As you watch the action hero on the screen, you're amazed at how he's able to dodge death at every turn. From exciting car chases and frantic fistfights to death-defying leaps from trains and explosions all around, today's movie stars survive some unbelievable dangers.
Of course, you probably know that most actors aren't really defying death throughout the filming of a movie. The most popular actors make way too much money for movie producers to consider putting them in harm's way.
So how do they film all those incredible scenes? All of those examples we've mentioned — and the hundreds more you can probably think of — are called stunts. Sometimes filmmakers film actual reality, such as two people talking. At other times, though, they create scenes that are illusions called stunts. The action in these scenes looks real, but it's far from it.
Stunts have been around since the earliest days of movies. From the first fights in movies, filmmakers had to figure out a way to make it look like people were fighting without anyone getting hurt.
As movies got more sophisticated and complex, they began to involve more complicated stunts, such as fires, explosions, car chases and the like. Often these scenes required real people to be involved, but the movie stars of the day were too valuable to risk their health — and sometimes lives — creating stunts.
So filmmakers began to use stuntmen. These were real actors who would perform stunts instead of the main stars. They don't make as much money as the movie stars, and they often get injured on the job. However, they love their jobs because of the excitement involved. Plus, it's just fun to be involved in making movies!
If this doesn't seem quite fair, consider things from the filmmaker's perspective. If the main movie star gets hurt, the entire production could be delayed for months or even stopped permanently. On the other hand, if a stuntman gets hurt, he could be replaced with another stuntman, so the production could continue as scheduled.
Today, some movie stars do their own stunts. For example, movie star Jackie Chan got his start as a stuntman. He even still does some of his own stunts in his movies. While some stars do their own minor stunts, more complicated, dangerous stunts are still left for the stuntmen to handle.
Increasingly, the most dangerous stunts are being created purely with computer-generated special effects. These effects still look real on the big screen, but they don't require putting anyone in harm's way to get that really cool explosion on film.