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Wade Eastwood sees restaurant bathrooms the way painters see an empty canvas or writers see a blank computer screen. They represent an untapped world of creativity. That's the only explanation for why he was thrilled to spend time in so many while coordinating stunts for Mission: Impossible — Fallout.
"We wanted a bathroom fight scene in the movie," he says. "Whenever I'd go into a restaurant bathroom, I'd think, 'If I were to get into a fight in here, what could I do?' The head smashed in a toilet thing and fighting through the cubicle thing had been done before. I'd lie down under sinks and I'd look up, thinking, 'I could use that!' I got pretty weird looks from people who were in there, but what we came up with made it worth it."
Eastwood, 47, wasn't following any script when he thought of the details for that critical fight scene, only his instincts. While most stunt coordinators don't find themselves lying on bathroom floors in front of strangers, they are getting more freedom than ever.
"Every script we get is a little different, with some more exact than others," says Shauna Duggins, who won an Emmy in 2018 for coordinating stunts on Netflix's GLOW. "Sometimes it'll just say, 'They fight,' which is great for us because it means we get to play. We're told to just make the women look amazing. Other times, the writers will say who is going to wrestle that week, who is going to win and what particular move might be crucial."
Stunt coordinator Rob Inch similarly recalled how the battle scenes in the Netflix period film Outlaw King "were not a detailed thing in the script." Director David Mackenzie would give a basic description of what he was looking for, and Inch would work out the moves using a "stunt viz" — rough rehearsal video that he'd shoot with a handful of his stunt performers.
"I'd write out a beat shoot to work out the who, where and what of a scene … when people attack each other … to make sure that was what he expected," says Inch. "I'd give my team a brief description of what to do … 'I want a piece of action that lasts for 30 seconds, this dude will have an ax, at some point you lose your sword and draw a dagger.' Then we put it on video, and usually what we come up with is close to what you see in the film."
Leading up to the SAG Awards, the only major awards event that honors stunt work, THR spoke to Inch, Eastwood, Duggins and three other leading stunt coordinators to learn how they dealt with everything from having to bury children in corn to electrocuting a man's testicles.
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