The Fall Guy

THE FALL GUY doesn’t waste much time in telling audiences exactly what kind of film it is. Sure, if you’ve already committed an afternoon and some hard-earned cash to watching the film, you’ll likely have some idea of what to expect from an action-comedy starring Ryan Gosling. But The Fall Guy isn’t your typical modern action blockbuster that relies heavily on computer-generated visuals for its awe-inspiring moments. The stunts in The Fall Guy are raw and real. It’s what director David Leitch calls “a love letter to stunt performers”, and that much is clear right from the film’s opening sequence.

The Fall Guy is based on a 1981 TV series of the same name – and the influence of the series and other preeminent examples of adept stunt work are evident throughout. The film follows worn and weary veteran stunt performer Colt Seavers, played by Ryan Gosling. Having left Hollywood following a traumatic accident, Seavers is drawn back into the business for a big-budget movie directed by his ex, Jodie Moreno (played by Emily Blunt). When the movie’s star (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) suddenly disappears, Seavers uncovers a sinister plot while investigating the mystery. The result is a challenge more dangerous than any stunt he’s ever performed – and it was all filmed right here in Sydney.

In an age where the use of extensive CGI and VFX has become an industry standard, stuntmen like Gosling’s fictional Colt Seavers, and the teams that make his death-defying acts possible, are a dying breed. Nowadays, it’s far more cost effective to shoot a stunt in front of a green screen, or to use CGI to enhance an action sequence, than it is to set up a living, breathing backdrop and perform a spectacular stunt practically.

That’s an area Leitch and producer Kelly McCormick sought to address. According to McCormick, the Hollywood industry was built on the oft-broken backs of unheralded stunt performers, and as the artistry that goes into stunt work proves, they retain an important place in the future of cinema. “Stunt performers are people who are risking it all for a great shot, but they can’t show their faces. The challenge of the anonymity of that is hopefully something that people will connect with,” she says.

The Fall Guy

Showcasing the importance of stunt performers was integral for The Fall Guy. It would be fairly simple to throw together a few heart-pumping set pieces – which the director has become synonymous with in a portfolio that includes Bullet Train, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and Deadpool 2. Leitch wanted the film’s stunts to do more than entertain, he wanted them to pay tribute to stunt performers. “In any other movie, you’d just want spectacle that doesn’t necessarily service the story,” Leitch says. “In The Fall Guy, as it is a love letter to stunt performers, we needed to pay homage to the industry and do some things that hadn’t been done.”

When he says “some things that hadn’t been done”, you’ll notice that Leitch is speaking in the past tense. That’s because he’s referring to a feat that has in fact now been done, courtesy of a stunt in The Fall Guy that actually broke records. The stunt takes place early in the film and set a new Guinness world record for the most cannon rolls in a car – previously set during the filming of Casino Royale in 2006. The scene that made the final cut was filmed in the area around Kurnell in Sydney and sees stunt driver Logan Holladay – momentarily replacing Gosling as Colt Seavers – roll a ute 8.5 times in the culmination of a dramatic chase.

The scene is undeniably cool, a title that could have been bestowed without the knowledge that it was a record-breaking achievement. The ‘cool factor’ usually informs the creative processes involved in drafting stunt scenes, but according to McCormick, breaking a record was just as important in this instance. “We said that we wanted Colt Seavers to break a world record, but we didn’t have anything specific in mind,” McCormick says. “The stunt team just kind of went for it there.

“Funny story, that stunt almost didn’t happen,” McCormick continues. “We had two cars and the first time we shot it, it looked beautiful, but it was only four-and-a-half rolls. We were debating whether or not it was worth it to do it again when we already had a great shot, but our stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara begged us to give it another shot. Then they hit eight-and-a-half and that’s the shot you see in the movie.”

The scene ends with a thumbs up from Seavers, who takes quite a beating throughout the film. We later see the titular fall guy put through a wince-inducing number of takes on a wire-pull stunt in service of getting the perfect shot. Leitch, a former stuntman himself, who frequently doubled for Brad Pitt, assures us that the on-screen depiction of the stunt performer lifestyle doesn’t take too many liberties with the truth about the hard-knocks profession. “It’s pretty accurate, sans being framed for murder,” Leitch says. “On the Matrix films, we would do wire pulls like that and it’d be 25-30 takes. You get hit. That’s the job, and it hurts, but if you’re good enough to go again you give the thumbs up.”

Stunts like that may look effortless on the big screen, but pulling them off takes extensive preparation – and ample training for actors, especially given the propensity with which filmmakers like Leitch have strived to make each stunt surpass the previous in spectacle. To assist in this process, Leitch and McCormick’s production company, 87North, recently launched a state-of-the-art action design and stunt facility in Los Angeles.

The facility allows stunt designers to theorise, plan and test stunts for 87North films. “A lot of stunt visualisation takes place there, where people come in and plan out stunt choreography and other set pieces,” McCormick says. The studio also provides actors with the opportunity to prepare for the rigours of their occupation, most recently assisting David Harbour – of Stranger Things fame – prior to his role in Leitch’s Violent Night. “They can come and learn things like stunt fighting and wire work, and we also have classes with martial arts experts,” Leitch says.

While he wasn’t the one performing most of the stunts, Gosling had a hands-on role in The Fall Guy that extends beyond playing the main character. “He’s an incredible actor, and for The Fall Guy he was actually a huge collaborator,” Leitch says. “He came in early on in the script writing phase, which is part of why this role was so special and tailor-made for him.” McCormick is similarly glowing in her assessment of the actor, and isn’t sparing in her use of superlatives. “He’s a top of class man. The best. The coolest,” she says.


From its opening sequence to credits, hardly a scene goes by in The Fall Guy that doesn’t include a stunt designed to drop viewers’ jaws. Throughout the film, we see a car pull off a 225-foot jump, an 80-foot explosive boat jump in front of the Sydney Opera House, and a thrilling car chase across the Harbour Bridge and bustling city streets.

The common theme in all of these practically-filmed stunts is the city used as a backdrop – Sydney. In providing the setting for The Fall Guy, which was filmed almost entirely on Australian shores, the city endeared itself to both Leitch and McCormick. “We got here and we were like ‘we need to buy some property here,’” McCormick says. “And then we realised we can’t because it’s so expensive,” Leitch quips.

Sydney played a crucial role in the production of The Fall Guy, and the contributions of the city’s citizens (wilful or not) helped make the film a reality. As many Sydneysiders will remember, major roadways – including the Harbour Bridge – were shut down across the city in early 2023 for the filming of a then-unnamed Hollywood blockbuster. That film was The Fall Guy, and McCormick is thankful for Sydney’s residents’ presumed understanding. “The city really opened its arms to us and embraced us,” McCormick says.

“The people got behind the idea that we were shooting Sydney for Sydney. They let us use some of their most iconic landmarks, they let us ruin their traffic for multiple months,” McCormick continues. “We really got to just make it our playground.”

Sydneysiders will have to see for themselves whether or not the disruptions were worth it. The Fall Guy releases in Australian cinemas on April 24th.

Leitch, McCormick and standout actress Jean-Claude at the Australian premiere of The Fall Guy | Universal


The 10 most anticipated films of 2024

Why we’re about to hit peak Ryan Gosling at the Oscars