel, there's no bullets. There's no nothing, it will not be fired. We will not be shooting blanks or dummy cartridges. Even on a stupid, silly show like ours you've got to be really careful with that stuff.

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, because of this incredibly high risk profession, work. The stunt people must be paid out the ying yang. True or False?

Chuck Bryant: Well, they make a good rate, but like we said earlier. There's not a ton of work for the amount of stunt people trying to get work. That was when I used to work down in LA as a DA I would always try and talk to the stunt people when I worked on jobs where they had stunt people. They're just really interesting to say the least. They would usually bemoan the fact that there's not a lot of work. They're all kind of scrapping for the same piece of cheese, but that's like everyone in the film business from crew to the lead actor. You're all after that same piece of cheese.

Josh Clark: We've worked with some stunt people too.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you'd be surprised when you need to call in a stunt person. I worked on this one commercial where there's just like bad traffic on the highway where the shoot was and cars had to just sort of pull over to the side while another came through. All the cars that pulled over to the side of the road had to have stunt drivers. I was like, I could do that. Then I would be taking bread off the table of a stunt person.

Josh Clark: Right and the whole production would shut down. Most stunt people you say because there's just so little work for so many people. It's not a high paying job. A lot of people do it for the love of it, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I mean you can make money if you're experienced and get tons of work obviously, but I'd say those are few and far between.

Josh Clark: You would have to love it because the hours are usually very long. To do a stunt is not, you don't just walk up and get in the car and drive it and all of a sudden it flips and there's an explosion and you're hoping for the best. Like when you see a stunt, these things are rehearsed over and over again. Say for a car chase, you'll go through the entire car chase, but they'll do it at a low speed.

So that it is choreographed and rehearsed and everybody knows what's going to happen when. That takes a very long time. If you need to flip a car, you need to do measurements. The pyrotechnics guys are probably involved. There is a lot of standing around. There's a lot of practicing and there's a lot of measuring and talking. Then if for say you're doing something for like in water, you're probably standing in water the whole time. So you're doing that for hours. It sounds like you would have to love your work to do this.

Chuck Bryant: It's definitely not a glory job, especially factoring in the anonymity factor.

Josh Clark: Right, when you do all this and you do it absolutely perfectly, no one notices.

Chuck Bryant: That's the goal. In fact, one of my biggest pet peeves is when you do notice and you do see that one shot of the dude with the wig on. It's supposed to be Clint Eastwood. It's just disappointing.

Josh Clark: So you were saying the second unit director handles this. The second unit director is in charge of shooting stunts, but the person who is in charge of the stunts themselves is the stunt coordinator. That person hires the stunt people, plans the stunts, oversees the stunts execution, does everything but actually sets up the camera and that or handles the camera shooting it, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's basically it's like a film crew is broken up into many departments and that's just sort of its own little department headed by the coordinator. They'll have a budget to work with and all that kind of stuff like any other department.

Josh Clark: So let's talk about how they do some stunts.

Chuck Bryant: Okay, and actually the second unit director a lot of times is a former stunt person or stunt coordinator.

Josh Clark: Right, makes sense.

Chuck Bryant: It comes in handy. Let's talk about stunts without fire.

Josh Clark: How about punches?

Chuck Bryant: How about them? Stage fighting, man, something we have not learned yet.

Josh Clark: It's pretty much a must if you want to become a stunt man. That's lesson one, go take stage fighting courses.

Chuck Bryant: Yep, learn how to sell a punch as the giver and the receiver without looking corny, hokey, and fake like pro wrestling.

Josh Clark: Right, but it's very much similar to pro wrestling especially if you've ever seen somebody throw a punch in pro wrestling and you can hear the skin slap, that's because that person was just punched. The key is they weren't punched very hard, certainly not as hard as the jerk of their head would suggest.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and you've got camera angles and you've got sound effects and through the art of movie magic it looks like a good knock down drag at brawl.

Josh Clark: Right, and if you've got a really good stunt coordinator, there'll be like a punch that's sold and the person who is being punched is on a ram. So they fly through the air.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's awesome. All right, gunshots, we talked about squibs. A squib is basically you're going to have a metal chest plate with a squib on the front of it to protect your body. It's basically a little blood packet that's rigged electronically to explode when it's supposed to.

Josh Clark: So the plate in between the squib and your chest protects you. Maybe you are in charge; you the stunt man are in charge. You have a little button to explode the charge or maybe there's somebody else doing it remotely. It's pretty awesome. It releases your blood, opens a hole in the shirt. Pretty awesome.

