The Fall Guy – A love letter to the unsung heroes of Hollywood

‘The Fall Guy’ sees Ryan Gosling playing a stuntman called Colt Seavers, who is called to the set of a huge sci-fi blockbuster to help find a missing movie star (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Adding a twist to proceedings, the movie happens to be directed by Colt’s ex (played by Emily Blunt).


For anyone keeping track of Gosling’s career, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him playing a stuntman on the big screen. He was the moody violent antihero at the heart of ‘Drive’, as well as the motorcycle-riding carnival performer in ‘The Place Beyond The Pines’, so this particular character type clearly means something to the ‘Barbie’ star.

‘The Fall Guy’ sees Gosling paired with director David Leitch, who has been consistently responsible for putting crunchy, believable, practical stunts at the heart of some of the most talked about action movies of the 21st century so far. Leitch has co-directed ‘John Wick’, and his solo work includes ‘Atomic Blonde’, ‘Deadpool 2’, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’, and ‘Bullet Train’, while his now famous production company 87North worked on ‘Nobody’, ‘Violent Night’, the ‘John Wick’ sequels, and its upcoming Ana De Armas-fronted spin-off ‘Ballerina’.

The script to ‘The Fall Guy’ by Drew Pearce is an adaptation of the hit 1980s TV show of the same name, which seen ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ star Lee Majors play the lead role, a stuntman by day & a bounty hunter by night. This new movie is seen as a prequel to that show, which had lots of then-TV royalty – Lou Ferrigno! Heather Locklear! Buzz Aldrin! – pop up in cameos each week to throw their support behind the world of stunts. The pairing of Gosling and Leitch in this adaptation puts a spotlight on stunt performances in a way that very few movies have managed to do. At the heart of ‘The Fall Guy’ is a celebration of all things stunts, despite the fact that stunt performers are arguably the biggest unsung heroes of huge Hollywood productions. Chances are you could name a handful of famous costume designers, or cinematographers, or composers, but how many modern-day stunt performers could be easily mentioned in conversation? And we don’t mean actors who do their own stunts – take a bow Tom Cruise, Charlize Theron and, yes, Ryan Gosling – but full-time stunt performers? We’d wager a guess not many immediately spring to mind. Additionally, despite being far and away the most dangerous aspect of modern filmmaking, there is no Oscar category for best stunt performance or stunt production.

Stunt work has been a part of cinema practically from its inception. The first paid stunt performer was in 1908’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, when an acrobat received $5 to jump off a cliff into the sea, and from there, as the scope of cinema expanded and evolved, so too did the scope of stunt work.

Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton changed the game completely with their hilarious inventiveness in the 1920s, which was then followed up by Errol Flynn and his peers taking things in a more swashbuckling route in the 1930s and 40s. The car chase era kicked off in the 1950s, while the arrival of real-life stunt performers like Evil Knievel in the 1960s forced Hollywood to up its game even further. Bruce Lee paved the way for the future of cinematic fisticuffs in the 1970s, quickly followed by the manic energy of Jackie Chan in the 1980s. The advent of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, et al. and the accompanying huge budgets for their action blockbusters sent the need for stunt production through the roof.


The improvements in CGI initially pushed back on the need for practicality on screen, but that came full circle thanks to the likes of ‘The Matrix’, ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘James Bond’, and even the ‘Jackass’ movies, all of which have succeeded in the perfect marriage of so-real-you-can-practically-feel-it stunts married with the special effects assistance where required.

Which brings us right back up to date to ‘The Fall Guy’, which features every kind of stunt work you could imagine. Perfectly choreographed fight scenes? You got it. Huge explosions? Absolutely. Big jumps? Yep, Gosling takes a multi-storey dive off a hotel balcony. Massive car chase? They shut down the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia specifically for it!

The movie promises some of the biggest and best action you’ll see on the big screen this year, alongside Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt – undoubtedly two of the most charming stars Hollywood has to offer – stir up a storm of chemistry. But don’t forget the incredible hard work that was put in by the stunt performers who make you wince and push you to the edge of your seat with every fall, every punch, every kick, every car flip, every full-body-on-fire scene. And maybe, at long last, it will start the conversation that puts those performers in the spotlight, and finally gets them the Oscar category they absolutely deserve!

Words : Rory Cashin

THE FALL GUY is at Irish cinemas from May 2nd 2024