Risking your life for the entertainment of others
I recently wrote an article that talked about actors who perform their own stunts in the movies (when a stunt turns into a disaster) and I ended up wondering why they would put themselves through such potentially dangerous acts. I felt that perhaps there was a need for adventure that may otherwise be missing from their cushy lives (great results can come from crazy adventures), but after researching for this article, perhaps there is a little more to it than just that. In that recent article I singled out Tom Cruise as one of those actors who likes to live life on the edge while filming his movies. He will perform stunts that most people, other than professional stunt doubles, would simply shake their head at and walk away. It would appear that Mr. Cruise has a perfectly valid reason for doing those stunts, which can be garnered from the following quote:
I had always believed that putting yourself at risk for the sake of your art had more to do with an overblown sense of vanity or a quest for adventure than anything else. What I didn’t realize is that Tom Cruise does many of the things in real life, such as mountain climbing and motor bike riding, that he does in the movies. What that means is that he doesn’t need to perform those stunts to get his fair share of adventure, especially since he gets all that away from the set. What he is really trying to do is pull us all into the adventure of the movie by making it as real as possible.
Let’s be honest; it’s usually pretty obvious when the stunt double has taken the place of the actor for a particular scene. The hair doesn’t quite match, or looks like a wig, and they have a build and facial features that don’t quite match up with the original. We are usually so invested in the action and adventure taking place on screen that we are willing to forgive that lack of realism for just a moment. The funny thing is, though, when it becomes totally obvious that it’s the actual actor doing the stunt, we begin to question our own vision.
The lasts Mission Impossible movie had Tom Cruise literally running down the side of a glass building, suspended by nothing more than a rope. I watched that scene and, even though I knew he did a lot of his own stunts, wondered how they were able to pull it off. I imagined that a good chunk of it was done with a green screen or some sort of CGI effect that would give the appearance of him being that high up. It turns out there were no real effect put in place, and Cruise did in fact haul off that rather chilling looking stunt on his own. Knowing that he did in fact do the stunts on his own definitely added a real touch of realism to the scene being played out before me.
I would have taken the quote Mr. Cruise made and assumed that it meant he put maximum effort into his work each and every time, but it seems it runs a little deeper than that. His idea of giving it his all in a movie means playing the character to the full extent of the script, even if that means he has to do things most ordinary people would balk at. The chances of me allowing anyone to dangle me out of a window at that type of height are slim to none, no matter how much they are paying me. I am one who believes that actors are horribly overpaid, but when they go that extra mile to bring us all into the adventure and make the movie going experience that much more real, I’m willing to forgive that fortune a little.