Actors who refuse to do their own stunts

When capturing the spectacle of exhilarating fights, adrenaline-pumping explosions and impossibly fast car chases, stunt professionals boldly risk life and limb. Despite increased on-set safety, the chances of injury are high. Sometimes, they're fatal; in 2017, 33-year-old stuntman John Bernecker died on the set of The Walking Dead. A month later, stuntwoman Joi Harris died after crashing her motorcycle while filming Deadpool 2.

Understandably, many feel stunt professionals are criminally unrecognized by the industry they put their bodies on the line for. In 2016, the stunt community protested the lack of an Academy Award for Best Stunt Coordinator. They have every right to demand recognition — while the likes of Daniel Craig and Tom Cruise are praised for performing their own stunts, the vast majority of actors rely on the professionals to step in when glass shatters, pyrotechnics explode, and punches are thrown.

Yet stunt workers remain underrated, and are rarely given recognition. Some actors, however, have openly spoken of their refusal to do their own stunts — and highlighted the importance the professionals play. Here's a look at actors who refuse to do their own stunts.

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds has balanced both comedic and action-heavy roles thanks to a mixture of natural athleticism, leading man looks, and razor-sharp wit. It's fitting that his career resurgence was sparked by reprising his role as a true-to-form Deadpool after the character's questionable interpretation in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool is famous for constant quips and fierce combat; a panel in Cable and Deadpool #2 even joked Wade Wilson resembled "Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar Pei," proving the actor was born for the role.

Reynolds doesn't have mutant regeneration powers to rely on, though, and due to a previous injury, he let his double zip into Deadpool's red-and-black getup for action sequences. Reynolds stopped performing stunts for health reasons, discovering he'd fractured vertebrae in his neck when playing CIA agent Matt Weston in 2012's Safe House. "I remember the doctor sitting in the office — it was about the seventh time I had been there that year — and he writes on a prescription pad, rips off the note and it reads 'Stuntman,'" he told Empire. "Point taken."

As per his doctor's orders, Reynolds hasn't performed stunts since. Instead, he uses a team of four stuntmen to do heavy lifting for him in films such as The Hitman's Bodyguard and Deadpool 2.

Liam Neeson

"What I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long career," Liam Neeson warns in character as CIA operative Bryan Mills in Taken. However, during production of the three feature films in the popular action franchise, Neeson had a little help in transferring those skills to the big screen. Considering he's one of the action genre's most famous faces, the 65-year-old surprised a few when admitting he doesn't do his own stunts.

That's not to say he doesn't get his hands dirty. When asked if he'd picked up any injuries while filming Taken 3 in an interview with Collider in 2012, Neeson responded: "No injuries whatsoever. I do my own fights, I don't do my own stunts, and there is a difference." Neeson is happy to trade punches, and it's hard to begrudge him for handing the reins to Mark Vanselow, his stunt double since 1999, when Mills is faced with "flying through glass" or "jumping buildings."

The actor — who has appeared in a range of films including The Phantom Menace and Batman Begins — started boxing at the age of nine. Clearly gifted, he went on to become Ulster amateur senior boxing champion. Neeson has transferred those particular skills from the ring, according to Vanselow, who admitted he and Neeson usually "end up beating each other up" during rehearsals.

Danny Trejo

There is an element of prestige involved when actors performing their own stunts. Those daredevils are rare, though, with the majority leaving the rough and tumble to the professionals. Most keep quiet about it, but that's not Danny Trejo's style. Known for action movies like Heat, Con Air and Machete, Trejo was undeterred by his tough man reputation when discussing his view on actors performing their own stunts.

Admitting "the big stars will hate me for saying this," Trejo told Fox News, "I don't want to risk 80 people's jobs just so I can say I have big nuts." He pointed out paid professionals make a living performing dangerous acts, and Hollywood stars who insist on perform their own stunts are essentially putting others out of work. He also reasoned any injuries to the film's stars can significantly delay production — when Tom Cruise broke his ankle filming Mission: Impossible 6, production was delayed for two months.

"If they [stunt professionals] get hurt, I'm sorry to say, but they just need to put a mustache on another Mexican and we can keep going," he explained, bluntly, in an interview with Yahoo! Movies. "But if I get hurt, everybody's out of a job." Instead, Trejo makes the wise decision of letting his stunt double, Norm Mora, take over when scenes get risky.

