Decades before CGI allowed filmmakers to create exciting action sequences from the safety of the editing bay, men and women who were exceptionally brave, tough and a little crazy had to perform the stunts themselves—and wear the bruises and broken bones as badges of honor. Stuntmen jumped the cars, fell from the highest towers and tackled the bad guys from their horses. When it comes to the most influential, iconic and pioneering stuntmen of all time, the nearly indestructible Hal Needham is it—one of the greatest to ever walk onto a movie set. Here are his six greatest stunts. (more…)
Norman Howell credits John Wayne as one of his teachers. The Emmy winning stunt coordinator began his career in the 80s as a stuntman. In fact, he continues to perform stunts; recently seen in Seth McFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Since his earliest entry into the stunt word when John Wayne taught him to throw a punch, Howell’s been hit by and thrown off moving horses, vehicles and wagons.. He’s jumped from a horse onto an airplane and rode on top of an airplane. The lessons he’s learned throughout the years have informed every decision he makes when creating stunt sequences others will perform.
Norman Howell, center, learned how to trow a punch from the “Duke” himself when he was a child stunt performer.
“I learned a very valuable lesson in Africa while doing a fire gag in the Kenyan desert. I didn’t have my own safety guy watching my back and I was medivaced out for 3rd degree burns,” said Howell. “Experience is the best teacher”.
Howell not only brings the experience he earned as a performer to every job he takes, he brings the valuable lessons he learned from watching the decision making processes of A-list directors he’s worked with, including Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner and James Cameron. Noting they “all had the same drive to make every frame cinematic,” his own attention to detail earned him an Emmy win for the stunts he crafted in season two of “Brooklyn Nine Nine.” Howell is quick to note the stunts he creates always emerge from the script.
“The brilliant creators, Dan Goor and Michael Schur, and their writing team come up with the look they want. I take what they come up with and when schedules permit I will do a test,” said Howell. “For instance, (actor) Terry Crews had to lift a car. Dan wanted to make sure it looked authentic so we tested the day before the shoot and everything turned out great.”
The tight time constraints of television often don’t accommodate testing time. In these circumstances, Howell will craft a number of variations of the stunt so Goor and Schur have multiple choices in the edit suite. Howell works with every department, from hair and makeup to technical advisors to art and camera departments to ensure all aspects of the stunt play authentically for the viewer. Paramount to any stunt, either rehearsed or spontaneous, is safety.
The moment he arrives on set Howell ensures all safety equipment, such as padding for the ground and the actors, is in place. Frequently, the action shifts in the spontaneity of rehearsal. Lead actor Andy Samberg has a strong sense of comic timing and often makes adjustments to sharpen the scene, resulting in his and his fellow actors shifting positions. Howell has to think on his feet and adjust the stunt equipment accordingly. When there are larger and more dangerous stunts such as a car hit or fire gag, Howell holds a safety meeting for cast and crew beforehand. For a scene that called for actor Joe Lo Truglio to bend over a toaster resulting in his jacket fringe catching on fire, Howell staged a rehearsal with a stunt man that step by step illustrated the stunt. While the producers, director and star signed off on the stunt, the network ultimately requested a stunt man perform the fire gag. Howell had the fire safety and effects teams on hand as he “turned up the fire” on the stunt double.
Since season one of “Brooklyn Nine Nine” Howell has been working closely with the actors to provide training that both keeps them and everyone on set safe during any form of stunt. Their dedication to perfecting their performance has delighted the seasoned stunt coordinator.
“This season Andre Braugher worked very hard to do a ‘Bourne’ style fight. He did so well I didn’t even use his stunt double,” said Howell. “Stephanie Beatriz had to spin around, practically aim blind at Andy Samburg, who was placed behind her, without actually punching him. I taught her the punch John Wayne taught me on my first movie, ‘The Cowboys.’ Stephanie worked with me for a week every day during her lunch to perfect the Duke’s punch. I was very impressed with her dedication.”
While the time constraints on television are tighter than film, Howell finds he puts as much effort into the stunts used on “Brooklyn Nine Nine” as he would in a feature film. His efforts resulted in his first Emmy win last year, something he never would have expected to receive for his work on a comic series. Although he admits the action is unique for a half hour comedy series, he credits the actors for “selling it so well.” Extremely humbled to be recognized by his peers, his greatest moment came upon returning to the “Brooklyn Nine Nine” set.
