I didn't want to use a stunt man, because I wanted to use a telephoto lens and zoom in slowly all the way to my face so you could see it was really me. I put on a little disguise and slipped into a sneak preview of the film to see how people liked it. When I was hanging up there in the air, the woman in front of me said to her friend, "Gee, I wonder how they did that?" and her friend said, "Special effects."
What do Charlie Chaplin
, Buster Keaton
, Harold Lloyd
, and Jackie Chan
all have in common?
Answer: They performed all their own stunts.
There are a few flavours to this.
- The actor is a stuntperson in his or her own right—in other words, they've got the training and the skill. Quite common in Silent Films, when stunt doubles were almost unknown and No OSHA Compliance was a Real Life fact.
- Some actors insist on doing their own stunts—then they get injured and realize that yes, a professional stunt person really is necessary. In other words, they grow up.
- Smarter actors who want to do their own stunts but are aware that some things are best left to the professionals work closely with the stunt coordinator and their team to do as many shots as they can themselves as well as the easier stunts while using doubles for the bigger and riskier ones.
- The actor only claims to do their own stunts.
- Virtually exclusive to In-Universe instances (often action series), where the hero will be hired or persuaded to protect an actor who does their own stunts. If the actor only claims to do their own stunts, the protagonist's job is to keep the truth from coming out.
Live Action TV
- Burt Lancaster did his own stunts - not surprising considering he was a former circus acrobat prior to becoming an actor.
- Clint Eastwood did his own stunts.
- Jackie Chan, although this has faded as he's gotten older.
- Tom Cruise is also known for doing his own stunts (for example, in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol).
- Michelle Yeoh always does her own stunts, which is why she is considered the Distaff Counterpart to Jackie Chan.
- Taylor Lautner does this a lot in his movies.
- Viggo Mortensen: Broke his toe, lost a tooth, and nearly drowned while filming The Lord of the Rings, did many of his own stunts, was described by legendary swordmaster Bob Anderson as "the best swordsman I've ever trained" (which is saying something in a 50-year career), and kept his sword with him at all times for the duration of the filming. Oh, and slept in the stables in order to bond with his horse. Stabbed himself in the leg while shooting Alatriste, and kept filming.
- Basil Rathbone was one of the finest on-screen fencers of his day and didn't use stunt doubles - except in The Court Jester, where Danny Kaye was Flynning faster than Rathbone could keep up with.
- Christopher Lee is considered one of the finest swordsmen in film history, and has always done his own swordwork—even in the Star Wars prequels (though a stunt double was used for the jumping and running scenes). He also served as an uncredited stunt driver on The Man with the Golden Gun.
- Being 6-foot-5 usually required Lee to do his own stunts for the simple fact that most of the stunt men weren't tall enough to double for him.
- Bethany Hamilton was played by AnnaSophia Robb in her biopic Soul Surfer but did the surfing scenes herself. It is convenient to have a one-armed surfer playing the part of a one-armed surfer.
- Summer Glau is well trained in several martial arts, so doesn't require a stunt double for most of her fight scenes. Bigger stunts she'll take one, but she can convincingly sell beating up multiple opponents much bigger than her.
- Johnny Yong Bosch did his own stunts for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie after his stunt double got injured.
- Donald Sutherland insisted on performing his own stunts in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This made director Philip Kaufman nervous because the catwalk at the pod factory was nearly 50 ft up in the air and there were very real explosions. In fact, Sutherland barely missed one of them; an extra, however, missed his cue and was injured by it.
- Bodybuilders such as Steve Reeves and Reg Park did their own stunts while working on the low budget sword and sandal Hercules films of the late 1950s and early 1960s in Italy because their large, muscular physiques made it nearly impossible for the low budget Italian film crews to find stunt men big enough to double for them. And of course, being athletes as well as bodybuilders it was usually cheaper to just let them do it themselves.
- Not surprisingly their spiritual successors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren typically did their own stunts as well.
- James Cagney famously insisted on working his own fight scenes, having been a Boisterous Bruiser in real life.
- Jeffery Donovan
- in The Wild Wild West, Robert Conrad did almost all his own stunts. One stunt went horribly wrong, almost killing him and shutting down production of the series for 3 months. After Conrad recovered they picked up where they left off, and used the botched stunt in the final cut of the episode in question.
- David Boreanaz
- Lou Ferrigno did his own stunts in The Incredible Hulk, mostly because they couldn't find a stuntman who looked anything like him.
- In The Brady Bunch Hawaii episodes, the actor that played Greg did his own surfing scene, and scraped his feet on the sharp coral.
- Maggie Q of CW's Nikita always does her stunts.
- Hiroshi Fujioka, the first Kamen Rider actor did his own stunts... until an accident ended up breaking his leg. This was worked into the show with Kamen Rider 2, the first of the franchise's secondary riders, and from then on, to prevent another similar incident, every toku hero henceforth was portrayed by suit actors. Having said that, while toku actors usually have very few unmorphed fight scenes in the show itself (to prevent the same thing that happened to Hiroshi Fujioka), in their movies, they often have plenty, and they mostly do their own stunts there.
- Minami Tsukui, playing Yoko Minato/Kamen Rider Marika in Kamen Rider Gaim does her own stunts, both fighting untransformed and as the suit actor for when her character transformed as well.
- Amy Dumas (Lita) did her own stuntwork in her episode of Dark Angel, but unfortunately she injured herself doing it.
- As his castmates in Power Rangers Dino Thunder put it, there are stunt doubles and there is Jason David Frank. He has done his own stunts, but became less eager to do high risk stunts after he pulled off the infamous rapids cliff dive in the Power Rangers Turbo movie.
- Looking at stills from the filming of the 50th anniversary episode, it seems that Matt Smith is doing his own stunts.
- For one particular stunt in the TV series Wonder Woman - clinging onto a helicopter in flight - Lynda Carter convinced her stunt double to let her do it instead. Carter got chewed out for risking her life like that.
- Craig Charles made a point of doing all his own stunts on Red Dwarf. His co-stars joke that he's Made of Iron thanks to all the bumps he's taken over the years.
- On Hawaii Five-0, Alex O'Loughlin originally liked to do as many of his stunts as possible. However, he injured his shoulder on set in 2011 and became addicted to the painkillers he took for it, necessitating him going into rehab and Commander McGarrett being Put on a Bus for part of season three. After The Bus Came Back, he was much more sensible about what he did and what he allowed a stunt double to do for him.
- Within the Marvel universe, Simon Williams, AKA Wonder Man, performs his own stunts, thanks to his powers essentially giving him an indestructible body in the way that he doesn't even have a physical form.
- In one Archie Comics comic, Archie and Reggie were movie stars—Archie was a stuntman, but had to cover up the fact Reggie didn't do his own stunts.
- In Nip and Tuck, Nip does all his own stunts—he trained as a stuntman.
- In 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure, Thunderbolt is a stunt dog—though he needs everything scripted.