When it comes to stunts, some actors go all in - and they’ve got the missing front teeth and casts to prove it. Here are SPYSCAPE’s Top 10 audacious and gravity-defying celebrity stunt artists:
James Bond is known for bungee jumping off of a dam or having a fistfight on a cargo net hanging from a Hercules. Daniel Craig doesn’t like heights however, so he had to breathe deeply during the crane chase in Casino Royale then gamely jump out of a three-story window onto a moving bus in Quantum of Solace. So far, he’s lost two front teeth and had operations on his shoulder, an ankle, and both knees. So when he’s not shooting 007 films, does Craig hang off the side of a train and fly jets for fun? “Yeah, my hobby is skydiving - it’s not,” he laughs. “I wish I could say that. It’s macrame.”
Jeremy Renner (Mission Impossible: Fallout, Avenger’s Endgame) is happy doing action scenes - including motorcycle racing in The Bourne Legacy and snowmobiling in Wind River: “I just wouldn’t do something where I would break my head.” Renner did break both arms though, tumbling off of a 20-foot high stack of chairs while filming the comedy Tag but he kept going as the director needed a second take. Renner brushed away suggestions he has a death wish. “Not at all. The only time I ever got injured was in a comedy.”
Angelina Jolie was offered a leading role in a 007 film but turned it down because she’d rather be Bond, according to Sunil Perkash who produced Jolie’s spy thriller Salt. The actress does 99% of her own stunts, including rolling off of a bridge onto a speeding truck In Salt. Jolie discovered her athletic talent while training with the British military for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: “You find that there’s a lot you didn’t know and some crazy, weird things you can do or you’re capable of, so I love it.”
Action superhero Matt Damon is trained in weapons and combat, boxing, and Filipino Escrima martial arts. The actor is also happy plummeting off a bridge onto a moving boat, so imagine Damon’s surprise when he walked onto a 700-foot high helipad at a Dubai hotel in 2004 and realized he had a big problem: Damon is afraid of heights: “I went full lizard brain,” he recalled. “I completely froze. It was like I couldn’t physically move.” While it hasn’t slowed him down, you’ll notice Damon’s stunts are more grounded than most!
Gal Gadot missed the Wonder Woman premiere because she was in surgery for a hernia, then hurt her neck and shoulder In Wonder Woman 1984. To get her through the difficult stunts, Gadot relies on her 12 years of experience as a dancer and her military training - Gadot enlisted as a combat fitness instructor with the Israeli Defense Force at age 20. Things don’t always go according to plan, however. “It is what it is,” she said. “It’s all about learning the choreography and the timing and it’s all about the movement.”
Jennifer Lawrence was in ballet boot camp for three months to train as a ballerina-turned-spy in Red Sparrow, but only had six weeks to prep for Hunger Games. Lawrence’s schedule included track and agility drills, medicine ball workouts, sprints, and lessons in tree climbing and log jumping. She had an ear-to-ear grin during skipping workouts, but Lawrence is particularly proud of her archery skills: “They’re good. If someone held really, really still I think I could kill them. Maybe. From like, three feet away.”
Christian Bale’s workload was so onerous in Batman Begins - 16 fights in just one movie - the stunt team used doubles to block out the action then brought Bale in to fine tune the scene. He’d learn the choreography on tape at night, then fight the next day. It helps that Bale has a photographic memory so he could learn 20 moves in 30 minutes. Once Bale was wearing the suit, he transformed into Batman: “You must become a monster,” he said. “So you feel like an animal when you’re inside that suit.”
Charlize Theron (Atomic Blonde) and Keanu Reeves (John Wick) share something in common - the share the same stunt trainers. Theron grew up around Chuck Norris and Charles Bronson movies so doesn’t mind a few bumps and bruises. But her role in Aeon Flux (2005) really tested her. Theron trained with Cirque du Soleil acrobats for three months but didn’t share their double-jointed flexibility and almost broke her neck. Now she’s surrounded by her own training team. “I have no business doing back handsprings,” Theron said. “I’m not a gymnast. You’re not going to learn that in three months.”
Jackie Chan (The Spy Next Door) said he was ‘really scared’ to slide down an exploding lightbulb pole in Police Story (1985). The entire shopping mall went quiet waiting for his insane jump. “I think I’m gonna die,” Chan recalled. But he landed safely and was so pumped with adrenaline he danced and wrestled with his stunt double afterward while 600 extras screamed and cheered. It wasn’t until later that the actor realized he’d stripped the skin from both hands and all of the energy had drained from his body. Chan couldn’t even open a car door afterward.
Tom Cruise is in a league of his own when it comes to stunts and he’s still pushing the boundaries. Mission Impossible: 7 boasts the most dangerous jump of his career so far - driving a motorbike off a cliff. Cruise told Empire what was going on in his mind at the time: “If the wind was too strong, it would blow me off the ramp,” he said. “I didn’t want to be hammering down that ramp at top speed and get hit by a stone. Or if I departed in a weird way, we didn’t know what was going to happen with the bike. I had about six seconds once I departed the ramp to pull the chute and I don’t want to get tangled in the bike. If I do, that’s not going to end well.”