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The Oscar race is almost run, with the awards being handed out in only 19 days. Undoubtedly, there's a lot of campaigning, voting, and schmoozing being had with all of the nominees in the various categories, as the politicking is essential if you want to win big. Everyone from the directors to the sound editors are pushing their spot on the ballot, and just about every part of the film production process is being represented in the already lengthy awards show. So why is it that the Oscars feel the need to not reward the work being done by professional stunt performers?
Playboy conducted a timely interview on the subject with the directors of the Keanu Reeves bullet festival John Wick, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Both men just so happen to also be seasoned stunt coordinators and previous stuntmen themselves, and it shows in the finished film they've shepherded to the big screen. Yet you won't hear their names on Oscar night, and if you ask Leitch for his feelings on the subject, he'll probably give you an answer similar to the one he gave Playboy. Said the filmmaker,
There is sort of also this sort of bravado stunt men have had since the beginning. We’re the guys behind the guys and we don’t need the glory. And it’s not about the glory, it’s just about respecting an industry. People have given their lives to this industry to make movies compelling. Film is a collaborative artform, I don’t know why you wouldn’t recognize the stunt performers. I think it’s dumb. I’m not sure why [stunts aren’t recognized]. I really don’t.
So why isn't there a stunt performance category at the Oscars? David Leitch speculates that it's due to some grudge of ancient history, as he describes that "...there’s an urban legend that back in the day one of the cowboy stuntmen had an altercation with a member of the Academy." While we can't find the exact story this urban legend is based off of, our minds are reeling to think of what kind of fight could have been had that would cause such a long grudge.
Much like the debate for a Best Motion Capture Performance category, the subject of a Best Stunt Performance category is one that needs to be had. A stunt performance takes as much skill and dedication as any traditional "acting" performance. If anything, that sort of performance takes more from both columns, as stunt coordinating is an exact science that plays with a lot of variables that could either thrill or kill on a movie set. The only thing that might be really tricky is deciding who would actually get the award, as David Leitch admits that the performers, the coordinators and the choreographers all play different sized parts on different projects.
The fact of the matter is, the Best Stunt Performance category is one that's day has come. While the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences are resistant to change when they're at their most stubborn, it shouldn't be too hard to win them over with a campaign of celebrity support... as well as some friendly reminders that without the stunts that make the movies, a lot of the "best pictures" we remember wouldn't be anything to speak of.
John Wick is available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Digital HD now; and should clean up at the next Taurus Awards – the stunt industry's equivalent of the Oscars.