Oscar's Unsung Heroes
On March 2, we witnessed the spectacle and excitement of the Academy Awards. Hollywood honored its brightest and best in just about every single category. However, the Academy has ignored one crucial part of the industry - stunt performers and coordinators.
In the 86 years of the Academy Awards, only one stunt actor has received an honor. The late former stuntman Hal Needham, writer-director of such films as Smokey & The Bandit, received an honorary Oscar in 2013, but apart from Needham, the Oscars have been silent when it comes to the stunt community, despite its importance to the film industry at large. One stunt performer is working to remedy the omission.
Jack Gill, who has stunt doubled for [Jason] Statham in Death Race as well as the late Paul Walker in the Fast and Furious films, has led the charge for stunt coordinators to receive Oscar recognition for the past 23 years. He has generated support from such leading filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron and, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Ken Howard and former SAG President Melissa Gilbert (who wrote letters to AMPAS on the stunt actors’ behalf but were ignored.) Gill even filed a petition with signatures from award winning actors, directors and producers who believed in the cause.
It “fell on deaf ears. The (previous AMPAS regime) said these signatures were probably agreed to as a courtesy and not really heartfelt,” Gill recalls. “The entire industry is behind us but the Academy is looking to omit categories, not add. There are stunt coordinators who are Academy members and we currently have 27 members who have been helping me to establish a category for stunt coordinators. We do not have a ‘branch.’ Establishing that branch and award category is the sticking point.”
When asked if AMPAS would consider a change of heart, a spokesperson said: “Stunt coordinators play an important role in many movie productions and the Academy currently honors those at the very top of their craft by inviting them to become Academy members.”
The day after that statement was made, AMPAS’ President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, CEO Dawn Hudson, COO Ric Robertson and Director of Membership Kimberly Roush met privately with Gill. He called the new regime “enlightening.”
Under the new Academy administration, stunt performers can add up to 13 new members a year. Once sixty stunt performers become Academy members, they can petition AMPAS for a stunt branch, which will put the stunt community one step closer to establishing the award they so deserve.