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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According to Indiewire, Stunts Unlimited Member, Mike Smith, coordinated/2nd Unit Directed the most thrilling action sequence of 2014 in an action packed car chase for NIGHTCRAWLER.
Also on the list, Andy Gill, Stunt Coordinator: 2nd Unit CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER.
NIGHTCRAWLER is a pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work who discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents. Aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou thrives. In the breakneck, ceaseless search for footage, he becomes the star of his own story.
The stunt community based Hooper Classic is a race for the love of the ride type of people. Produced by Logan Holladay of Stunts Unlimited and hosted at the private track of Dave Castillo and Jim Castillo.
We had a blast racing dirt bikes at Castillo Ranch for the 2014 Hooper Classic!
From CraveOnline: If you’ve got the need… the need to see car chases in Blu-ray format, then you may want to check out Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed, which arrives on home video this week. The clip also features Lance Gilbert, Stunt Coordinator, from Stunts Unlimited. The film stars “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul as a racecar driver enacting cross-country revenge on his nemesis Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) while romancing Imogen Poots (Filth) along the way. The car chases in Need for Speed really are need, and they were all done practically, so this CraveOnline Exclusive clip from the Blu-ray about how they were pulled off is really something fun to behold. Check it out!
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.