Brendan Fraser

Brendan Fraser is another name on the unfortunate list of stars who've paid a physical price for performing stunts. Fraser broke out in the '90s as a familiar face in high-profile hits such as George of the Jungle and The Mummy trilogy. His eagerness to give his all saw him take on project after project, frequently performing his own stunts, and subsequently working his body into the ground in a "destructive" manner.

By the third installment in The Mummy trilogy in 2008, Fraser told GQ he was "put together with tape and ice." His committed approach had taken its toll. Fraser went off the radar for close to a decade, but rather than enjoying the riches that came with his earlier success, those were painful years spent under the surgeon's knife. Operations included a laminectomy, where the back part of the spinal canal's vertebra is removed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord, surgery to repair his vocal cords, and a partial knee replacement. In a chilling reminder Hollywood isn't all glitz and glamour, he'd revealed he'd been "in and out of hospitals for almost seven years."

In 2003's Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Fraser portrayed Damian "D.J." Drake, Jr, a stuntman who, in the fictional universe, performed stunts for Fraser. At the end of film, when Fraser appears as D.J. alongside a dramatized version of himself, D.J. punches Fraser in the face in an ironic and unintentional metaphor for the damage the industry has caused.

Sandra Bullock

"I'd put her toughness against any tough-guy actor out there," producer Todd Lieberman said of Sandra Bullock, who could've died filming The Proposal after treading water for a scene in icy waters of the North Atlantic. Bullock also wrestled, fought, and fired guns as as an undercover FBI agent in Miss Congeniality and bravely boarded the "Vomit Gromit" — a plane used by NASA astronauts to mimic zero-gravity — for 2013's Gravity.

Toughness clearly isn't an issue. However, Bullock told Cover Media in 2013 that despite previously insisting on doing her own stunts, adopting her son in 2010 made her think twice when approaching challenging physical demands on set. "What if I should fall and die on this one? Would it be a smart move?" she contemplated.

That contemplation led to a change in attitude. During filming of 2013's buddy cop action-comedy The Heat, she and co-star Melissa McCarthy would go and grab coffee when stunt professionals "had explosions falling on them." In 2015, Bullock adopted her second child, Laila, increasing the odds of her choosing coffee over combat in the future.

Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore cycled into child stardom at the age of seven, appearing in Steven Spielberg's classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She can be forgiven, then, for finally calling quits on performing stunts in 2016, some 34 years later. However, Barrymore wasn't simply jaded after decades in the industry. The decision was made following a terrifying incident when she "almost died" filming Netflix original Santa Clarita Diet.

Barrymore — who plays zombie Sheila Hammond in the horror-comedy — was rehearsing a scene in which her character leaps onto a man's back before killing him. However, the move went horribly wrong, and Barrymore fell from six feet, slamming her head onto the concrete floor. The impact was so powerful, show creator Victor Fresco feared the worst — "That's it. We've killed Drew Barrymore" — but fortunately the extent of the actor's injury was a serious concussion.

Production was put on hold as Barrymore spent two days in the hospital. Although she returned to the set a week later to continue filming, the incident had a lasting impact. "I will never do my own stunts again," she said in an interview with People. "When you don't have kids, you're not thinking about your mortality. Now that I have children, I will be sitting on the sidelines."

Jackie Chan

Age catches up with everyone, and Jackie Chan, one of Hollywood's most formidable stunt performing actors, is no different. The Hong Kong martial artist has blurred the line between bravery and madness many times throughout his six-decade career. This is a man who roller skated under moving trucks and base-jumped onto hot air balloons, all in the name of entertainment. His audacity resulted in some serious injuries, including a near-death experience filming 1986's Armour of God, when a piece of skull pierced his brain after a misplaced jump.

Still, despite his admiration for adrenaline, Chan isn't getting younger, and the time has come for him to stand aside. In an interview with Toronto City News in 2012, Chan stated that Chinese Zodiac would be his last hands-on action film before turning to green screen and stunt professionals. "Honestly, I'm not young anymore," he said. "I just don't want to risk my life to sit in a wheelchair, that's all."

As evidenced by The Foreigner, Chan wasn't true to his word to abstain from action completely, performing his own fight scenes in Martin Campbell's revenge thriller. Chan, who revealed he's looking to focus more on drama to elongate his career, was drawn to the script due to its focus on fight scenes, with less focus on explosive set pieces. As Liam Neeson pointed out, there's a big difference between the two.

