They make action films what they are today and without them most of cinema's awe-inspiring scenes would be virtually unthinkable, yet Hollywood's stunt artists mostly go unnoticed though they put their lives on the line time and time again.
The below four unsung heroes gave their roles their all and, tragically, paid the biggest debt imaginable in order to bring awesome entertainment to audiences worldwide. We are forever grateful.
1. Scott McLean for Ed Helms - 'The Hangover: Part Two'
Scott McLean was doubling for Ed Helms on The Hangover sequel when his head smashed into a moving vehicle. The collision was caused while performing a stunt requiring him to lean out of the window of a moving car and left him with life threatening head injuries.
According to McLean the event was due to a last minute change in timing in a stunt which called for a high level of precision, the alteration caused a second car to spin out of control and collide with his vehicle.
His partner Raelene Chapman said at the time,
'There was so much damage. He was a mess. He used to look after me, now it's my turn to look after him for a change. It's my mission: I'm going to get him back. I really do believe from the bottom of my heart, that if anyone can go through this journey and deal with it, then it's him.'
2. Olivia Jackson for Milla Jovovich - 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter'
In September 2015 Milla Jovovich's stunt double Olivia Jackson sustained horrific injuries while shooting in South Africa after hitting a metal camera arm at high speed. Spending two weeks in a medically-induced coma, Jackson was informed she would need to have her arm amputated.
She told The Sun,
‘My left arm is paralysed and is going to have to be amputated. My facial scarring is horrible and I wish I had my old face. But I’m truly grateful to be alive.’
Following the incident Milla Jocovich took to Facebook to pray for her stuntwoman's recovery, the post you can read in its entirety below:
“I sit down to write this post with a heavy heart, because a terrible accident rocked our set on Saturday the 5th of September. My incredibly talented stunt double, Olivia Jackson, collided with a camera crane while performing a motorcycle stunt and it put her in the hospital with severe, multiple injuries. The cast and crew of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter have been totally devastated and are waiting with bated breath for news on her recovery – we now understand she is stable and being carefully monitored by very experienced South African doctors.
“I wasn’t personally there to witness it, but from the reports I got, it was awful. None of us have experienced anything like this in our careers making action films and hope we never do again, but the production reacted very quickly to ensure she received the best care and also in reaching out to her family and making sure they were informed and looked after during this overwhelmingly difficult time. Thank God, they have been by her side through out this harrowing week.
“Its a miracle that she survived. I didn’t know her very well, as we were all just getting going with the film, but the few times we rehearsed together, I really looked up to her because she danced through the choreography, beautiful and graceful. It’s a testament to Olivia’s strength that she managed to survive and also the quick reaction of our on set safety officer and his team that she has finally been pronounced stable.
“All of us here have been praying every single day for her and her family and sending our thoughts out hoping some of the positive energy reaches her, because she truly needs it… I would really appreciate it if you would take a moment out of your busy days ahead and pray for Olivia’s full recovery too. She needs all the help she can get right now and every bit of the good energy we can send.”
3. David Holmes for Daniel Radcliffe - 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1'
Holmes was working on a flying stunt for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 back in 2009, he was thrown against a wall, fracturing his neck and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down with limited mobility in his arms and hands at only 25 years old.
Talking to the Mirror, Holmes recounted the traumatic ordeal which has left him in a wheelchair:
“I hit the wall and then landed on the crash mat underneath. My stunt co-ordinator grabbed my hand and said, ‘Squeeze my fingers’. I could move my arm to grab his hand but I couldn’t squeeze his fingers.
I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major.
I remember slipping in and out of consciousness because of the pain levels. I’d broken a bone before, so recognising that weird feeling across my whole body from my fingertips right down to my toes, I knew I had really done some damage.”
4. Harry L. O’Connor for Vin Diesel - 'xXx'
After brilliantly completing the first take which required O'Connor to rappel down a parasailing line and land on a submarine, his ambition for perfection lead him to repeat the stunt. However, on the second take he did not rappel fast enough, hitting a bridge at great speed and was killed instantly.
Director Rob Cohen included the first take — with the last moments omitted — in the final cut out of respect for the stuntman's work. For those interested, you can skip to 2:10 to watch the paragliding scene in action: