The Fall Guy

Posted on May 1, 2024 at 10:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action and violence, drug content and some strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, jokes about getting tipsy, drug use, including hallucinations
Violence/ Scariness: Extended real and fictional peril and action, fights, guns and other weapons, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 3, 2024

“The Fall Guy” is a love letter to movie-making, to all of the work, all of the heart, all of the expertise from hundreds of people that goes into telling our stories. It is a love letter to the audience, filled with action, romance, comedy, impossibly gorgeous, magnificently talented ,and endlessly charismatic performers, and with joy. Most of all, it is a love letter to the unsung heroes who do the crazy daredevil stunts that make the world’s most beloved movie stars look athletic and courageous. It is pure popcorn pleasure and I cannot wait to see it again.

There’s just a tincture of the 80s television series that lends its name, its theme song, character name, and a brief cameo from its star, Lee Majors). This is the story of stunt man Ryan Gosling as Colt Seavers, who is the long-time substitute for one of the world’s biggest Hollywood action stars, Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) when the script calls for anything that might be dangerous. The job of the stunt performers is to do the crazy things that make audiences gasp and cheer: cars rolling over, falls from great heights, fighting with fists, feet, and weapons, dangling from helicopters, racing speedboats. Basically, they get paid a minuscule fraction of what the star is paid to get all of the bruises, burns. and broken bones, do to it over and over, to make sure their faces do not show and ruin the illusion, and to give a thumbs-up to show that they are fine after every take.

Colt has a crush on a cinematographer and would-be director, Jody Moreno (Emily Blunt). But when Tom insists on a re-do of a fall from the top of a skyscraper atrium because he thinks too much of Colt’s chin was showing, something goes wrong and Colt is badly injured. Over the next 18 months, as he slowly recovers, he works as a parking valet and his relationship with Jody ends in hurt and disappointment.

And then Colt gets a call from Tom’s long-time producer, Gail Meyer (“Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham). Tom is making a huge sci-fi film in Australia and Gail wants Colt to do the stunts. He says no. She says Jody asked for him. He says, “Get me an aisle seat.”

Once he gets to Sydney, Gail tells Colt that Tom has disappeared and she wants Colt to find him. He also finds out that Jody did not ask for him because (1) she is surprised to see him and not happy about it and (2) she fires him. Literally. Like, she has him do a stunt where he’s on fire and gets slammed into a rock — three times.

There is so much more I’m longing to tell you about what happens next but I want you to have the pleasure of discovering it all for yourselves. I will just say that Gosling and Blunt have chemistry for days and are clearly having a blast perfecting the balance between action, comedy, romance, and mystery, there are dozens of sly jokes about Hollywood and filmmaking, Winston Duke is a dream as the stunt coordinator (if you have not seen him in “Black Panther” and “Nine Days” and “Us,” three roles that could not be more different, watch them!), there’s a stunt dog who only understands French, and while you may expect the stunts to be amazing, they are amazing times amazing. Real-life stunt performer-turned director David Leitch likes to take Hollywood’s handsomest leading men (Brad Pitt in “Bullet Train,” Gosling here) and make them scruffy and in need of a comeback, always a choice choice. Be sure to stay through the credits for behind the scenes footage of the real stunt performers and an extra scene.

Parents should know that this is an action film with extended real and fictional (stunt) peril and violence, with guns and other weapons, fight scenes, characters injured and killed, drinking and jokes about being tipsy, drugs, and some strong language.

Family discussion: What’s your go-to karaoke song and why? Why is it hard to apologize? Would you like to see the movie Colt and Jody are making?

If you like this, try: “The Stunt Man” (some mature material) with Peter O’Toole as the director of a WWI movie who impulsively hires an escaped convict as a stunt performer, and stunt-filled films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Fast X” and another movie from this director, also with Taylor-Johnson, “Bullet Train”

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Interview: Trevor Habberstad on the Stunts in “Ant-Man”

Posted on December 10, 2015 at 8:00 am

Trevor Habberstad, a second generation stuntman, coordinated the stunts for the Marvel movie, Ant-Man. In an interview, we talked about the special challenges of creating stunts for a superhero who is only a fraction of an inch high. “We had a lot of time during pre-production to work on it. We had three months of stunt preps, and daily meetings with Peyton , our director, with Paul , even with the Marvel executives Kevin Fiege and Victoria Alonso and all of them, talking about what his limitations were and we’d say, ‘Okay, well this works, that doesn’t. That seems like it could be feasible. Let’s see if we could come up with something cool where that could play into script and into the story.’ And then maybe we would think of something that we thought was maybe really cool and then we got into it and started rehearsing the stunts and it just may not have worked. So it’s a lot of collaborating with each other and sort of figuring out what we liked, what was fun, what was exciting, what was believable, but still made the superhero a superhero.”

He is small, but he has the same power he had at full-size. The question was not how to make the stunts obey the laws of physics but how to make them seem like they do. “Okay, if he is half an inch tall but he is normally a 6 foot tall guy, 180 pounds, you take all that power and energy into that small person, so as he shrinking down, is he dense? What would happen if he gets hit? Is he really heavy when he’s that way? No because you want him to run alongside people and they would notice if he is there and he still felt like 180 pounds just crammed into half an inch. Okay so that doesn’t work, so you know what, he is a superhero so we’re just going to go with that and that’s going to be our explanation for that one. He is small but he is still really strong. Most of what we were able to come up with a logical as far as a superhero movie goes. He could punch someone but he has to be careful because with the force of my fist hitting something if I took that same amount of energy and pass it into a fist that size then I can really hurt somebody with a punch. So a part of the movie is where he trains, he learns from Hope Dyne how to properly fight so he doesn’t kill people but he can still be strong and destructive and be Ant-Man.”

Copyright Disney 2015
Copyright Disney 2015

ant-man crouchA highlight of the film is the fight on a train which is very intense — and then it turns out to be a child’s Thomas the Tanks engine toy train set. “We did all the movements with motion capture, so we had our stunt doubles, actors in motion capture suits on a sound stage and we were capturing all their movements with a bunch of cameras all over the place and they have these suits that look like pajamas with a bunch of shiny balls all over them, tracking every little movement. And then we would recreate the scene step-by-step. Our group would build a little set piece to mockup, ‘Okay this is going to be the train, and this is the engine, this is the caboose, is going to be standing here, he is standing over here.’ We were able to play pretend like you would when you are kid just on a really, really large Marvel-size scale.” One of the stunts that came out of this process was the idea that Ant-Man would run toward a door full-size, then shrink down to jump through the keyhole, and then be full-size again on the other side of the door. “That’s the awesome part for us; we get to help influence the story.”

Habberstad’s father is a stuntman, and so his first stunt job was riding a horse in the Andy Garcia film, Steal Big, Steal Little when he was just five years old.
He can do “anything movement-based, but in general I think my best skill is that I have a very diverse set of skills. I can do a little of everything and that make me more versatile, makes me more valuable to a production.” The best advice he ever got about stunts is equally applicable to any endeavor: “Shut up and watch and ask questions if you don’t know what something is. Ask because you’ve got to know what you don’t know.”

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Behind the Scenes Interview

Tom Cruise Tells Kevin McCarthy about the Airplane Stunt in “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”

Posted on July 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

My friend Kevin McCarthy asked Tom Cruise how he shot that incredible stunt that has him holding onto the side of a plane while it takes off for “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.” The 53-year-old actor did the stunt himself, no green screen, with contacts to protect his eyes that prevented him from seeing anything, and his primary concern was making sure his legs were dangling enough to make it look real.

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