The Tricks (and Timing) Behind the Stunts

Death Becomes Her

In this 1992 film, a character played by Goldie Hawn is shot backward with such force that she flies through the air and lands in a decorative pond. The backward jump, performed by Denise Lynn Roberts, involved a maneuver known in the stunt business as a “ratchet gag.” Roberts wore a harness with a wire attached. When her character was shot, the wire jerked her back and up, letting her loose at the top of her trajectory. Momentum continued to propel her backward and down into the pool, which was only 16 inches deep. In a ratchet gag, Roberts said, “basically, you are a passenger on an E-ticket ride. You have absolutely no control.”

Zade Rosenthal Copyright 1995 by Lightstorm Entertainment

True Lies

In one scene from the 1994 film, actress Jamie Lee Curtis is shown dangling from a helicopter after being plucked from a limousine speeding along a bridge in the Florida Keys. To accomplish this dramatic feat, director James Cameron used a limousine operated by remote control from a camera car racing 200 feet behind. “All three vehicles--the remote, the camera car and the helicopter--accelerated together until they reached a top speed of 70 mph,” Cameron said. Curtis’ stunt double was cabled to the hand of a stuntman, who himself was cabled to the helicopter. Using pylons and cones to mark distance, Cameron could halt the action up to the last 300 feet, when the limo would plunge off the bridge.

Lena Yakovleva


In the 1995 film “GoldenEye,” a 40-ton tank jumps through a wall as a car filled with stuntmen roars past. To accomplish the scene, stunt coordinator Simon Crane held a stopwatch and sent the tank zooming along a one mile run-up. Said Crane: “If I cued the car at the wrong time, I would have killed all of them.” As the scene progresses, two Jeeps chasing the tank crash next to a canal. In one Jeep, three stuntmen had to jump through a windscreen into the canal. The second Jeep, meanwhile, was sent hurtling along a ramp at 30 mph. As it hits the other Jeep, blasts go off and three stuntmen on the second Jeep dive sideways into the canal.