After breathtaking performances in Baby Driver, The Accountant, The Walking Dead and of course, The Punisher, Jon Bernthal has some serious experience when it comes to adrenaline-fueled action films - along with doing plenty of his own stunts.
This experience, which has seen him through broken hands, torn ligaments, concussions and emergency surgery, mimics many of the injuries that film industry stunt performers are expected to go through. In an interview with Comicbook.com, the actor shared some of the challenges of filming stunts for Marvel's TV shows, and called for some much-needed appreciation for his associates in the stunt community.
With the exception of a few daring actors, most action sequences couldn't be done without the work of stunt performers - some of whom have died on set too. So here's a special showcase of our top 5 picks for the most incredible stunts ever performed on film, and the legendary, death-defying people who made them happen.5. Yakima Canutt - Stagecoach
Starting with the classics, this 1939 Western is known for two things - kickstarting the career of the quintessential onscreen American cowboy, John Wayne, and this absolutely insane scene.
Legendary stuntman and stunt coordinator Yakima Canutt was known for inventing many important forms of stunt equipment still in use today, but he proved that he still had it in him by not only dismounting a horse mid-gallop, but also sliding underneath six of them and their carriage, and then leaping from horse to horse in another scene. Many consider him to be the grandfather of cinema stunt production.4. Tom Cruise - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Tom 'Does His Own Stunts' Cruise has been an action hero icon for over 30 years now - and still continues to do some downright insane stuff for his films' setpieces, raising the bar higher than ever before in 2011's MI:GP - quite literally.
Cruise spent over 200 hours rehearsing the scene on set - before jumping out of the window of the world's tallest building, running like a madman across its windows while dangling a dizzying 1,700 feet in the air. When reporters questioned the actor in the days leading up to the shoot, he had a simple response - “I hope I don't fall.”3. David Belle - District B13
While several action films have tried to capture the novelty and social media popularity of parkour artists, who leap, slide, sprint and somersault through urban cityscapes, they usually reserve this for specific scenes, brought together through stunt doubles, wires and CGI effects. Not French action classic District B13 however. This film picked up the founder of parkour himself, David Belle, and cast him as the lead character.
The result? Possibly the best rooftop chase in cinematic history.2. Adam Kirkley - Casino Royale
Possibly one of the most expensive stunts on this list, the stunt team for Daniel Craig's first Bond film produced around $1.25 million worth of wrecked Aston Martin DBS cars, and a stunt for the record books.
When the initial plan of using a ramp resulted in a lukewarm jump due to the car's high-performance, stable chassis, the team used a nitrogen powered piston to launch the car (and stunt driver Adam Kirkley) into a spectacular series of rolls - seven in total, which put the stunt into the Guinness Book Of World Records.1. Jackie Chan - Police Story
A top stuntman list without Jackie Chan? Impossible.
Having broken pretty much every bone in his body while becoming synonymous with kung-fu action stunts, the beloved action star pulled off one of the most painful, daring and downright dangerous stunts in history during this 1985 hit.
Skinned and friction-burned palms. Electric shocks. Lacerations due to glass. A damaged back and to top off this pain sundae, a dislocated pelvis - no wonder one of Jackie's stuntmen performed a prayer and presented him with a Buddha statue before he performed this one. And given the risk these superhumans put themselves through, Bernthal's following statement makes even more sense:
“They're my brothers, they're the people I'm closest with on set. I think it's absolutely a crime there's not an Academy Award for stunt performers. The stunt community, they're the ones really putting it on the line. The creativity that comes out of the stunt community is mind-boggling. I think nowadays, it's one of the key reasons why people go and seek out entertainment, because of how good the stunts are, and there are people actually doing that. I train with those guys every day, I try to go in full-out. It's kind of the mantra of a stunt guy, 'Do it hard, do it once.' Don't pull a punch, because then you're gonna have to do it 15 times. 'Just hit me, and do it once.' So we try to live by that.”
Yet, as Bernthal points out, their efforts still go unrecognised on award night. But we sincerely hope that the Academy will take Bernthal's suggestions seriously. Along with Tarantino's latest flick, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, there seems to be a growing awareness of stunt performers in the industry, and they deserve to be recognised.