Every good director needs to know how to collaborate with their stunt crew, but few directors have as much first-hand knowledge as David Leitch. The 48-year-old director is perhaps best known for making hits like Bullet Train, Atomic Blonde, and deadpool 2, but he built his career as a longtime stuntman, often dubbing for A-listers like Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Now he pays homage to the often-overlooked world of stunts by directing the new action-comedy The Fall Guy (releases May 3).
“The stuntmen and all the blue-collar crews struggled this year because we had labor strikes,” Leitch tells EW. “They are the ones who really make the magic happen. I just thought it was time to tell a story from their point of view.
More than just highlighting the skills of the stunt team The Fall Guy, Leach also wanted to make sure they got some dramatic moments. The director confirms that several stuntmen play characters throughout the film, such as Justin Eaton, a top-notch martial artist who has a small but memorable supporting role.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but Justin has a small role playing a stunt double on set,” teases Leitch. “It’s life imitating art, so maybe I shouldn’t stretch too far to play this character. It’s a fun, pivotal role. I also have a whole bunch of bad guys. That’s a lot of faces that the stunt community will recognize and cheer for, even though they’re the bad guys.”
Inspired by the classic 80’s TV show starring Lee Majors, The Fall Guy stars Ryan Gosling as a down-on-his-luck stuntman named Colt Sievers. Colt gets a job on an over-the-top blockbuster directed by his ex-girlfriend Jody (Emily Blunt), handling every car chase and taking every painful blow. But when the film’s lead actor Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) goes missing, Colt promises Jodie that he’ll find her missing star, using his screen skills to navigate a very real world of danger.
Obviously, making a stunt movie means you need some pretty impressive stunts, and Leitch says he and the team turned The Fall Guy as something of a “bucket list” opportunity, wanting to cover as many practical sequences of actions as possible. He notes that the stunt community has evolved since the original Fall Guy was on television and its purpose was to highlight the impressive and varied skills of its performers.
“It used to be that there were just these hard-boiled cowboys who had a lot of guts and determination and would just push the button and go,” he explains. “My generation started to really specialize in different disciplines, like martial arts, motorcycles, cars, rigging. Cascades have become very specialized. We had an opportunity in this film not only to highlight people at the best of their discipline under the umbrella of stunts, but also to achieve some accomplishments.”
These achievements include ambitious feats such as a 150-foot drop and a scene in which Gosling himself surfs behind a garbage truck. (The production was filmed in Sydney, Australia, and Leach is extremely grateful that the city allowed them to close the Sydney Harbor Bridge for the shoot: “They were really supportive and let us lock it down for a couple of hours to drive it with 40 miles per hour behind him the back of a truck.”)
He also praised some of the many performers who dub Gosling on screen, calling their talent “humbling”. Logan Holladay, for example, is an experienced stuntman who handles most of the scenes where Colt gets behind the wheel. “We wanted to do some big car jumps and some amazing cannon shots, so we really let him bring his expertise and do his stuff at the highest level,” explains Leitch.
As for Ethan, aside from his minor role in the The Fall Guy, Leitch wanted to give him some “heightened” fight scenes to properly showcase his skills. And Ben Jenkins voiced Gosling in multiple scenes. “He comes from a freestyle parkour background, so there’s a great foot chase in the film,” adds Leitch. “He’s also a great physical counterpart, so we hit him with a car, whatever. Everyone has to do a classic version of what they’re really good at, and hopefully we’ve taken it to the next level.”
The result, Leitch hopes, is an action extravaganza that pays homage to the world he loves. He points out that even in 2023 the Oscars still they don’t have a stunt recognition category, something he’d like to see fixed.
“Maybe it’s always been in the DNA of the job,” he says. “We’re kind of like the ninjas of the movie business. We create the magic, but we don’t get the credit. Maybe it always will be, but I hope not. I hope that our voices will be heard and that we will start to be recognized.”
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