“When I came in Monday after the Emmy weekend, I was called to set and met with cheers and demands for a speech. I don’t like to be in the spotlight so I quickly deferred to Andy,” said Howell. “That moment was one of the highlights of my career. I’m blessed to be asked back for Season 3 of ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. Right now I’m focusing on that.”
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Stunts Unlimited, Lance Gilbert, is a 3rd generation stuntman and stunt coordinator – Bigger, better, faster. With over 100 credits to his career, his latest project is the feature film Need for Speed bringing the top selling racing video game to life on the big screen. Check out this behind the scenes look of how the Need for Speed stunts were done, more about Lance and three generations of stuntmen in the Gilbert family.
Bobby Bass, veteran motion picture and television stuntman considered a legend in Hollywood for his feats in the guise of such bigger-than-life actors as John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, has died. He was 65.
Bass died Wednesday in Los Angeles after suffering from Parkinson’s disease. “He was a remarkable man,” actress Bo Derek, Bass’ stepdaughter, told the Associated Press. “He’s an absolute legend in this business. Everyone just revered him.”
Bobby Bass, Dar Robinson and Ky working on Burt Reynolds Sharky’s Machine film.
Some stuntmen specialize in fistfights, explosions or car crashes and race driving, but Bass did them all and intricate martial arts too. In 1986, he shared a Stunt Man Award for best vehicular stunt for his work in “To Live and Die in L.A.”
Bass performed stunts in more than 40 films, including “Smokey and the Bandit” and its sequels, “Independence Day,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Scarface.”
He also served as stunt coordinator or assistant director for about 30 other films, including “Sharky’s Machine,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Black Rain,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Rocky V.”
Sometimes he did both, coordinating and then performing the stunts, as in “Thelma and Louise.”
For fight scenes, he helped popularize such barroom tactics as the head butt, used to good effect in “Lethal Weapon,” the 1987 humorous action cop film.
“I think I dusted it off and gave it to Mel Gibson,” Bass told an interview in 1992 about the disabling maneuver. “After that you started seeing it.”
Bass taught another celluloid cop, Michael Douglas, to use that head butt in a scene for “Black Rain” in which Douglas’ character matched skulls with Japanese thugs.
While Bass set trends in the stunt industry, he also worked to foster safer working conditions. He was dating Heidi von Beltz when the stuntwoman was paralyzed in 1980 during a stunt-car crash on the set of “Cannonball Run.” Two years later came the fatal on-the-set helicopter crash that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children in “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”
The two accidents, among the worst in movie history, prompted far stricter oversight of stunt work on all sets. As both a coordinator and stuntman, Bass was front and center.
“As far as the stunt coordinators doing more [is concerned], I think everybody is really checking in their footsteps,” he said in 1987. “There is a little more intensity, because you can’t turn your back on these incidents. We have learned from these dreadful things, and we’d be fools to say we didn’t.”
Reforms, including reactivation of an industrywide safety council and stronger safety requirements in Screen Actors Guild contracts, produced quick results. On-the-set accidents decreased annually and steadily from 214 in 1982 to 65 in 1986.
Athletic and creative into his 60s, Bass was still doing rough-and-tumble stunts through the late 1990s in such action fare as “Eraser” in 1996, “Batman and Robin” in 1997, “Desperate Measures” in 1998 and “End of Days” in 1999.
Bass’ stunt versatility was evident in the range of films in which he drove, fought, shot or simply moved fast–“The Blues Brothers,” “The Sting II,” “Doctor Detroit,” “Twins,” “Dracula” and “Baby’s Day Out,” as well as the action movies.
“His sense of adventure was just so fantastic,” Derek said. “He always had new stunts he was inventing.”
When Bass wasn’t performing the tricks of his trade, he was teaching weapons handling or martial arts or fisticuffs to such stars as Gibson, Douglas, Burt Reynolds, Danny Glover, Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon and Kathleen Turner.
Rarely credited in his own name as a stuntman–a rare exception was in “The Perfect Weapon” in 1991–Bass received credits for minor roles as an actor in some films and television series.
In motion pictures ranging from the 1979 “Tom Horn” through the 1997 “Grosse Pointe Blank,” he took on such tough guy roles as a bodyguard, a rapist, an FBI agent, an armed man, a hit man.
elevision, he appeared as early as 1966, playing a guard in an episode of “Star Trek.” He acted, always in parts with lots of action, in several episodes of “The A-Team” and in such series as “Alias Smith and Jones,” “Fantasy Island,” “Mission Impossible” and “The Twilight Zone.”