“John Wick: Chapter 4” debuted last weekend to the franchise’s biggest opening and currently sits at about $100 million at the global box office. Not bad for a series whose creator, ex-stuntman Chad Stahelski, never dreamed he’d helm an action film as lauded as this one. But Stahelski has other dreams he’d like to have come true, and that’s stunt men and women getting their due from the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences.
In an upcoming interview with The Playlist, Stahleski talked about how he feels the Oscars finally need to recognize stunt performers at their awards ceremony. Stunts, Stahelski argues, are an integral part of the motion pictures industry, with several Best Picture nominees this year demanding much of those they do them. So why can’t stunt people awarded for their efforts like actors, directors, editors, and others are? “Well, I think it starts with having this conversation right here, having you guys help us get out there,” Stahelski started, “I’ve been in stunts for 35 years. I don’t know of a single stunt person who’s ever talked to anyone on the academy, and I don’t know a single academy person who’s ever talked to anybody in stunts, officially. So, okay, what does that tell you?”
And Stahelski thinks it’s time to bridge the divide between the stunt world and the Academy’s. “We don’t know whether or not they think stunts should be in the Oscars; it’s all just hearsay, right?,” Stahelski continued. “Like, so what do you say? We all sit down and have a real chat. I think honestly, if I could get together with the Academy today and we could all sit down, I don’t think I’d find a single person that would argue or at least have a solid argument as to why stunts aren’t in the Oscars. I just think no one’s had the talk, somehow, we keep missing each other. If no one’s going to volunteer to start the conversation, I’ll volunteer. I’ll be the spokesperson. I’ll sit down. I’ll talk.”
For Stahelski, stunts are just as imperative to some film’s success as acting, citing recent films like Christopher Nolan‘s “Dark Knight” trilogy and Damien Chazell‘s “La La Land.” “We’re one of the main departments; we’re in every movie,” said Stahelski. “Deserve has nothing to do with it. If you’re going to be an academy, a Motion Pictures Academy Award, we’re part of the motion pictures. There’s no argument there. So the question is how? Stunts work a little differently than most departments. We have the individual doing the stunt. We have the stunt coordinator, we have a choreographer, we have the stunt riggers, we have a lot of sub-departments within our department. So the real conversation is, okay, we know stunts deserve an Oscar, but how do we do it? Is it the performer? Is it the coordinator? The choreographer? Or is it an ensemble award? Is it a technical achievement thing? Is it a performance thing? Or is it a concept thing?”
Stahelksi mused on the situation. “I don’t really have the answer, but I’m willing to sit down with some other smart people and maybe try to figure it out,” he said. “So I think the first step is just getting representatives from the Academy to sit down with us and actually have that talk and go, ‘Hey man, no harm, no foul. We didn’t really push for this until now, but it’s time to be adults and sit down and really have that talk.’ And to be brutally honest, I think we’d add a little spice to the Oscars. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a couple of stunt reels up there? Some of the biggest stars in Hollywood have become the biggest stars because of action films. The tagline I would give you is ‘it’s time.’ It’s time to have the talk.”
Conversation then led to several Oscar Best Picture nominees like “Avatar: The Way Of Water,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” and the victor from the Daniels, “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” That prompted Stahelski to praise Michelle Yeoh and advocate her as both an actress and a stunt performer. “Yeah, Michelle is a big action star,” Stahelski said. “It is a choreography team. That story does not exist without action. When you have “Wakanda Forever” nominated at the Oscars, you have “Top Gun” up for Best Picture, “The Way of Water up” for Best Picture, most of your physical comedy movies are action movies, musicals have action with the wires and the flying like in “La La Land,” or the Christopher Nolan Batman’s, or “Inception“. Those are all stunt-intensive films, even though they don’t come across as a main action movie. So I think it’s absolutely ridiculous from both sides, from the Academy side, from the stunt side, that this hasn’t been talked about. I mean it’s just my optic vision when no one’s made the effort.”
If anyone should advocate for stunts receiving awards at the Oscars, Stahelski maybe the best candidate. “It’s just time,” Stahelski continued, “the gauntlet’s down, I’m throwing it out there with every outlet that I can. Hopefully “John Wick ” can do a little bit more than have a good box office and some reviews. Maybe we can move the needle a bit and help get recognition for the stunt community that I think has been a very major part of the industry for over a hundred years. So, if there’s one good thing I think we could do maybe is get attention to this and get some people sitting at a table and figure this out.”
Stahelski makes a compelling argument here. And who’s to say he’s wrong? “JW4” is receiving unanimously positive reviews across the board (including The Playlist’s review here), and the consensus take is that his film is an all-time action movie classic. Shouldn’t that be recognized next to other groundbreaking features like “Everything Everywhere All At Once?”
Updated: Our full interview with Stahelski is live.