“Not only are you in this spandex suit all the time, but you also have to wear this harness underneath the suit. So, I’m in that all day. Not only is that physically draining, but mentally draining,” says stunt worker Chris Daniels.
Wires and Webs
Daniels was the stunt double for actor Tobey Maguire in all three Spider-Man movies. The spandex suit, of course, is the tight-fi tting Spider-Man costume. The harness is what helps him swing through the air. The straps go around his legs, waist, and chest. Clips attach the harness to a wire, or cable. Daniels slides along the wire. He moves his arms and legs as if he were swinging from a spider web.
Daniels said his scariest moment as a stunt worker was in Spider-Man 2. “I jumped off a building about 200 feet [60 meters] on a wire. . . . That was the scariest, diving 200 feet and trusting that the rig was going to work.” And it did.
Working on a wire is scary. It can be terribly risky, too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was fi lmed in March 2009. David Holmes was the stunt double for Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who plays Harry. Holmes was on a wire fi lming a fl ying scene. He fell to the fl oor and badly injured both legs. Another stunt worker had to perform the stunts for the rest of the movie.
Planning a Chase
Few things in modern movies are more exciting—or more hazardous—than car chases and crashes. To make them safer, cars are rebuilt. Steel “roll bars” are placed inside to keep the roof from caving in when the car turns over. Special tires, seat belts, and pads are installed.
Nearly all car stunts are done by specially trained drivers. Every step is carefully planned. For example, there is a famous car chase in a police movie called The French Connection. It was fi lmed on the streets of New York City. The stunt drivers fi rst practiced the route with toy cars on a large map. Then they drove the route slowly in real cars. Actual fi lming was done in short pieces and then put together. It took weeks to fi lm the whole car chase. Stunt drivers are very careful people.
Stunt Worker Dar Robinson
Darren “Dar” Robinson was called “the world’s most spectacular stuntman.” He once drove a car over the edge of the Grand Canyon. As the car fell, Robinson jumped out and parachuted to the ground. He did movie stunts for19 years and never broke a bone. In 1986, however, Robinson missed a turn while practicing a motorcycle stunt. He skidded over a cliff and fell to his death.
In many chases, cars fl y into the air and turn over. For some of these scenes, drivers use a “cannon ram.” It was invented by stunt worker Hal Needham. The cannon is a metal tube placed under a car. Inside it is a thick pole and some explosives. When the driver presses a switch, the explosives fi re. The pole slams into the ground. The force lifts the car and turns it over.
When Needham fi rst tried his cannon, his car was blown 20 feet (6 meters) in the air. It hit the ground and rolled over eight times. Needham was badly injured, but he recovered well enough to use the cannon again. Next time, he used fewer explosives!
Vampire Car Wreck
Actor Robert Pattinson did some of his own stunts for his role of Edward Cullen in the vampire movie Twilight. He said, “The scariest one was when I run, and I put my hand out to stop this car. . . . [T]he car went off its tracks.” Pattinson was hit by the car, but not hard enough to be injured. And also not hard enough to be scared off. Pattinson again did some of his own stunts in the second Twilight movie, New Moon, which opened in November 2009.
A Dangerous Business
Some of the best car stunts are in the James Bond movies. In the 2008 fi lm Quantum of Solace, Bond’s car was chased along twisting mountain roads. Six cars were destroyed fi lming the chase. One stunt driver was very badly injured in a crash, though the other people in the stunts were safe.
Car stunts are planned and practiced for safety. Even so, stunt driving is a dangerous business.
Lots of glass gets broken in movies. All of it is fake. Long ago, the fake glass used in movies was made from sugar and water. Actors called it “candy glass.” The name is still used, even though today’s movie glass is plastic. It shatters easily, without leaving sharp edges. Also, today’s plastic movie glass won’t melt under the hot lights used to fi lm movies. Candy glass melts very quickly.