For the second year, ORWAV is proud to reveal the winners of our own 2017 Stunt Oscars, where we highlight some of the best and most spectacular stunts and stunt performers from the last 12 months. As the industry awards continue to ignore the true talent that makes their biggest stars and films look good, we at ORWAV will do our bit to celebrate the truly remarkable professionals and spectacles of this underappreciated industry.
Best Vehicle Stunt – Dr Strange’s Life Changing Lamborghini Crash
In a film that needed CGI to propel the audience into a mind-bending universe, Marvel opted to work with stunt driving expert Ben Collins for one of the film’s earliest set-pieces. Smashing up several highly expensive Lamborghini Huracans, Collins makes Strange’s life-changing accident as violent and impactful as possible. Driving at high speed, he performs several spins on a wet surface and then rolls the car end over end before landing in a river. Whilst the sequence was shot and edited in difference parts and CGI was used to complete it, Collins’ driving is what truly sells Cumberbatch’s crash to the audience. Collins balances the violence and precision of the scene expertly, making the short but vital scene truly spectacular.
Best Performance by a Stunt Professional – Damien Walters (Assassin’s Creed)
Damien Walters has rapidly become the go-to stunt professional for Hollywood. A trained gymnast, high fall expert, and free running maestro, he was the perfect choice to double for Michael Fassbender’s Cal Lynch and his Templar slicing Spanish ancestor Aguilar. Assassin’s Creed had to match if not surpass the computer game heritage on which it drew, especially in the action sequences. Fassbender’s acting and action prowess took the production a long way, but to really sell his character and the universe, it needed Walters’ expertise to create the roof running and combat acrobat master assassin.
Best Non-CGI stunt – Assassin’s Creed Leap Of Faith
The iconic Leap of Faith, well known to anyone who has played an Assassin’s Creed game, is a challenging ask for anyone to perform. To jump and fall for 2.79 seconds whilst moving at 61.1mph, from a height of 125 feet, into a 10 metre by 10 metre air bag is something that only the very best in stunt performance could achieve, all the while doing it in costume and in appropriate pose. Performed by Damien Walters, British stuntman and gymnast, this was a stunt that set the bar incredibly high (no pun intended) for future high fall set pieces, as well as proving the importance of physical stunts in a film industry increasingly reliant on computer generated spectacle.
Best Fight Stunt Performance – Matt Damon and Vincent Cassel
Damon and Cassel, 46 and 50 years old respectfully, showdown in a Las Vegas sewer at the climax of the globetrotting espionage extravaganza Jason Bourne. Two clandestine operatives, equally matched in ability, displaying brutally efficient combat skills; there are no frills here. It is a fight as down and dirty as it gets, and both actors fully commit. Punches, kicks, strangles and slashes are all employed, and both actors give it their all. In the age of the elder action hero (Neeson, Brosnan, Stallone) Damon and Cassel exemplify the very best of the genre, showing their skill with superb cinematic street fighting.
Best Stunt Ensemble – La La Land
The opening sequence of this award-winning, golden age Hollywood homage is perhaps not what some would consider a stunt. However, the sheer physical prowess of the professional dancers is remarkable: jumping on car roofs, throwing each other in the air, all the while singing during the single shot scene and making La La Land’s dance team eligible for our award. The dancers are seasoned, trained professionals, expert in their craft who would have been rehearsing for months, and they display it with the utmost skill on screen.
Best Group Stunt – Captain America Civil War Airport Battle
One-upping the excellent city-spanning spectacle that was the battle for New York in The Avengers, The Airport Battle is a superb mix of action, comedy, characterisation and combat. Each superhero gets their moment to display their prowess, and in turn, the stunt doubles get to show off what they can do. Mixing wire work, high falls, hand-to-hand and gymnastics, this truly is one of the best brawls cinema has ever produced.
Second Annual Lifetime Achievement for Stunt Work – Matt Damon
Matt Damon proves that no matter your age, you can still throw a (pulled) punch. His role as Jason Bourneshowed off his physical capability and revolutionised how cinematic combat was portrayed on screen. He has displayed a career-long aptitude for learning how to fight, shoot, and move as the elite operators do. From taking on the Nazis in Normandy in Saving Private Ryan to throat-chopping assassins in Jason Bourne, Damon has combined true acting talent with combat prowess, the rarest of traits in Hollywood action heroes.