STUNT LEGENDS: Man of Action Jack Gill’s Quest To Gain Academy Award Recognition For Stunt Professionals. Part 2.


What’s up, Actionites?

We are back with Part 2 of our Jack Gill interview. You can see part 1 here if you missed it. Jack is receiving the Man of Action Award at ActionFest 2012 in part because of his amazing stunt career, but also largely because of the cause he has taken up, which you are about to read all about. Jack is the spokesperson for stunt professionals everywhere who are seeking Academy Award recognition for their work. Did you know that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does not have a category for stunt work? Well, Jack is the man who is trying to change all of that. Read on!

Jack Gill, Right. Michael Jackson, Left.

Ed Travis:  You have become the spokesperson on behalf of stunt professionals, going to the Academy to petition them to create a category for stunt professionals at the Oscars. How did you become that spokesperson?

Jack Gill:  I got the idea back in 1991 when I was watching the Academy Awards. I knew about the Academy and had wondered why we weren’t a part of it. But at the time, I thought “Maybe we just need to be voted in. Maybe nobody has ever brought that up.” So when I was thinking about this I was working on a film with a famous director named Sidney Lumet, and he was a member of the Academy. He said “You’ve been doing features for a long time now, Jack, I think you should become a member of the Academy and I’m going to put your name in there.” And I thought it was fantastic to be nominated. So I thought I should learn more about the Academy and what it was about. Once I was voted in I started asking why there was no stunt category, and nobody could really answer the question. They just felt it had never been broached. So it is a process and it doesn’t happen overnight, but Bruce Davidson, the Director back in 1991 said “If you are willing to pursue this it could take 3-5 years of your career”. That is a lot of time invested, but I was willing to risk that so I said yes. Why don’t we have a stunt category? And here I am, 21 years later. And we still don’t have a stunt category.

Jack Gill performs a motorcycle stunt on the set of First Blood

It boils down to two things. One, the Academy is afraid of creating another branch. Each voting category that you see, be it Hair and Make-up or Production Design or Directors or Actors. Those are each branches. And there is no stunt branch. We can’t piggyback onto the actors branch because it is different. So we have to create our own branch. So I got involved in trying to create a new branch. The Academy then said it was too difficult to create a new branch so they gave me another excuse and said they don’t want to make the event longer. They said no one wants to see a 4 and a half hour award event. So I said okay, fine, we will not be on the televised event. You can give us our award prior to the event. Before it is televised. We can walk the red carpet before the cameras get there. You can give us our award and it’ll just show up in some newspapers somewhere. As long as we get an award. Then they came back and said, well, it isn’t about that so much as it is about the vote. The board members have to vote you in. Here is what it boils down to: The voting members of the board have to vote us in. And if they vote us in, those members are worried about getting voted OUT, because of the long TV event. So they are worried that if they vote in the stunt coordinators, maybe their own category will be taken away. So it boils down to that, if they vote us in, they are worried that one of their categories may have to go. It is really tough.

The special effects category has been updated, renovated, and changed around. BUT, they already had their own branch. The special effects branch has been expanded into the visual effects branch which also includes the physical effects branch. But we can’t be piggybacked onto any other branch. So we are trying to get to those board members and say “we won’t take away your category”. We don’t need to be on the televised event. So nobody will lose their category. But getting to them is tough because they won’t allow you to talk to them personally. It is a tough road to home, and 21 years ago I would have never thought I’d be still here pleading with the Academy!

All of our peers that work with us, whether it be Spielberg or James Cameron or all these luminaries in the business, they ALL believe that we should have a category! And they don’t understand why we don’t. And so it all comes down to the voting members. And it isn’t like you have to be voted in at 95%. 51% would win the vote. I think the more we can let the public know that the board members hold the fate of this entirely in their hands would be great because we can’t seem to get to them.

Jack Gill Soars Through The Air on the set of The Exterminator

ET:  What are some ways that ActionFest as a whole or ActionFest fans as individuals can help you with your cause? Is there anything we can do?

JG:  Well, the only tangible thing the general public can do is voice their opinions and send letters to the Academy, which is great. We’ve had the Academy telling us that they are receiving our letters and understand our problem. But then again it all comes down to that vote. The letters can be shown to the voting board members, but “the vote is the vote”. If you get voted down, you get voted down. Your letters will be shown to the board members. But the people who are in the business and know the voting members need to help us by asking them “why do you believe stunt coordinators don’t belong? Is there something they could do that would make them belong?” Because the Academy tells me point blank that the reasons they give awards are either A) You have to be scientific. Or B) You have to be artistic. And the Stunt Coordinator falls heavily into both of those categories. Artistically, we design each and every action piece in a movie around the character. It has to fit the character. We can’t just wreck cars if the character is a book worm. You mold the action around the character. And from a scientific stand point, we have to figure out how to do all of this without killing anybody. You have to make it look as outrageous as you can, but make it safe for the actors and the crew. So we fall into both categories. So we fall into their criteria but the voting board members don’t see it that way and I don’t know why.

ET: How often are those votes held and how often has this issue come up for vote?

JG: Every year. Every year I make a formal presentation saying I would like the Board to vote on a Stunt Coordinator Category in the Academy Awards. It usually happens in May or June. And that is not all they talk about. They talk about everything that will happen in the Academy Awards in the upcoming year. And it is a very long list that they have to get to. And I don’t know where I am on that list. It could be the last vote of an 8 hour day and they are all tired and they say, “Can we just go home?” But I don’t know. We could be the first up. I just know that we aren’t the only vote. I am not able to stand in front of the board members to plead my case, which I have tried. I’ve asked if I can attend that meeting and take 5 minutes to explain myself and I’ve been voted down on that every time. They say we don’t allow it. Nobody can plead their case in front of us. So that is the way it goes. There are something like 35 voting members, and they aren’t all there at every meeting. So you never know how many members the meeting will have, and you never know how to reach the members that are actually going to be there. I am going to keep doing this every year. And it takes a lot of my time. But it just boils down to a vote. And why the voting members believe we are less than their criteria, I don’t know.

Jack Gill Performing a Full Burn on the set of The Salton Sea

I don’t think you’ll ever see a Best Stuntman / Stuntwoman category because in today’s action films it is hard to pinpoint exactly who did what. If you look at Mission Impossible 4, even though Tom Cruise does 99% of his stunts (and therefore he would get that award); realistically though, there were stunt people all around him. There were bunches of them and you can’t give out 45 awards. But it is difficult for the viewing public to know who did what stunt. But the Stunt Coordinator is there way before anyone starts filming and stays through the very last day. They know every single aspect of action and are responsible for it. So that is the guy who should get the Academy Award. And that is why I think we are an integral part of the movie making sequence. And it just drives me insane when I sit at home and watch the Awards on TV and watch people that I worked hand in hand with, sweated blood and tears with; and here they are accepting the award for best hair and makeup and they show the action sequence that highlights the best hair and it is our footage of our action sequence and yet we aren’t there to be a part of that. It drives me crazy.

ET: Thanks so much for your time and we’ll see you at ActionFest!


So as I’ve mentioned, Jack Gill will be at ActionFest 2012 to accept his Man of Action Award, and I hope you’ll encourage him in his work to win over the Academy! We here at ActionFest firmly believe that there should be an Oscar given to Stunt Coordinators and stand firm with Jack on his mission. In the weeks to come we hope to offer a little bit more information about how YOU, the Actionites, can help Jack in his quest. But first, ActionFest 2012 awaits!

And I’m Out.