Chuck Bryant: It is very awesome.

Josh Clark: This I didn't realize though. How they make bullet holes in like a wall, a stucco wall. I thought this was pretty ingenious. They drill the hole ahead of time and then they cover it up with like putty or paper or something and paint with the squib in there. Then they blow that squib out. It makes a bullet hole.

Chuck Bryant: That's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: It's ingenious. It's simple it seems like, but it's very ingenious.

Chuck Bryant: Well, especially when you watch a movie. Ideally, you're getting lost in the movie and not paying attention, but if you watch like a John Wootham or something and you see this like a wall get riddled with bullets; just think about all the time it took to set up all those squibs

Josh Clark: Like what if the actor trips in the middle of it and you're just like uh, we have to do it again.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, which is no good. In fact big stunts, they go with many cameras on stunts that you don't or can't recreate because of either danger or money. Some of these shots have like a dozen or more cameras shooting at one time.

Josh Clark: Which makes a lot of sense. Grabster points that another reason why you don't want to do a big take like that more than once is because every time you do, the danger for the stunt person multiplies. I was like how? Well, -

Chuck Bryant: Doing it more.

Josh Clark: Yeah, your chances of injury are increased the more you carry out, the more times you carry out a dangerous act. That's how it multiplies.

Chuck Bryant: Getting back to squibs. These days a lot of directors are opting for CGI blood and bullet wounds, but supposedly Quint Tarantino, and this is out by the time this comes out. DJango Unchained. Supposedly he had 100 percent squibs and the blood, like there's supposed to be the bloodiest, nastiest squibs that Hollywood has seen in years.

Josh Clark: Is that right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's supposed to be pretty awesome.

Josh Clark: Have you seen Machete?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: That was pretty bloody.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was bad though.

Josh Clark: I agree it was, but it was still pretty bloody.

Chuck Bryant: They also have blanks if you're firing a gun on set it is probably a blank.

Josh Clark: You would hope so.

Chuck Bryant: It's not the same as a dummy cartridge. A blank actually fires gunpowder. It has gunpowder and fires what's called a wad. It's like paper or wood or plastic, but it does not obviously have shot or a bullet.

Josh Clark: No, but there's sometimes when the bullet explodes, bits of metal can end up being shot out as well. That's how Brandon Lee died when they were filming The Crow.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, his was actually an accident. There was a bullet lodged in the barrel that they didn't know about.

Josh Clark: What? I thought, well, okay then I'm thinking of somebody else who like was messing around with a gun -

Chuck Bryant: That was, oh, I can't remember his name.

Josh Clark: he put it to his head and pulled the trigger and like the wad or the gases or something killed him.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that was uh I can't remember his name, but he was like on a TV set and he was goofing around and put it to his head as a joke. So you should never mess around with blanks. It's very dangerous still.

Josh Clark: No, but there was a bullet in the -

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, there was a bullet. They got the guns mixed up and there was a real bullet slug lodged in the barrel that they didn't know about. So it fired a blank, but it ejected that other thing and Brandon Lee died.

Josh Clark: I didn't know that, man.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was one of the biggest oops' in Hollywood history.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I guess you could call it that.

Chuck Bryant: I think they thought he was still acting and continued to roll cameras for a bit afterward even. Very sad, tragic. Are we into falling?

Josh Clark: Yeah, which you'll do. I won't do.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I'll jump off of stuff. I've always done that.

Josh Clark: Well, they use these huge airbags, right?

Chuck Bryant: Well, back in the day they did. If you're doing a fall today, they still will sometimes; but generally these days they have like a bungee type contraption.

Josh Clark: I would still demand an airbag. They apparently also for shorter falls, they'll take some cardboard boxes and they'll cut the sharp corners off and then you'll jump onto that. Would you do that when you were a kid?

Chuck Bryant: No, no I always would jump into water.

Josh Clark: I would like jump onto the ground off of like the credenza or whatever. Now I'm like I wouldn't even do that. That's dangerous.

Chuck Bryant: Falls used to be the thing. Like I'm sure you remember as a kid, falls were a really big deal for stunt men. Dar Robinson, remember that guy?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: He did the Sharky's machine fall in Atlanta in the Burt Reynolds' movie.

Josh Clark: Nope.

Chuck Bryant: It's a very famous fall out of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel.

Josh Clark: I was up in Toledo at the time

Chuck Bryant: It wasn't released until later. Sharky's Machine.

Josh Clark: Off the which hotel?

Chuck Bryant: He went through a window of the Peachtree Plaza onto an airbag. It was one of the famous early falls or not early falls, but one of the famous falls.