Samuel L. Jackson

He's one of the coolest, most prolific actors — and the highest all-time box office star, with his films earning $5.1 billion at the U.S. box office — yet Samuel L. Jackson draws the line at stunt work. "Why would I do that? If you want a long career you don't do all that stuff," he told Access Hollywood in 2014. "You're gonna get hurt. Something's gonna happen. You're gonna twist an ankle, break a nail, something. No, you do as little as you can."

Jackson, promoting Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the time, portrays Nick Fury in the MCU. He wasn't peer-pressured by co-star Chris Evans, who was "going home with bumps and bruises" after choosing to do Captain America's stunts himself. Instead, Jackson was content letting his stunt doubles — Henry King and Kiante Elam — do what they're trained to do.

That's not to say he's completely inactive. He got behind the wheel of a speedboat for low-key cruising for The Hitman's Bodyguard — however, his stunt doubles made a bigger splash with their antics. They earned headlines for riding the speedboat into a stationary a pedalo, splitting it in two, and for speeding an expensive Porsche through the narrow streets of Amsterdam before veering into a parked Smart Car, smashing it into the canal.

Caity Lotz

Singer-turned-actor Caity Lotz started her entertainment career appearing in music videos for Lady Gaga and David Guetta. Her acting career kicked off in 2006 with Bring It On: All or Nothing before subsequent television roles in Law & Order: LA, Mad Men, and Death Valley put her on the acting map. For superhero fans, she's best known for portraying Sara Lance (a.k.a White Canary) in the the CW's Arrowverse, appearing in Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Supergirl.

Lotz certainly doesn't refuse stunts due to a lack of agility, toughness of coordination; she's trained in a multitude of martial arts and is a practitioner of parkour and tricking, which combines gymnastics with breakdancing. Although she does most of her fight scenes, Lotz astutely noted the dangers associated with stunts, preferring to let her stunt double take over when appropriate.

"It's dangerous. You have to jump through glass," she told Cosmopolitan in 2016. Although safety glass is used on set, Lotz highlighted the danger of mistiming, with the threat of injury. However, things could've worked out differently for Lotz — early in her career, she considered training as a stunt professional. Despite her athletic background, she didn't pick up any serious injuries, although cuts and bruises were commonplace. "Now I'm like, 'I'm going to be gentle and kind to my body, and love it, and thank it for doing all these nice things for me."

Lucy Lawless

When asked if she performed her own stunts on the set of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Lucy Lawless was clear in her response. "Oh, hell no," she retorted. "Are you crazy? I never did." That may surprise those who have enjoyed her television work over the years, from Battlestar Galactica, to Spartacus, and, most notably, the leading role in Xena: The Warrior Princess.

"If you damage your star," Lawless pointe out, "everybody's out of work." She's also never been overly enthusiastic about the rough and tumble that comes with roles such as Xena. She admitted she was "thrown into this horrifying life of the action star" and "never liked" the physical side of the Hercules spinoff. Rather than hide away, she honed her craft in order to get the job done as quickly as possible. Still, she didn't avoid injury. Throughout six years on the show, she suffered black eyes, loosened teeth, injuries to her knees and back, and was in "excruciating pain" during a torture scene in season 6's "Who's Gurkhan?"

Stepping in for Lawless during those years was Zoë Bell. The well-known stuntwoman has appeared in a number of Quentin Tarantino movies — playing herself in Death Proof — and was Uma Thurman's double in Kill Bill. If Lawless' injuries sound painful, Bell's were even worse; she was "nearly snapped in half," on set and fractured vertebrae in her back. It wasn't until a week later, when being hit in the same spot with a chair (as you do), that she realized the extent of the damage.

Nathan Fillion

On the set of Serenity, Nathan Fillion willingly smashed his face against a hard glass floor, take after take, to capture the perfect close-up. After the sixth take, the makeup lady noticed his face had swollen from the impact. Such was his enthusiasm to put his body on the line on the set of the 2005 continuation to the Firefly TV series, director Joss Whedon remarked that Fillion — portraying his most notable role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds — was "not only great at fighting, but great at being hurt."

However, five years later, he'd changed his approach during the filming of Castle, deciding to turn the other cheek when it came to performing his own stunts. A kick to the knee left him with lasting damage and a painful wakeup call. But he also developed an awareness of depriving stunt professionals an opportunity to put their skills to use. "If you do it [the stunt], he doesn't get paid," Fillion told Digital Spy. "He gets paid by the stunt. Somebody's job — I don't want to mess with that." The man in question is Paul Anthony Scott, Fillion's doppelgänger who has taken hits for the actor on numerous occasions.