Stunt performers in the U.S. are eyeing an Oscars boycott because of the Academy’s refusal to give them their own awards category for Best Stunt Coordination, Vulture reports. Stunt performers boycotted the Oscars earlier this year and “they’re now considering a protest at next year’s ceremony. Vulture writer Bilge Ebiri spoke with Jake Gill, a stunt coordinator who has been lobbying for nearly three decades for the Academy to honor his craft.
“When I first approached them, they were extremely eager to help,” Gill said. “As the years went on, they got tired of me. Now it’s hard to even get a meeting.”
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Gill said he’s tried various ways to get the Academy to pay attention to stunt work but nothing has stuck. One Academy member from a different branch went to advocate to higher-ups on Gill’s behalf but was also rejected. “He had a real foot in the door, and he said, ‘I think it’s a great idea, and I’m going to help in any way I can,’” Gill remembered. The person told Gill after his meeting, “They told me, right to my face, ‘You’ve got to let it go. It’s never going to happen.’”
“We currently have 95 members in our group this year, and next year we will pass the 100-members mark that the Academy said was a prerequisite for a branch and possibly an Oscar category,” Gill said. “I had always argued that our action industry is a smaller group of individuals than the other departments and that having 100 voting members was not needed. I’ve also argued that other Oscar categories had less than 100 members when they were given an Oscar category, but I was told that I was incorrect in that assumption.”
Stunt coordinator Janene Carleton (“Jack Reacher,” “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol”) said that stunt work is worthy of an Oscars category and mentioned how stunt coordination is tied to keeping production safe Even actors like Tom Cruise who do their own stunts require stunt coordinators to test the stunts beforehand to make sure they are safe.
“A stunt team designs the action, rehearses it over and over again to determine what looks the coolest, what hurts the most, what’s the safest,” Carleton said. “They train the actor for months. And even if the actor does it, the double does it as well, so they can edit it together. The stunt coordinators are responsible for keeping everyone safe.”
Attempts to recognize stunt performers at awards ceremonies that aren’t the Oscars have proven more fruitful. The SAG Awards began awarding a Best Stunt Ensemble prize in 2007, while Canada’s Academy equivalent (The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television) announced this year it would be awarding a prize for Best Stunt Coordination. Stunt coordinator Angelica Lisk-Hann fought to get the latter prize awarded and said, “It’s too bad that it’s not the same down [in the U.S.]. All of us here are kind of shocked.”
Lisk-Hann added that it doesn’t make sense for the Academy to award a prize for Best Visual Effects and not a prize for Best Stunt Coordination. “It’s weird when films like ‘The Revenant’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ are nominated for all those Oscars and you’re sitting there thinking, Half of that is us,” she said.
“The VFX guys are on our side,” Gill added. “We work hand in hand with them. With more VFX movies being made, I’m using more stuntpeople than I ever use. The public has become so savvy about what is real and not real onscreen that the VFX people want as much of the footage to be real as possible.”
Head over to Vulture to read more on the Oscars push from stunt coordinators.