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Oscars unrecognised heroes

Despite risking their lives to make movies possible, stunt actors receive no recognition for their work at ceremony.
Last modified: 3 Mar 2014 04:40

When the golden Oscars statuettes are handed out in the annual Academy Awards ceremony, the top categories of best picture, best male and female actor, and best director get most of the attention. But one group of movie professionals who literally risk their lives for their art get no Oscar recognition at all.

In 35 years as a stunt actor and coordinator, Jack Gill has been blown up, beat up, washed over waterfalls and chased by angry bulls. But one thing neither he nor any stunt specialist has ever received is a nomination for an Academy Award.

"We feel like we are being left out," Gill says. "We feel like there's a big hole in the academy and we should be included in it, it should be a no-brainer decision."

Stunts have been part of moviemaking from the very earliest days. In the first American narrative action movie, "The Great Train Robbery" from 1903, there are scenes featuring stunt actors leaping from locomotives and shootouts on horseback.

Beginning in 1991, Gill and other stunt actors have been lobbying the Academy of Motion Pictures to create an Oscar category for stunt coordinator. "At that point, they told me it would take three to five years," says Gill, who is an academy member.

"Here we are 23 years later and we still don't have a stunt coordinator category. I'm at a loss as to why it's not happening."

In a system that awards Oscars for makeup, hairdressing, costume design and sound mixing, it's a surprise to many fans that there's no spot in the limelight for stunts.

Lists of movie accidents show more than 40 stunt actors have been killed on set since 1980. Safety has improved over the years, but deadly accidents still happen. In 2011, 26-year-old stunt actor Kun Liu was killed in an exploding-boat scene for "Expendables 2."

"Eventually, if you've been doing it long enough, you are going to be hurt," Gill says. He says given that stunt actors put their lives on the line to make movies possible, many feel chagrined by the lack of recognition.

"You have put blood sweat and tears into this movie, and at the awards ceremony you're seeing your friends go up and accept awards, and you're sitting home watching by yourself."

The academy didn't respond to Al Jazeera's requests for comment for this story.