LYT: With the Oscars recently, we [film critics] did a poll on one of the movie sites. A lot of people said that if they were to add a new category, stunts should be the new category. Do you think they should do that, and if so, how would they award that one? Would it go to the coordinator, the stunt person? What would you like to see if that were to happen?
GC: That whole thing just blows my mind, because if you look at all the shows that were nominated, let's say the past five years, they're all loaded with action. I think it's cool to give an award for hair and make-up, I think it's cool because it's a big part of the movie. But when you see that stunt work is not even recognized as a big part of the movie - which is hypocritical, because second units are mainly actions, and they're on most big productions - I think it's really, really unfair, and completely not understandable. Nobody understands. And I think even just the stunt coordinating, if there was a stunt coordination award, that would be great! We don't need to have stunt performers and all that at the Oscars, just best stunt work by a coordinator. You will have Gary Powell for James Bond - the guy should have 10 awards already! So, yeah - stunt coordination, best action on a movie.
LYT: You were a big part of one of this year's nominees, Zero Dark Thirty, so tell us a little bit about the experience of doing that one.
GC: It was a dream come true! When they called me, I was on a movie in Europe, and when they called me, they just said "Are you available to come to Jordan for a movie?" They didn't say the title, they didn't tell the directors, it was - not secret, but usually they say "It's for this movie from that director, would you like to come?" This time, there was no title, nothing, so I didn't know what movie I was going on.
So when I arrive in Jordan, I find out it was Zero Dark Thirty with Kathryn Bigelow, I thought I was dreaming. She's one of the people I was dreaming to work with, and to get to do that big explosion scene on her movie, and to get to talk with her, because we have a friend in common, Jessica Biel. It was a dream! I was like a little girl at Disneyland, taking pictures with Mickey Mouse. She's beautiful, she's powerful and you feel strength in the room when she's there. It's incredible. So we had that big explosion, the one in the restaurant, so we were three stunt people being, what we call "ratchet," which means on wire, when the window next to us explodes, and we were ejected with everything, all the furniture and all that would fly through the room. It was great action, on a great movie, with a great director. I'm so proud of it!
LYT: Have you gotten any crazy injuries when you've done stunt work, or have you managed to escape reasonably unscathed?
GC: No, unfortunately, I don't think it's possible to avoid injuries when you are a real, active stunt person, because you are trained, the coordinator takes care of the maximal safety, but some actions are really, really dangerous and so you get hurt. Or you're tired that day, and you get hurt, or something is not working well with special effects, or props, or whatever and you get injured. So I've had my share of really big injuries.
LYT: Sometimes you talk to people and it'll be really little things: they kick down a door and they break a toe.
GC: Well, those are not stunt people, those are actors! (laughs) No, my injuries were on big actions. I got my entire tibia broken, everything exploded in small pieces. I was jumping off a building, running on the roof, and I was jumping onto a car that was passing to escape, and when I did all the rehearsal, everything went great. But the day of the shoot, when I jumped on the car, I caught the car well, but when I jumped on the car, I caught the car well but my leg just exploded, it shattered. So yeah, that was bad. It was on Labyrinth, with Lambert Wilson. It was screened in the States, and I think they kept the scene! (laughs) I never watched it, always refused to see it, because it was really painful.
LYT: When you mentioned Jessica Biel, I remember the trailer for Easy Virtue - you could still-frame it and see that it was a guy doubling for her on the motorcycle. He hadn't shaven that day!
GC: (laughs) I know, I know. It's a combination of a lot of things. Is there a stunt woman who can do that exact action? Which I think nowadays most women can do everything that men can do, except if it involves real strength, like weight lifting. So for me, there is no way I would put men to double Jessica Biel, when she's so - she's thin, but she's curvy, so there's no way. (laughs) Also, she's a great action actress, she's really kicking ass! I had to slow her down, I had to tell her "No, you will not do that. Let your double do that." But most of the things she had to do on The Tall Man, she did an incredible job, and she's really tough. She's really good.
LYT: I have a book of superhero workouts that actors have done when they play superheroes, and the only woman in it is her.
GC: That doesn't surprise me. She's incredible. She's very athletic, she's extremely flexible - she was a dancer and a gymnast - she's also extremely coordinated, she's been doing sports since she was a little girl, and she's a good actress, so she puts acting into her action, which makes it even better than if it was just a regular stunt performer.
LYT: Is there anything you haven't done yet that you want to do?
GC: There are so many things I haven't done! There's always something new, like if you do a high fall, for example, it could be a suicide, so it's a certain fall. And then it could be someone pushes you, so it's another fall. Or you could grab someone and you both fall over. Everything is different, so of course there are so many things that I haven't done. I did crazy things, like on Sahara, we were riding camels, chasing the train, jumping onto the train, so this is incredible. How many people did that in their career? There are so many things I haven't done, I couldn't even tell you right now what I wish I could do, because whatever they ask me to do, I would be happy to do it.
LYT: You hear a lot of interviews where actors complain about being in wire harnesses, and they hurt. When you read that, do you think "Oh, they're such wimps!"
GC: Not at all, because trust me, if you get to spend just 20 minutes in the harness, hanging somewhere, you'll see how uncomfortable and painful that could be. So no, no, no, they're not wimps! I mean, my opinion as a stunt coordinator is they are not wimps. It is uncomfortable, and the buckles and all that - even if you make everything to protect your actors, for the metal nuts that bite into their flesh, you're still hanging somewhere, tied in a corset, and you barely can breathe, and they ask you to make some crazy twist, and jump, and fall, and all that in there, all day long for how many days, I don't know. That's why you have stunt doubles, because it's not comfortable, sometimes it's painful, and sometimes it's dangerous. So let's protect the actor, let him do his acting scenes, and when it's wire work, you put a stunt double. That's why it's a good collaboration between actors and stunt people.
LYT: What's coming up next for you?
GC: Projects - I'm waiting today for an answer for a movie in New Mexico, with Forest Whitaker - I would be coordinating it, so I'm waiting for that answer. And there are a lot of projects that are going on in town, so I think most stunt people will be on them. I can't tell you I'm going to be on it, so I can't give you titles, but there are a lot of productions, like Spider-Man is in New York, you have The Avengers and Captain America that are going to start shooting in LA soon, so I think there is going to be a lot of work for a lot of people, which is good.