Josh Clark: What floor did he jump out of?

Chuck Bryant: Aw, man I can't remember.

Josh Clark: Was it pretty high?

Chuck Bryant: It was over like 150 feet I think.

Josh Clark: Oh, wow! That's nuts!

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was pretty cool.

Josh Clark: See planning that stunt; imagine how many times they measured everything to figure out where the airbags needed to go. Then they probably supplemented it with additional airbags. If they loved the guy at all, they did all this.

Chuck Bryant: Stunt men, when you go to talk to one if you're on set; you'll be disappointed by the fact that they aren't these crazy dudes like you want them to be. They're actually really sensible because they want to work and earn money. So they want to be really sure that no one gets hurt. It's a little more boring than you would think talking with them, but they are a little nuts.

Josh Clark: Well, you would have to be at least a little. What else, Chuck, fire? How about fire?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I just saw Anchorman the other night. Remember when they had the street wrong and the guy on fire just walks by.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's a pretty serious stunt when you set yourself on fire. There are a lot of safety precautions, but even so you're on fire whether you like it or not.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, you're wearing all kinds of fire protective clothing and fire retardant and then you're smeared with the flammable gel.

Josh Clark: Yep, you have a hood on that protects you as well. And there's an oxygen tank in there as well. So you're basically just completely wrapped in this outfit, but yeah, the flammable gel is on and they light you and film you. You're going Oh ow oh. It's always the waving arms and the -

Chuck Bryant: It always kind of looks the same.

Josh Clark: And then the people run over and put you out with fire extinguishers, but they time it very closely as well. I think it's kind of like if we go 12 seconds, he actually will catch on fire. So we can shoot for 11.

Chuck Bryant: 11.5. Explosions are a big deal obviously these days they are so many explosions in movies. Sometimes they cheat it just a little bit with a technique that's called force perspective. They make it look like the actor is closer to the explosion. If there is an explosion, you're probably also going to be propelled with the air ram that we were talking about. I would call it a Hollywood troupe at this point. The dude's flying like 20 feet in the air.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that was big in Commando. Weren't there a lot of air rams used in Commando?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. More than I could count.

Josh Clark: That was such a good movie.

Chuck Bryant: Car chases and crashes.

Josh Clark: Yeah, they use rams as well maybe attached to the car. So if a car needs to flip, you see people going up on a ramp or whatever. They probably use that if you're trying to stay up on two wheels, but if you're trying to flip there is usually a ram that pushes the car. It pushes it of the ground and it flips or if you have one coming out of the rear, it'll make it jump really high.

Chuck Bryant: True, like in Hooper.

Josh Clark: I don't know all these movies you're talking about.

Chuck Bryant: Dude! Hooper was the stunt man movie with Burt Reynolds.

Josh Clark: I didn't see it.

Chuck Bryant: Hal Needham, very famous stunt man turned director directed -

Josh Clark: Founder of the Cannonball Run.

Chuck Bryant: Well, yeah, and the director of the movie The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper. Hooper was about an aging stunt man and Burt Reynolds who is challenged by the up and comer Jan Michael Vincent and course there's the love relationship with Sally Fields. She was in that too. It was good. It was sort of the best stunt movie ever because it was about stunts. He had a rocket car in that one; that was the big rocker car jump. It was the big climax.

Josh Clark: I did not see Hooper.

Chuck Bryant: Dude, you need to see Hooper.

Josh Clark: What was I watching back then?

Chuck Bryant: You were pry watching TV and stuff. It was a little before your time. Like I said earlier, stunt drivers, it's not all like a lot of the stuff you're going to see on TV. Its stunt driving even though you might not think it's necessary.

Josh Clark: Yeah, apparently, to just pull off the highway.

Chuck Bryant: Sometimes, sometimes not. How do you become a stunt man, Josh?

Josh Clark: Well, apparently, as far as Grabianowski says, you basically have to start out as an extra on the set.

Chuck Bryant: That's not necessarily true.

Josh Clark: If you want to go from zero to stunt man in the slowest way possible, then you would start out as an extra on the set. You have to be a member of the Screen Actors Guild in most cases. When you're hanging around the set, you identify who the second unit director or stunt coordinator is and you hand them your head shot.

Chuck Bryant: This Ed painted a path to becoming a stunt person that we've kind of laughed at. It is not the only path, but one thing is for sure. To become a stunt person, you need to get to know someone else in that department. That's really with every film department. If you want to be in wardrobe, you should get a job as a BA and start hanging out with the wardrobe people. If you want to be in makeup, start hanging out with the makeup people.

