A stuntman performs dangerous falls, car crashes and fights that require specialized training to complete without serious injury. Often filling in for the star of a movie or television show, the stuntman is seldom filmed close up and seldom stars in the picture. Some scripts call for the stuntman to be set on fire, while others feature the daredevil strapped to an airplane wing and taken into the skies. Typically trained in the art of skydiving, rock climbing and using explosives, it is not unusual to see this risk-taker attacked by animals, beaten by cowboys or dragged behind a horse through the streets of an old-time Western town with his boot "caught" in a stirrup.
Quite often, the stuntman is the unsung hero of a motion picture. Taking punches and gun shots that are intended for the movie's star to receive is the normal job of the stuntman. Men are not the only performers who take tremendous risk in the pictures, as women also perform dangerous stunts that are written into the female lead's role. One of the most commonly-used stunts in the movies is the high fall. This stunt has the stuntman falling from the top of a building or off of a bridge. Some of the earliest stunts were related to Western movies and had stuntmen falling off roofs of the town buildings during big gunfight scenes.
The key fighting scenes commonly involve many stuntmen to complete the shot. Breaking tables and being thrown through windows, the stuntman adds a special type of realism to the scene that simple sound effects alone cannot offer. Many stuntmen are professional racers, which enables the stuntman to drive the vehicles in a realistic high-speed manner when creating high-speed chases and crashes. One of the most dangerous automobile stunts to pull off is the double head-on car crash. The stuntmen must calculate their speed very critically to avoid one car flying higher than the other and striking the vehicle in the windshield instead of on the bumper.
While the big stars receive much of the credit that the stuntman deserves, the movies are often made better because of the stunt personnel that add realistic danger into the mix. Occasionally, a stunt person will excel and break into the mainstream and actually star in a film. There are also some stars who do or have done their own stunts, such as some of the more famous martial arts heroes, comedians and cowboy actors.