I admire actors who do their own stunts, because I, a non-athletic nihilist, never could. I’m a writer, not a fighter – ‘action hero’ is outside my casting! But I’m finally following my therapist’s advice this year to get out of my comfort zone and at least try to live the life I daydream about. So, I reached out to a Hollywood stuntman for a stunt training session.
Y’all, meet Dustin Stern-Garcia – we take acting classes together. Apart from being an actor, Dustin is a professional stuntman who specializes in fight work. He has been in the game for almost a decade, and has worked on stunts in several high-profile films and TV series such as birds of prey, Mulan, The Gray Man, WandaVision, and recently Babul.
Dustin was down to give me a crash course in stunt fighting and teach me some moves, so we went to a local stunt gym he frequents for training sessions. Here’s what I learned:
It’s all in the body (control)—being able to move smoothly and accurately is the foundation of Everything In stunt. So if you’re new to stunt work like me, it’s best to start with the “boring” basics and work your way up to mastering your body.
I don’t need to be the most ripped guy in the room to be a stuntman. However, core and tendon strength are important – both helping stunters maintain a position, and protect themselves and others from injury. After all, the margin of error in stunt work is literal. inches,
It’s the reactions that really “sell” a stunt. so there is Very More acting that goes into the fighting performances than most people would expect.
He followed it up by teaching me the flipping move above, the same stunt Margot Robbie did eight times in a row during filming. birds of prey.
I learned that part of being an actor doing your own stunts is being honest about your strengths and weaknesses so that you look your best on camera. For example, Dustin said my punches were great!
But my reactions to being stage-punched? “We’ll probably double your stunts for this,” Dustin said. A shady response, but the movie will actually look better for it!
Stunts require speed – you need to know how to land a stunt punch or dodge a hook correctly, and that has to be fast. It takes a lot of training.
Many people, myself included, think that stunts are all about explosive speed, or going all out, every take. But I learned that stunting also requires controlling energy—many shoots are at least 12 hours long, and stuntmen are expected to perform a stunt several times, making a mark each time. (safely) kill.
Stunt people are paid for their experience, readiness and being adaptable at a moment’s notice. Because things move (much) faster on a professional shoot.
Even though I have a long way to go in my stunt journey, the training never stops for a professional stunt person. They dedicate years to training their bodies to be ready for any situation, so that they get it right the first time and don’t make mistakes.
It’s unfair for me to compare myself to working actors with stunt training like Dustin, who have been training since childhood. The only thing I can do is keep training, and the best place to do it is a local stunt gym!
Furthermore, actors are rarely thrown into a scene and expected to know how to make a fight or stunt look good for the screen. Stunt and fight work is designed and choreographed long before filming through a highly collaborative process called pre-visualization, or east.
Like most careers in the entertainment industry, stunt work is a profession that requires preparation, persistence, and patience. For Dustin, it took years to feel that he had earned his seat at the table.
and when i asked about dustin babylon, his eyes gleaming in one of the biggest sets he’s done in years. “Usually, the previs is about five or so people for the actors to step in—for babylon, we were 30 people,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. The stunt coordinators on that movie are real legends, and they gave us a lot of creative expression. So it was us stunt guys who already all knew each other, out in this huge arena with swords and axes, beating each other up and figuring out what worked.
“Stunt work is essentially telling a story through movement,” Dustin said. “It’s always been like that. You have to know how to use action that complements the story, and enhances the message of the project. I’ve noticed that audiences aren’t as interested in action for action’s sake. Earlier like – they want it to tell a story. It’s more and more present in the work I’m doing, which includes babylonAnd why I am excited to craft stories as an actor and stuntman.”
And here’s what training with a stuntman taught me about myself: Not everyone is meant to do their own stunts. And that’s fine! Before training with Dustin, I vaguely understood the complexity of stunt work—I wanted to do my own stunts, but didn’t fully grasp the grueling amount of training that required. So now, I have a different take on actors who don’t All Their own stunts: They’re just letting more seasoned pros do what they do best.
Keep up with Dustin’s Hollywood journey as an actor and stuntman via Instagram @thedustinSG, See more of Dustin’s latest work babylonNow playing in cinemas!