That's just how it works in Hollywood. There is no degree, well, you can get a film degree, but come on. It's a waste of money just go to work on the set. You get to know the people in the department and then start bugging them a little bit when they're not busy. Stunt coordinators are a little because there's a lot on the line, you know. So if you're a new PA on set, don't run over to the stunt coordinator and start bugging them right away. Pick and choose your time.

Josh Clark: And then give them your head shot.

Chuck Bryant: And then give them your head shot.

Josh Clark: What you're saying is its apprentice based basically.

Chuck Bryant: It is. There are schools. One recommended driving school, the Rick Seaman's Stunt Driving School. There's also the International Stunt School.

Josh Clark: That sounds pretty serious.

Chuck Bryant: This is where you can learn to do some of the stuff, but it's not like exit with a degree and then show up and say now I'd like to do stunt work.

Josh Clark: All the rest of you are fired. I have a degree from the International Stunt School.

Chuck Bryant: Grabster points out that you should have a large area of specialty rather than just one thing.

Josh Clark: I thought that was a very good point.

Chuck Bryant: But that's not necessarily true. I've talked to some stunt dudes that say eventually you would like to have a wide range of skills, but a good way to get in is to have one really specific skill that you're great at. And you might get that call, like this guy's good with wire work or water work or he's a hell of a driver or a really good motorcycle guy. Or a great skier, for if you're doing like a - what was that, For Your Eyes Only? Was that the one that had the big ski chase?

Josh Clark: Never Say Never Again?

Chuck Bryant: No, it was definitely Roger Moore. I think its For Your Eyes Only. But it really helps to have these skills. A lot of stunt people are former motorcycle/motor cross racers or car enthusiasts or they know how to scuba dive.

Josh Clark: Horse back riders.

Chuck Bryant: Stand up horseback riding. So a lot of them have these skills just anyway and they're like hey I've been driving dirt track for 20 years, might as well make some money.

Josh Clark: Yeah, film me.

Chuck Bryant: There are books out there. So You Want to be a Stunt Man by Mark Aisbett.

Josh Clark: Oh, that's a great name for a book like that.

Chuck Bryant: The Full Burn by Kevin Conley. Fight Choreography: the Art of Nonverbal Dialogue by John Kreng. And then Hal Needham's biography, Stuntman!

Josh Clark: Had to be. You said you had a list of actors that do their own stunts.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I think most people know this. People like Jason Statham is famous for doing his own stunts.

Josh Clark: I see Zoe Bell's on there. I thought she was a stunt person.

Chuck Bryant: Well, she is. She was in Death Proof as an actor. They were like and I guess they include her now because she did that awesome kind of hanging on to the hood scene.

Josh Clark: I was watching that earlier and it is just nuts.

Chuck Bryant: It's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: When she's hanging on, it looks like belts or whatever, but she's kind of sliding still across the hood. All it would take is like a half an inch and then all of a sudden she's gone too far and she's off the side of the car. That was it.

Chuck Bryant: She's one of the best in the business apparently.

Josh Clark: Man, that's scary.

Chuck Bryant: Burt Reynolds used to do a lot of his stunts. In fact, he got injured pretty bad that led to some bad health problems on set on City Heat the Clint Eastwood movie. Burt Lancaster used to do his own stunts.

Josh Clark: He's a tough guy. Remember the movie Tough Guys? He was in that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and I don't think we mentioned Ben Hur either. That's one of the famous stunts ever the chariot race.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you want to tell them about it?

Chuck Bryant: Go ahead. What do you got?

Josh Clark: Well, there's a stunt man named Joe Canutt. He was doubling for Charlton Heston and during the chariot race, this big long intense race, he falls off the chariot and is about to be run over. But in true stunt man fashion grabs it and is being dragged. Pulls himself back up and continues on.

Chuck Bryant: And I think that made it on screen.

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's in the movie, but that was a real thing. It wasn't a planned stunt like the guy saved his own life.

Chuck Bryant: That's awesome. Harrison Ford, we mentioned. As far as the ladies go Angelina Jolie, Cameron Diaz is known for doing stunts. Arnie Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan is very famous for doing his own stunts. And it makes a difference when you can tell its Tom Cruise on the side of that mountain.

Josh Clark: Man that was scary. Was that really him?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, Emily worked on that shoot, just that segment in Moab, the rock climbing segment.

Josh Clark: Is that right?

