Art of action

Death-defying crashes, carefully planned tumbles from towering heights, elaborate explosions...

Death-defying crashes, carefully planned tumbles from towering heights, elaborate explosions — they are the lifeblood of the summer movie season and most of the time these stunts and action sequences come off without a hitch.

There are the rare occasions, however, when film shoots make the news for all the wrong reasons — when things go horribly awry and people get injured.

Just last month James Bond’s preferred mode of transportation, the venerable Aston Martin DBS — this one en route to the set of the latest 007 flick Quantum Of Solace — swerved off a slick northern Italian road and into Lake Garda.

The driver wound up in hospital, but later recovered. The same could not be said for the six-figure sports car.

Other accidents have proven far more lethal.

In 2007, cinematographer Roland Schlotzhauer was killed shooting aerial sequences for the film The Final Season when his helicopter struck power lines and crashed.

The life of promising action star Brandon Lee, son of legendary martial arts expert Bruce Lee, came to a tragic end in 1993 when a stunt involving a gun loaded with dummy cartridges ended in his fatal shooting.

A decade earlier, a pyrotechnic malfunction on the set of the 1983 film The Twilight Zone: The Movie resulted in a helicopter crash, killing actor Vic Morrow and two child actors.

While accidents such as these are few and far between, stunt co-ordinators such as Anthony De Longis, who trained actor Harrison Ford in his trademark palm-down bullwhip cracking technique for the new film Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, take every precaution to ensure safety while on set.

“As far as the whip goes, I have a very specific protocol,” De Longis says of his dealings with the potentially lethal tool.

“As far as being surrounded by a crew, they are made very aware that this is the path of the whip. We will arrange the action so that nothing is going to get hit by accident … but it just seems so effortless and smooth (people) think, you won’t hit them. No, I won’t if I know you’re there, but don’t come sneaking up behind me because I’m focused on keeping the people in front of me safe.”
Graham Kelly, veteran stuntman and action vehicle co-ordinator on the film National Treasure 2, echoes De Longis’ sentiment that seemingly innocuous action scenes and props can pose a danger when used carelessly or without ample preparation.

While both film veterans boast relatively accident-free careers, they stress that awareness and safety protocols are the key to maintaining those records.

– With files from RICK MCGINNIS

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