Two types of actors exist in this world: Those who avoid action sequences like the plague and those who welcome the thrill of death-defying stunts. Although stunt doubles are often hired to take on the riskiest scenes, quite a few brave actors have stepped up to do the job themselves. Even it means walking away with painful scars, a broken neck, or a chipped tooth.
Some have made the case that filming their own stunts can make their scenes to feel more authentic, while others explained that they actually enjoy doing them. In fact, some have gone as far as insisting that they do it on their own, rather than leaving it the professionals. Talk about fearless!
See which actors have put their lives on the line for their on-screen roles:
18. Cameron Diaz
She might be known for her rom-com roles, but the same woman who danced around in her underwear in Charlie’s Angels is the same one who performed most of her own stunts. For her Charlie’s Angels role, she went through intense martial arts training for months. And for the film Knight and Day, she teamed up with Tom Cruise and did a ton of dangerous action scenes.
In an interview, when she was asked why she didn’t go with a stunt double, she said: “It’s so addictive because there are only a few things in life that really bring you into a moment like that, especially in our society. You learn to trust yourself. You learn to trust the people that you’re working with.”
17. Angelina Jolie
When she played the CIA agent in Salt, she took major leaps and jumped over moving trucks – all without the help of a stunt double. And she made it look like a piece of cake.
Stunt coordinator Simon Crane said: “[Angelina is] absolutely fearless when it comes to high places. That’s a fantastic asset to have. You can use her confidence with heights to put her in all kinds of dicey situations and know that she’s going to be convincing pulling it off.”
16. Tom Cruise
Considering all the danger he has put himself in, Tom may as well add “stuntman” to his resume. In the Mission Impossible series, he performed some of his most intense stunts, which included climbing up tall buildings, skydiving and hanging onto the outside of a plane during takeoff. The guy deserves an award for putting his life on the line so many times.
In an interview, he explained why he does these stunts so often: “It’s not a matter of risk. I’m very calculated. It’s part of who I am and I want my kids to have that kind of spirit. When I was a kid, I would jump on a motorcycle before I really knew how to ride it and do things like that. Now, you just kind of learn from professionals and take your time. You build your skill level and your competency, and that’s the fun of it.”
15. Harrison Ford
Though he did technically have a stuntman on board to help him out, Harrison was more than willing to do most of the stunts on his own. And those ranged from crashing cars to hanging from flying helicopters. In fact, when he played Indiana Jones, one of the stuntmen, Vic Armstrong, revealed that he had to stop Harrison from doing too many life-threatening stunts.
In an interview, Harrison said: “There was a lot of physical action. It was fun to do. I still enjoy doing that stuff. I was in good shape for it all, and trained during the film just to make sure there weren’t any accidents. I wanted to be in the best possible shape, to be able to do as much as possible.”
14. Daniel Craig
Well, it looks like Daniel is more like Bond than we thought! The actor chose to do his own stunts for his 007 flicks, which included leaping between construction cranes and doing death-defying jumps. He made it all look so effortless, but those scenes took a lot of training and preparation.
Daniel said: “It was important to me that I do as many of my own stunts as possible for authenticity. I wanted to be seen jumping from crane to crane, physically exerting myself. I didn’t get fit just to take my shirt off.”
13. Zoë Bell
Interestingly enough, Zoë actually started out as a stunt double. She worked alongside Uma Thurman for Kill Bill, and the director was so impressed that he took her on as the leading lady for Death Proof. In the film, she did her own stunt driving and she actually clung to the hood of a moving car. Since then, she’s been doing her own action sequences for her roles.
She once said: “I would always like to do my own stunts because I love doing them. I think what’s so brilliant about having an actor who does her own stunts, or a stuntwoman who does her own acting — depending on which way you want to look at it — is there’s a genuineness to it that when you’re watching it. There’s a gut reaction, a sense of reality.”
12. Keanu Reeves
Keanu has been doing his own stunts for decades, and from the looks of it, he has no intention of stopping any time soon. He did most of his own action sequences as Neo in The Matrix. And recently, he did an ad where he stood on a moving motorcycle (a stunt that actually killed the last person who tried to perform it!). Terrifying.
As for how he manages to still pull off these stunts at an older age, he said: “You just become more efficient in terms of what you learn, what you do, what you can’t do, what you can do.”
11. Matt Damon
Did you know that Matt Damon went through three months of training in weapons and hand-to-hand combat to play Jason Bourne? We sure didn’t. But it makes sense, considering all the rumble and tumble involved in the action thriller series. Matt performed most of his own stunts, but when it came to the more serious ones, he handed them over to his stunt double.
He explained: “I do as much as I can but whenever it’s going to be a little sketchy, I always let the professionals do it because they’re really good at what they do.” Understandable (and smart).
10. Kristen Stewart
When Kristen took on the role in Snow White and the Huntsman, she had to overcome her fear of horses, meaning the filming process for certain scenes was not one of her best experiences.
She recalled: “I got to jump off cliffs and ride horses, and that terrifies me. I was really, really not happy about having to do all that [horseback riding]. I don’t like that… I fell off a horse once and hurt myself really badly.” Ouch.