Chuck Bryant: That's when famously Tom Cruise is four hours late. He flies in on a helicopter and like the whole crew is waiting around all day for him.

Josh Clark: I hadn't heard that.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. I mean, famous in my family and now I guess it's famous to the podcast family.

Josh Clark: Yeah, Tom Cruise is not punctual.

Chuck Bryant: Well, he wasn't that day.

Josh Clark: Wow, stunts.

Chuck Bryant: Have you seen Haywire the Soderbergh movie? It's about assassins basically. It's an action movie. Soderbergh's take on an action movie, but Gina Carano is a former mixed martial artist. She's awesome and does her own stunts.

Josh Clark: What's her name?

Chuck Bryant: Gina Carano.

Josh Clark: I don't believe I know her.

Chuck Bryant: She's plays the lead. I think that was her first legit movie. She's known for mixed martial arts, but she does her own stunts and she's BA.

Josh Clark: Haywire. I'll check it out.

Chuck Bryant: I've got nothing else.

Josh Clark: I don't either.

Chuck Bryant: Pretty straight forward.

Josh Clark: If you want to learn more about stunts, you can type stunts into the How Stuff Works search bar and I said search bar which means it's time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Josh, I'm going to call this, things I guess we say a lot.

Josh Clark: Oh, no. Like?

Chuck Bryant: No, no that's not in there. Everyone says like though.

Josh Clark: I know, but people have pointed out here their like you guys say like a lot. I've stated to notice when I say it. When I hear the podcast, I don't hear it when I'm saying, only later on when I can't do anything about it.

Chuck Bryant: Don't beat yourself up. Everybody says that like there are articles written in the New Yorker about the use of the word like in the 21st century. So you're part of that crowd. You're now millennial.

Josh Clark: I'm not and aged person. What is wrong with me today?

Chuck Bryant: Guys, before I start. I feel like I should get out my adoration to podcast. I always listen as I'm walking my dog, Chloe. It keeps me entertained for hours. I love that you guys are still going strong and I'm very thankful. I have comprised a list, however, of words and praises used most often in the show besides obvious ones like Chuck or Josh or search bar.

Josh Clark: Let's hear them.

Chuck Bryant: In no particular order. Botta bing botta boom,

Josh Clark: He left off the Bon Jovi.

Chuck Bryant: She.

Josh Clark: Oh, she.

Chuck Bryant: We'll talk about this later or we'll get to that.

Josh Clark: And then a lot of times we don't.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I feel like I say that a lot.

Josh Clark: I think it's hilarious that we say we're going to talk about something later and then we just forget to.

Chuck Bryant: Or I say all the time, I think we should point out and she didn't put that in here, but I'll go ahead and throw my own in there.

Josh Clark: Oh, yeah, you do say that.

Chuck Bryant: I'm making air quotes, ie, eg. That's one of yours.

Josh Clark: So pretentious.

Chuck Bryant: That's a good band name, usually me. Sweat. You used to talk about sweat a lot because of me. That's a stand up guy.

Josh Clark: I don't remember us saying that a lot. Do you say that?

Chuck Bryant: All right, I'm going to take issue with that one Catherine. On the up and up. COA, people always ask what that means and we never tell. And then have you seen the movie. Ironically.

Josh Clark: That's about right.

Chuck Bryant: And those are 10 things that we say a lot. She says she thinks these are great comfort terms, she smiles and that is Catherine Phillips.

Josh Clark: Thanks a lot, Catherine. That's pretty cool. Somebody's out there writing lists of things we say.

Chuck Bryant: It's nicer to hear people say I take comfort in that except for the emails we get you guys always say this.

Josh Clark: You say 'like' too much. It's John Travolta taking us to task. If you want to take us to task whether you're John Travolta or anybody else or you just want to say hey here's a list of things I notice because of the podcast or whatever. You can join us on twitter. Actually first before we sign off; let's remind everybody that we're going to be on the TV again.

Chuck Bryant: The TV?

Josh Clark: Yeah, Saturday night on the Science Channel at 10:00 pm will be the premiere of another Stuff You Should Know episode.

Chuck Bryant: You could watch us each and every week.

Josh Clark: Yep, Stuff You Should Know TV show.

Chuck Bryant: Or get it on iTunes the following day on Sundays.

Josh Clark: That's right, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Just go to iTunes and type in Stuff You Should Know and see what comes up.

Josh Clark: All right. So now we'll sign off, right? You can get in touch with us at Twitter at syskpodcast. You can join us on stuffyoushouldknow and you can send us a good old fashioned email to

[End of Audio]

Duration: 46 minutes