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Though Stunt Coordinators Won't Be At The Oscars, Here Are The Top Picks


The Academy Awards are this Sunday, and that has got us thinking about movie performances that get absolutely no Oscar recognition.


CHANG: We're talking about the work of stunt players, the men and women who fly and fall and punch and tumble and - well, you get the picture. Jack Gill makes his living designing movie stunts. He's performed his share as well. He's jumped cars off ramps, leapt off buildings, he's been engulfed in flames, he's broken countless bones. Welcome. Wow.

JACK GILL: That's quite an introduction. Thanks so much.

CHANG: (Laughter) Are you still doing your own stunts?

GILL: Well, the good part about now is I get to pick and choose the ones I want to do. I don't have to do them. And I'm still kind of hiring the younger kids to try and do some of the bigger ones.

CHANG: Actually, you were a stunt coordinator in perhaps one of the most over-the-top action series, "The Fast And The Furious" franchise.


NATHALIE EMMANUEL: (As Megan Ramsey) Please tell me there's nothing to worry about.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) We got this.

CHANG: All right. We have Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez trying to outrun a nuclear submarine in cars on the ice. How much of this was actually real?

GILL: That nuclear submarine was not real, but the explosions you see of the submarine penetrating the ice was completely real. And we were in Iceland for that entire sequence. And we spent about 2 1/2 months there on this frozen tundra trying to figure out how to get 23 cars out on the ice and not have them penetrate the ice and also doing bullet hits and explosions and cars turning over.

CHANG: It's like choreography. You're orchestrating this over-the-top scene where lots of things can go wrong at the same time.

GILL: A lot of people don't understand that we come in months before we start filming rehearsing and designing and working with the writer and the director and the producers all to give them what they want. And this was way before the actors are even on the set. And that's a big part of the technical aspect of it and the artistic aspect of it...

CHANG: I love that.

GILL: ...Which is the two things that the Academy both view as being an Academy Award-winning process.

CHANG: Yeah. I mean, stunt work has never been a category at the Oscars. What is your argument for why it deserves Oscars recognition?

GILL: When I first tried to pursue this back in 1991, I was told the Academy sees categories as either typically artistic or heavily scientific. So I came back and said, well, we rely heavily on both of those. If it's a comedy, it has to be a comedic action sequence. If it's an action sequence, you can't go too far over the top because the guy has to look like he can survive it. So what I found out with the Academy is that they started grasping for straws as to why they couldn't let us have a category. And it went down from there's too many categories already...

CHANG: Really?

GILL: ...To we don't have time into the show. I've heard every single, you know, aspect of it as to why we can't be a part of it.

CHANG: So if you could give an Oscar to some amazing pieces of stunt work over the past year, who would your nominees be?

GILL: OK. Well, I mean, obviously, right off the bat, you've got "Dunkirk."


GILL: "Dunkirk" is a huge action picture.


GILL: You know, I did "Jumanji," so I'm a little fated toward Jumanji because we had a lot of action in "Jumanji."


GILL: Films like "Baby Driver," which was a huge action piece, and "Atomic Blonde."


GILL: Charlize Theron did all - most of all of her own stunts in that. And all of these shows will go by the wayside without anybody knowing who the action designer was.

CHANG: So, all right, the Oscar goes to if you were to choose...

GILL: I mean, out of all of them, I'd have to go with "Atomic Blonde," I mean, because...

CHANG: Oh, against "Jumanji."

GILL: I think so. I really did like the way it was put together, and I liked the way that the story flowed. There's lots of choices, but for some reason, the Academy - it still falls on deaf ears, and I just don't understand why.

CHANG: I hear you. Jack Gill is a stunt coordinator and action director. Thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun.

GILL: Thank you. I really appreciate it, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SHACKS SONG, "ORCHIDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.