9. Christian Bale
Even before he became the bulky Bruce Wayne, Christian often did his own stunt work. Although he did have stunt doubles for Batman Begins, he stepped in to do most of the fight sequences. Perhaps one of the riskiest ones was when he stood on the edge of the Sears Tower, Chicago’s tallest building, in The Dark Knight.
Regarding his training in the martial art Keysi (which he learned for the Batman role), he said: “It’s a very instinctive kind of martial art. It’s not about choreography; it’s very much about using your adrenaline and becoming an animal in your fighting style.”
8. Jason Statham
He’s known for performing daredevil stunts, which is why you’ve probably spotted him in so many action flicks. However, he actually had a near-death experience while filming Expendables 3. There was a malfunction with the truck he was driving, and when he tried to stop it, it kept going. The truck drove straight into the sea with him inside, but thankfully, he was able to swim out.
He once explained the reason for taking on such dangerous action sequences: “[I] dug my own hole, if you like. One of the first action films I did. We didn’t have any — any financial reserves to do any green screen or add any sort of a enhancement to any of the stunts. So you know, I ended up doing all my own stunts. So now it’s an expectation. And so it’s a sticky situation I can’t seem to get out of.”
7. Jackie Chan
If we had to crown the king of stuntmen, then it would probably be Jackie Chan. He’s a skilled martial artist who has done roughly 99 percent of his stunts (and of course, because he made us want to take up karate as kids). The actor got his start as a stuntman in Bruce Lee films when he was only 17, and since then, he’s become a pro at performing the wildest action sequences. In fact, he sometimes appeared as a stunt double for actors in his own films!
The actor founded the Jackie Chan Stunt Team in the late ’70s (which includes a team of professional stuntmen who often work alongside the actor), and he also has a biographical film called Jackie Chan: My Stunts. Worth a watch!
6. Sylvester Stallone
Another talented actor who doubles as a legendary stuntman is none other than Sylvester Stallone, aka Rocky Balboa. He took his dedication to a whole new level because some of his stunts went so far that they landed him in the hospital. For instance, while filming Rocky IV, he went to intensive care after taking a painful punch from Dolph Lundgren. And when he did a fight scene in Expendables, he literally broke his neck, sustaining a hairline fracture.
5. Chloë Grace Moretz
Before she did Kick-Ass, Chloë trained with Jackie Chan’s Stunt Team for three months so she could perform as many of her stunts as possible. And that was when she was just 12. But when she did stunt work for The 5th Wave, it proved to be a bit challenging because didn’t get the same kind of preparation.
She said: “It was kind of the opposite to what I’m used to, because I usually train pretty heavily for the stunts I do in movies. When I came to do 5th Wave, they were adamant that they didn’t want me to look trained. They wanted me to look like I was fumbling around with a gun, and that was kind of hard because I’ve trained so much in the past. I had to force myself to fumble with the gun and keep being reminded to stumble and fall now and then and hold the gun in the wrong way.”
4. Viggo Mortensen
In the Lord of the Rings series, Viggo did the majority of his stunts – but not without getting a few injuries. In one famous scene, where he kicked a metal helmet and cried out in pain, he actually broke his toe (the real incident was caught on tape and included in the film). Plus, while shooting a sword-fighting scene, Viggo chipped a tooth. But instead of getting it looked after, he insisted on having the tooth glued back together so they could finish the scene. If that’s not bravery, then we don’t know what is.
3. Josh Hutcherson
Josh had to put on over 15 pounds of muscle for his Hunger Games role, and it wasn’t just so he’d be better eye candy. He had to get into shape to handle all of those stunts we’d see Peeta do in the arena. But here’s the funny thing: He ended up with an injury… but not from his stunt work.
He revealed: “I got to do 100% of all my stunts, which was great! My biggest injury was actually not during a stunt, it was by Jennifer Lawrence. She decided that she was going to show me that she could kick over the top of my head. So she hit me on the side of the head and gave me a concussion. She felt so bad.” We’re sure she did…
2. Isabelle Fuhrman
Josh wasn’t the only one who handled his own stunts. His co-star Isabelle, who played Clove, went through training to do her action sequences. She even fell and sprained her ankle at one point, but that didn’t stop her from pushing through it. She said: “I had to learn how to throw knives in the film, that was an interesting experience. For injuries… we were running and some people were swinging bats at us, foam bats of course, and we were supposed to dodge them. And Gary was coming to see us training and I wanted to impress him, and so I guess I got nervous… and fell.”
Josh joked that he thought they’d lost a cast member, but Isabelle said she didn’t mention her injury because she really wanted to keep performing her own stunts.
1. Jacqueline Emerson
Jacqueline, who played Foxface in The Hunger Games, also opted to do her own stunts in the series (we’re noticing a pattern here!). She ended up with some bruises during filming, but whenever people asked her about it, she had to get creative with her responses.
She said: “I also did all of my own stunts, except for one. I gave myself a black eye. I got to school and I wasn’t allowed to tell anybody about The Hunger Games yet. So [friends] were like, ‘what happened?!’ and I just like, ‘oh, I was just jumping…and my…knee…so, nice weather right?’”