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Screen Grabs - Stunt Artists

The great American daredevil Evel Knievel died last week, but the art of the stunt is alive and well, as evidenced by upcoming new installments of Rambo, Batman, and Terminator, upcoming movies about Joe Namath and Barry Bonds, and several of the document

Stunt Artists

"You come to a point in your life where you can't pull the trigger anymore," Evel Knievel said in an interview a few years back. The legendary daredevil reached that point once and for all last Friday, passing away at age 69 after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis and diabetes—not quite the glorious death that George Hamilton envisioned in the 1971 biopic in which he impersonated the motorcycle maniac. Still, though some opined last week that Knievel's death signaled the end of America as a daredevil nation, the art of the stunt seemed more in vogue than ever.

For starters, several venerable stunt-saturated action movie franchises were moving toward the release of their latest installments. Fresh off his sixth Rocky movie, Sylvester Stallone, now a sexagenarian yet somehow more humongous than ever, was getting ready to bow his fourth Rambo movie, which will see the vigilante Vietnam vet deploy his signature guerrilla tactics and martial arts moves in the jungles of Burma (trailer here, site here). Meanwhile, Christian Bale, who just did his own turn in the jungles of Southeast Asia, suits up as the Caped Crusader again next summer in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight, becoming the first actor since Michael Keaton to turn in a second performance as the Masked Manhunter; director Christopher Nolan presented the film's opening six minutes (play-by-play here) on IMAX Monday, and you can see a making of featurette online. The busy Mr. Bale will also reportedly take over the role of cyborg foe John Conner in a fourth Terminator movie, due in 2009.

When Hollywood isn't focusing on endless sequels filled with the stunts of fictional supermen, it often likes to dramatize the exploits of out real-life supermen, i.e. professional athletes. Hence, two biopics devoted to colorful sports stars are on the way, though the scripts won't be written until after the writers' strike is resolved, which might not be until March at the earliest. One will look at the life of the first rock-star football player, the one-and-only Broadway Joe Namath, to be portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal. The other figures to be a bit darker, focusing not only on athletic stuntwork but also stunts of human engineering; it's an adaptation of Game of Shadows, the best-selling account of steroid use by Barry Bonds (and other star athletes) which helped send the former San Francisco Giants slugger toward his current legal purgatory.

And believe it or not, steroids factored into the announcement of Sundance's 2008 competition line-up, in the form of Christopher Bell's Bigger, Stronger, Faster, in which the director examines America's competitive culture by exploring his own steroid use. The documentary competition will feature other screen stunts as well: Director Alex Gibney follows Taxi to the Dark Side, his Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary winner, with Gonzo, a survey of the antics of America's most famous stunt journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. And Morgan Spurlock follows his celebrated and effective stunt film Super Size Me, about his experience eating an all-McDonald's diet, with the provocatively titled Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden. Film bloggers have been buzzing about the possibility, spurred by Director of Photography Daniel Marricone's comment that Spurlock "definitely got the holy grail," that the filmmaker might actually have found America's most wanted terrorist. Now, that would be quite a stunt indeed.


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