James Cameron and Keanu Reeves are starring in 2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars, a documentary about stunt performers. Cameron has been at the helm of several major action franchises, directing films such as The Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar. Reeves has long been known for his performances in action movies, most notably The Matrix franchise and John Wick films. Having so much experience with stunt-heavy projects makes both of them particularly qualified to delve into the artistry of these performers.
The documentary comes at a time when there is more pressure than ever for the men and women behind death-defying movie stunts to finally gain some recognition for their achievements. Although the Screen Actors Guild did choose to include an award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble back in 2007, the Oscars has yet to do so. The Academy Awards are considered by many to be the pinnacle of awards ceremonies and with 24 categories, the omission of stunt coordinators and performers feels like a glaring one. After many of them boycotted the ceremony earlier this year, there has been some talk of stunt performers staging a protest at the 2020 Oscars.
Variety reports that Cameron and Reeves will appear in 2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars, alongside several other actors, including Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry, and Helen Mirren. Mirren has already previously gone on record stating that stunt performers deserve to qualify for Oscars. The documentary will explore the relationship between actors and the artists who perform their stunts. Jessie Graff, Heidi Moneymaker, Jack Gill, JJ Perry, and Jackson Spidell will all be featured. Directed by Jason Strickland, the movie is produced by Rootbeer Films, along with In The Light Productions. CEO/President of Rootbeer, Lenny Shapiro explained, “Having produced many action films, it is my great pleasure to showcase the real action stars… the stunt people.” Rootbeer has also begun production on a female version of 2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars, to be titled Hollywood’s Hard Hitters, which will include interviews with Zoe Saldana and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Stunt performers have long gone underappreciated despite literally putting their lives on the line to entertain audiences. The relationship between these performers and the actors they double was at the heart of Quentin Tarantino’s most recent film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. While it is true that changes to the Oscars can backfire, as seen with last year’s attempt to introduce a Best Popular Film category, it’s likely that including stunt performers in the awards ceremony would be much more well-received.
This new documentary will shed some light on the tremendous amount of effort that goes into both coordinating and creating the incredible stunts fans have grown accustomed to seeing. CGI may be capable of crafting true movie magic, but ultimately, there is no real substitute for these incredibly brave men and women. It’s about time a film shone the spotlight on them and 2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars aims to do just that.