The Unsung Heroes of Hollywood

19 January 2021
Lights. Camera. ACTION!
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You’ve heard the names Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie. Chances are you’ve heard of Quentin Tarantino too. But what about Buster Reeves, Bobby Holland Hanton, or Janene Carlton? Probably not. Who are they, you may ask? They are just a handful of the many astoundingly talented people who make all those other names you know so well look so good. They’re Hollywood stunt doubles.

In Tarantino’s ninth film and your Sunday night movie, Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, Brad Pitt plays stunt double Cliff Booth to DiCaprio’s faded (and fictional) Western star, Rick Dalton. It’s a homage to Hollywood, a homage to real-life actress Sharon Tate, and a homage to stunt performers – the unsung heroes of Hollywood. Last year, during the Academy Awards, Brad Pitt gave them long overdue praise in his speech for Best Supporting Actor for the film.

And we’re extending the praise and appreciation right here, with a look at some top-notch talent who have stunt doubled for the likes of Angelina Jolie, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Chris Hemsworth. You’ll even find a couple of South African names in the mix!

Zoë Bell

Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood is not the first of Tarantino's movies to feature a stunt performer as a character. In Death Proof he cast Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike and actual stuntwoman, Zoë Bell, as an ordinary gal who does extraordinary things…like take a hairraising ride on the bonnet of a car while being pursued by a serial killer. Death Proof was not the first time Bell worked with Tarantino, having stunt doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. She worked with Tarantino again (sometimes as a stunt double, sometimes as an actress) in Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. In 2019, she served as stunt coordinator on Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood, while playing a stunt coordinator's wife in the film. Early in her career, Bell stunt doubled for fellow Kiwi Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess; and, more recently, in addition to her Tarantino work, stunt doubled for Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarok.

Bobby Holland Hanton

If you need someone to save the world, best call Bobby. He has stunt doubled as superheroes like Thor and Captain America, as well as Christian Bale’s Batman. Speaking of Thor, he regularly acts as Chris Hemsworth’s stunt double, working with the Aussie actor beyond the MCU in Men in Black: International, Bad Times at the El Royale, and In the Heart of the Sea.

He's also entered the spy game, having been shaken not stirred as Daniel Craig’s Bond – James Bond – in Quantum of Solace, as well as performing stunts on Bond movies Skyfall and Spectre. He’s tackled the high seas in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, high fantasy in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, fairytales in Maleficent and Snow White and the Huntsman (and its sequel, stunt doubling for Hemsworth), and nine episodes of a little something called Game of Thrones – not to mention two Star Wars’ films, Mission Impossible: Fallout, and Inception.

Buster Reeves

While we're on the subject of Game of Thrones, Buster Reeves is also familiar with the world of Westeros having served as a stunt coordinator on the show. Before that, he’d racked up impressive stunt work on films like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Die Another Day, Mission: Impossible III, and The Bourne Ultimatum. Like Hanton, he’s also stunt doubled for Christian Bale’s Batman, working on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, moving on to being Tom Hardy’s stunt double for The Dark Knight Rises.

Scott Kirkbride

As long as we’re talking about Batman, we shouldn't fail to mention The Batman. The highly-anticipated new rendition of the Caped Crusader will be played by Robert Pattinson next year. Reeves and Hanton both perform stunts in the film, but the man stunt doubling for Pattinson is South Africa’s very own Scott Kirkbride. He’s also racked up impressive experience performing stunts on Tomb Raider, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Warrior, and the upcoming Fast & Furious 9.

Fleur van Eeden

Kirkbride is not the only South African on this list. There’s also the highly-accomplished van Eeden who stunt doubled for Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider, Charlize Theron in The Last Face, and Claire Danes in the fourth season of Homeland. She also worked on George Miller’s action-packed post-apocalyptic vision Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as eight episodes of epic pirate show Black Sails.

Janene Carleton

This Canadian’s career as a stunt performer is just as incredible. From Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Jack Reacher to Twilight movies, both Deadpools, a couple of MCU instalments, two Planet of the Apes films, stunt doubling for Angelina Jolie in Salt, and much more besides, there’s no doubting that she must be one of the hardest-working stunt performers in Hollywood.   

Despite this focus on action stars and stunt doubles, Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood is a fairytale. But unlike any you’ve seen before, filled with excellent performances from the stellar triumvirate of DiCaprio, Pitt, and Robbie. It’s all brought together by Tarantino’s distinctive touch; so kick up your heels, pick up your popcorn, travel to 1969, and join M-Net channel 101 this Sunday, 24 January, at 20:30 for Once Upon A Time...In Hollywood.