The Inverse Interview

“We Don’t Just Fall Down.”

The stuntmen of The Fall Guy talk about their Guinness World Record, and what it means for stuntwork to get more recognition.

Universal Studios
The Inverse Interview

Just one day after stuntmen Ben Jenkin, Chris O’Hara, and Logan Holladay spoke with Inverse about The Fall Guy, O’Hara was given the first-ever “Stunt Designer” credit on a motion picture. In a historic move and joint effort by SAG-AFTRA and the DGA, the decision was made to formally designate a position traditionally called “Stunt Coordinator” with something a little more concrete. This significant step has not only moved the former coordinators into something on par with that of a Set Designer or Costume Designer but also created a clear runway for the long-awaited Stunt Oscar. While there’s been no official announcement from the Academy, one has to think that in designating a person on set as the designer of the action on screen, there can no longer be any confusion as to who to award the prize.

For his part, it’s all in a day’s work for O’Hara.

“I'm not in it for awards or anything like that, but I am for inclusion; I am for bringing light to what we do,” he tells Inverse. “And I think it's important that the Academy does recognize us as stunt designers and we really are right up there with production designers, costume designers, all of these other people.”

For its part, David Leitch’s The Fall Guy couldn’t be coming out at a more perfect moment in time. Based on the classic Lee Majors television show of the same name, the action-adventure sees Ryan Gosling picking up the mantle of Colt Seavers. Seavers, a stuntman extraordinaire, finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery while shooting his latest movie, “Metalstorm,” a blockbuster vehicle for A-list star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), for whom Seavers was a longtime stunt double. But when Tom Ryder disappears, Seavers jumps to find him, to try to win back the love of his director (and ex), played by Emily Blunt. While Leitch’s film is inspired by the show, Gosling’s stunt double Ben Jenkin makes it clear that this is very much its own thing.

“The spirit's still there,” Jenkin says. “I mean, everybody hears we're making The Fall Guy, and they think that we're remaking the TV show. And really, what this was is kind of like a prequel to the TV series. It's Colt Seaver's origin story.”

Ben Jenkin, Chris O’Hara, and Logan Holladay at a special screening of The Fall Guy.

Dave Benett/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Beyond being what’s sure to be Leitch’s latest light and funny crowd-pleaser, The Fall Guy doubles (much like Colt himself) as a love letter to stunt professionals across the industry. There have been movies about stunt pros for decades; everything from the Peter O’Toole-starring The Stuntman to Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof has depicted the art of stunts in some form or fashion. The Fall Guy is the first to definitively celebrate the high-stakes, adrenaline-filled pleasures the profession provides.

“The subject matter is super close to our heart, and it's not playing a stunt guy just to say you're a stunt guy. I mean, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt won an Academy Award for playing a stunt guy, but you never saw him really do anything,” says O’Hara. “And this is the time where we actually get a chance to shine.” Speaking on his director (and former stuntman himself), David Leitch’s expertise specifically, he says, “Having somebody that had a hand in the script as much as David and just knowing where all the little jokes, all little things in there, it's all real.”

That reality shines through in every aspect of the film, most notably the ways in which stunt pros communicate. From the first stunt we see performed onscreen, Seavers’ arm shoots out from beneath a car with an emphatic thumbs up to let his crew know he’s OK. This wasn’t a creation for the film but a long-running code between performers, a secondhand language that’s almost involuntary at this point.

Ryan Gosling flashes the signature stunt guy “thumbs up.”

Universal Studios

“The thumbs up is absolutely a real thing. It's something we do as performers to let everybody know that we're good, we're safe, everything's OK. It's an easy way of communication,” explains Jenkin. “We try and do these stunts as safe as possible, but it is quite a dangerous job sometimes, and we try not to get hurt, but people get hurt. If we're far away or if we were wearing a mask or if we cannot verbalize that we're good… the thumbs up is a universal way of letting everybody know that we're good.”

Jumping in, stuntman Logan Holladay elaborates, “It's kind like a second nature type of thing, too. I can't speak for everybody, but I don't even realize I do it half the time. As long as you're not seriously broken and you're not seriously hurt, as soon as it's over, the first thing I'm doing is, I'm trying to make eye contact with Chris or get him on the radio and say, ‘We're good. We're good, man. Don't worry about it. Don't need to send anybody in. Everything's OK, let's move on.’”

It’s become so ingrained that Jenkin says it’s part of his daily routine, “I do it in normal day-to-day life too. If you or someone is leaving somewhere and says, ‘Everything good?’ ‘Yep. Yep. Good. Thumbs up.’ It's kind of ingrained into our bodies.”

“My son even does it!” laughs Holladay.

Ryan Gosling with director David Leitch, who was himself a former stuntman.

Universal Studios

With calls for that Stunt Oscar becoming louder and louder each year, a major blockbuster highlighting stunt pros, releasing right at the start of the summer season, the timing couldn’t be better. That it’s a celebration of stunts is one thing, but to have a genuine Guinness World record-breaking stunt is something else entirely. Setting the record for most rolls by a car in a single stunt with eight and a half in a truly wild moment of practical effects madness, Logan Holladay etches his name into the history books forever. When asked about their favorite stunt they performed in the film, Holladay cites that record breaker, but makes it clear that the entire movie is a career high point.

“Yeah, I think the movie as a whole is my favorite stunt (work) I've ever done, but at least for me, I think the cannon roll, being able to win a Guinness Book World Record for it and push it that far and do what we did there. And it wasn't just me doing that,” Holladay says.

He adds, “That was a huge team effort, that was planning and organization done by Chris and special effects building the roll cages … as well as guys out there compacting the sand at 4 o'clock in the morning so that way the stunt goes correctly and everybody working together.”

Jenkin’s favorite stunt involved him having to surf on the door of an armored truck.

Universal Studios

For Jenkin, what stands out most is an astonishing set piece where he, as Gosling as Colt Seavers, has to surf on the door of an armored truck while holding onto said truck as it careens across a bridge.

“The surfing across the Harbor Bridge was so iconic and such a memorable moment. I mean, it's going to be hard to top that situation.” He continues, “When do you get to shut down Sydney's Harbor Bridge and surf on a door, holding a shovel across it for four hours? Everything on this movie, the movie as a whole, was by far the best experience I've ever had as a stuntman.”

It’s this kind of passion and craft that makes being recognized by their peers all the more necessary. They aren’t simply another department on a movie like this; they’re in its very fabric.

“Stunt performers, stunt coordinators, they’re on movies from the beginning before your hair and makeup people, before the people that do get Academy Awards,” says O’Hara, “We are creating, we are stunt designing the sequences of the movie. And so I want people to hopefully realize that as we go through this process.”

The Fall Guy is going to really help us bring light to what a stunt guy does,” O’Hara concludes. “We don’t just fall down. We're not just these jocks or whatever. We are really important to the filmmaking process.”

The Fall Guy is playing in theaters now.

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