Sci-Fi action thriller The Hunger Games (directed by Gary Ross) proves that audiences want to see action, drama, and perhaps more importantly, great stunt work!
To date, the film has grossed nearly $500M worldwide. Critics have compared THG’s staying power to that of Avatar and Titanic. The film’s female centered cast and compelling action sequences have been credited as the key elements to the film’s success.
The Hunger Games’ stunt performers, as well as stars Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, and Liam Hemsworth, have called their THG stunt training the most intense of their careers. Stage Combat moves are abound in the film, with actors taking each other on with knives, bow and arrow, and seemingly anything they can get their hands on! The chaotic fight sequences keep the action moving and the audiences hearts pounding .
Action reigns supreme in this box office smash – as is the case with nearly all of the top grossing films in history.
Stunt Coordinator TJ White with Stuntwoman Boni Yanagisawa
Stunt training actors and actresses is something that elite stunt coordinators and stuntmen do quite often on set. The reason there is an industry in stunts is because in most cases it is impossible for an actor to be able to act and have the ability to perform all stunts. Although in many cases there are a few that insist on doing some of the labor and in more cases the directors are the ones that require the actor to enlist in stunt training so they can get their shot for their action sequence.
Using the Bourne film series as an example of why stunt training actors can increase profit in the box office. These films wouldn’t be as thrilling if you didn’t see Matt Damon speeding through the streets of Paris in a Mini Cooper. The fight sequences wouldn’t be as brutal if you didn’t see a glimpse of Damon’s face versus just the back of his stunt double’s head. Of course his double is there to do more of the extreme and technical aspects but directors know what audiences want and they want to believe their favorite action hero can actually do most if not some of the stunts.
As filmmaking advances with new technology there is an advancement that is happening within the actors as well. With new creative ideas of how stunts can be done and how far the line can be crossed the evolution of stunt training actors has to forge ahead.
Today, it is a fact that stunt training has elevated the action actor into another realm of fame and glory. Tom Cruise’s ability to train and do many of his stunts in the Mission: Impossible film series is due to the hard efforts of the stunt department training and perfecting his proficiency in stunts. Audiences flock to the theater to see Cruise be Ethan Hunt because they believe the action. Fans don’t like to be fooled so when they see their action actor performing alongside their doubles it gives them a sense of relief to know that their badass hero that they just spent $20 dollars to go see at the theater is delivering the goods.
Training begins many weeks and even months before any director ever yells “Action!” In pre-production the stunt training can include motorcycle driving, stunt driving, and various forms of fighting to make sure that the actor is believable when it comes time to film. When the actors have gone as far as they can go then the stuntmen and stuntwomen come into play. Many stunt performers include: college athletes, cirque de soliel performers, high divers, Olympic athletes, MMA fighters, NASCAR drivers, and even sensi’s themselves. These experts will work alongside the actor to create a reality that then can be taken on screen and be creditable.
As always safety is rule number one and stunt coordinators and stuntmen will always be sure to use proper stunt equipment and pads to reduce the risk of injury. It is important to have well qualified coordinators on set and involved with the stunt training because if your lead actor gets injured because he or she thought she could do the stunt, well then your whole picture is postponed and all your momentum becomes deflated along with the studio’s pocket book.
Stuntman Tanoai Reed, Stunt Coordinator TJ White and MMA Fighter Tito Ortiz
A Fight Choreographer or a Fight Coordinator is a very technical job and usually assist a Stunt Coordinator with fight scenes. there background usually are expo fighters, trainers, black-belts in various disciplines. These highly train people have years of training spending thousands and hours and dollars on there given profession. They usually train the actors, stunt performers months before a shoot so that they can get the choreography down. During pre-production they film various choreography of the scene so that the director can get view it and get a feel of what the scene will look like.
Pictured in the photos in this blog are Stunt Coordinator TJ White and Fight Choreographer Kelly Carter putting together a MMA fight scene for Director Dean Karr and his music video “Truth” for the band Seether.
Kelly Carter also has a back ground in AIS and Strength and Conditioning training, and MMA. TJ felt he was the right choice to not only over see the choreography but to stretch the talent and athletes before, during and after the fight scene. Do the time constraints of filming a music video, TJ and Kelly spent most of the early part of the day rehearsing scenes. The had three different fights, one with two girls, one with a little person and guy playing Santa, and the 3rd being to 230+ pound MMA fighters.
Kelly Carter Fight Coordinating for Photo Shoot at Big John McCarthey’s Gym
TJ White and Kelly Carter Talking Choreography for the Scene