Vic Armstrong: “For me Ben-Hur is the ultimate action sequence, superbly conceived and directed by Yakima Canutt, incredible stunts performed by [his son] Joe Canutt, and many others. The forethought and preparation that went into this sequence is monumental. Someone had tried to shoot the sequence before Yak for less money, and it was a disaster. Yak had to rebuild the whole track surface, then he had to buy all the horses and train them and the actors to drive them, and then he had to shoot it — the ultimate “putting the money where his mouth was.” It is a fantastic sequence that could never be repeated.”
The famous stunt in question pops up around halfway through the chariot race, where Ben-Hur is practically crushed against the wall, headed straight for the wreckage of a fallen chariot. Stunt performer Joe Canutt had to leap over the smashed vehicle, which propels him over the front of his chariot. He barely makes it, but manages to climb back up in his seat. The entire scene was unplanned and near fatal. Watch it here.
The Spy Who Loved Me
Vic Artmstrong: “This sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me is the best opening sequence ever in a Bond film. I saw it when I was shooting a movie in Israel and will never forget the effect it had on me and the audience. It is an extremely dangerous stunt to perform and an extremely difficult stunt to photograph, and needed patience and nerves of steel from everyone involved to achieve — but most of all it was original.”
Stuntman Rick Sylvester almost didn’t survive his ski jump stunt in 1977 Bond classic The Spy Who Loved Me. After a chase down the hill, Sylvester made the epic leap, but a disengaged ski prevented his parachute from opening. Luckily it all turned out ok and brings a lot of nail-biting tension to the scene.
Vic Armstrong: “Death Proof is a nice car chase with an original, sexy edge to it performed by the ‘real people’ acting in it. It has a great double car jump and T-bone crash at the end. There are better car chases out there, though.”
We agree that there are more classic car chases out there, but Zoë Bell is one of the best stuntpeople working today, and her ongoing collaboration with Quentin Tarantino is always highly anticipated.
Everything Tony Jaa does in Ong-bak
Vic Armstrong: “Ong-bak is one of my favorite fight movies. Tony Jaa is a friend of mine as is his stunt coordinator Kawee Sirikhanerut (Seng). In fact, I took Seng to New York to work on Salt with me. Muay Thai is a brilliant style of fighting for the movie business and these boys do it better than anybody. They are very close behind Jackie Chan in originality. More successes and bigger budgets will allow them to overtake Jackie in that respect.”
Master fighter Tony Jaa gets chased by gangsters throughout Bangkok performing incredibly dangerous feats — including the insane fire fight, which burned his face. He also jumps through a mass of barbed wire without falling into the vats of hot oil below — or spearing himself — before leaping over cars and finishing with one of his gymnastic splits.
Vic Armstrong: “I am in awe of all these Parkour guys, and the chase in District B13 is exceptionally great. What Dave Belle does defies gravity and human abilities, and to be able to perform it on command as it were on a film shoot is brilliant. The risk is tremendous and it is almost stunt work going the full circle back to the early silent film days with people relying on their personal ability to entertain.”
Belle is the leader of the parkour movement and performed his stunts without wires or special effects.
Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol
Vic Armstrong: “The sequence around the Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol is an amazing sequence that was shot at the real location and performed by Tom Cruise for real. Having worked with Tom many times, I know he has this amazing, fearless approach to working at heights that terrify most mortals. Tom also has huge trust in his crew that rig it all for him, and their work together has achieved a breathtaking sequence.”
It should be noted that the Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world. Applause.