Entertainment

I’m a stuntman and I was blown 90ft off cliff for explosion scene

A STUNTMAN was launched 90 feet off a cliff with ball of fire behind him for an 18-second explosion scene at the beginning of the 1980 movie Exterminator.

It was such a terrifying act that five stunt professionals turned it down before Jack Gill accepted it for a $750 paycheck.

Legendary Hollywood stuntman Jack Gill said the most dangerous stunt he's ever done was in the beginning of the 1980 movie Exterminator

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Legendary Hollywood stuntman Jack Gill said the most dangerous stunt he’s ever done was in the beginning of the 1980 movie ExterminatorCredit: Photo John Chapple / www.JohnChapple.com
Gill's stunt at the start of Exterminator

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Gill’s stunt at the start of ExterminatorCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk
Gill did the stunt even though five other stunt professionals turned it down

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Gill did the stunt even though five other stunt professionals turned it downCredit: Not known, clear with picture desk

Gill was propelled over a cliff to make it look like he was running from an explosion. Behind him was a ball of fire that was created by 20 gallons of gasoline.

He practiced the stunt a few times before it was time to shoot the real thing and said he thought he was going to catch fire.

Medics and firefighters were ready at the bottom of the cliff.

It was a successful stunt with no major injuries, but Gill said, “I’ll never do that one again.”

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The legendary Hollywood stuntman – now stunt coordinator – started his career in the 1970s.

He said he’s broken his back twice, his neck, 23 bones and had a titanium plate put in his neck.

Once, he said he cut a part of his finger off and it had to be sewn back on.

“With our industry, you have to deal with injuries. Even the smallest sequences can take your life,” Gill said. “You’re always in harm’s way.

“You might not come home, and you have to mentally prepare yourself and your family for that.”

Daniel Stevens, who is best known for his work as Hugh Jackman’s stunt double while he played Wolverine, said safety has improved in recent years but it’s still a dangerous line of work.

But stunts vital to any movie.

“The script will just say, ‘Fight ensued,’ and it’s up to the stunt coordinator to create the scene and envision how it’s going to work to support the character and add to the plot,” Stevens said.

“PERFECT BLEND OF ART AND SCIENCE”

Because stunt professionals and stunt coordinators’ work is all behind the scenes, the Academy Awards – popularly known as the Oscars – still don’t have an award category for stunts.

It’s a battle that Gill, Stevens and stunt professionals have been fighting for about three decades.

“We’re just trying to get the Academy to realize that stunts are the perfect blend of art and science in telling the story and making sure they’re done safely,” Stevens said.

The profession even changed official profession titles from action designer to stunt coordinator after award categories for design coordinators were created, Gill said.

“Without stunts, there’s no movie. Even dramas have stunt coordinators,” Gill said.

When asked why the stunt community has been ignored for so long, he said Gill believes it’s because the Academy doesn’t know what they do.

“I think there’s complete bafflement about what we do on the set,” Gill said. “And they (the academy) don’t think our contribution is heavy enough to account for an Academy Award, and they don’t want to learn what we do.”

Despite the necessity for stunts, the complexity of creating action scenes that entertain and advance the plot, and the dangerous nature of the career, talks for an award haven’t gone anywhere.

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Talks haven’t progressed or regressed, according to Gill.

“We’re stuck in limbo,” he said. “If the academy never gives the action designers a category, i think it’s a real loss to the entire motion picture viewing public.”

Gill said talks to get a stunts as an awards category have been'in limbo' for about 30 years, with no progress or setbacks

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Gill said talks to get a stunts as an awards category have been ‘in limbo’ for about 30 years, with no progress or setbacksCredit: Photo John Chapple / www.JohnChapple.com
Jack Gill with Michael Jackson and director Colin Chilvers on set of'Moonwalker'

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Jack Gill with Michael Jackson and director Colin Chilvers on set of ‘Moonwalker’
Daniel Stevens, who was Hugh Jackman's stunt double when Jackman played Wolverine, has been part of the campaign to have a stunt category in the Academy Awards

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Daniel Stevens, who was Hugh Jackman’s stunt double when Jackman played Wolverine, has been part of the campaign to have a stunt category in the Academy AwardsCredit: John Chapple
Stevens is pictured with Jackman during Jackman's run as Wolverine

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Stevens is pictured with Jackman during Jackman’s run as WolverineCredit: John Chapple
One of Gill's stunts was when he was on fire in Talledega Nights

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One of Gill’s stunts was when he was on fire in Talledega NightsCredit: Photo John Chapple / www.JohnChapple.com
Jack Gill with Will Farrell on set'Talladega Nights'

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Jack Gill with Will Farrell on set ‘Talladega Nights’
Stuntman FeaJack Gill with Ice Cube on set of'Ride Along 2'

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Stuntman FeaJack Gill with Ice Cube on set of ‘Ride Along 2’
Jack Gill and Christopher Walken on set of'McBain'

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Jack Gill and Christopher Walken on set of ‘McBain’

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Aila Slisco

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