Often the most famous scenes in movies and television aren’t performed by the people we think they are. Successful stunt doubling is done to the point where the audience doesn’t even notice that there is a stunt double. Chuck Waters is an American stuntman and actor who has worked on many films throughout his career. Waters was born on September 14, 1934 in Waukegan, Illinois, and grew up as a very adventurous person (OAC). He joined the Marine Corps after high school and didn’t decide to join the industry til he was 30 (OAC). His first role was on the TV series Honey West as a scuba diver at age 31 (OAC). After this he began performing stunts in major movies such as The Exorcist and The Deer Hunter (OAC). In the 1980s he began coordinating stunt sequences and from then on worked as both a stunt double and a stunt coordinator (OAC). He has worked on over 130 films with the biggest names in the industry, including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Clint Eastwood (OAC).
The beginning of cinema brought the beginning of stunting soon after it. The “king of slapstick comedy” Mack Sennett is often credited with the beginning of stunt acting (Staff). His silent films were filled with “chases, races, collisions, tumbles, and spills” (Sullivan), all of which required actors to be ready for anything on set. Originally, there were not stunt doubles. Actors got their roles because they could perform what was necessary, and keep in mind they didn’t require the same acting talent because films were still silent. It is said that the general people were vaguely aware that some of the actors didn’t perform everything they saw. As the film industry and the idea of a “star” grew, so did the business factor in film (Smith). If an actor were to get injured while working, even just a graze on the face, the costs skyrocket as they wait for the actor to recuperate (Smith). Therefore, the rise of stunt doubles was the only economically logical thing to happen. Sadly, the nature of this career makes it so that the better job the stunt doubles do, the less known they are. Because of this, stuntmen’s work is a large part of the industry that was always covered in mystery and secrecy. Oftentimes when the stunt doubles get injured or possibly even killed, the public has no idea. However, some successful stunt doubles later go on to receive positions coordinating and directing stunt sequences, such as Chuck Waters.
For this part of the exhibition, we have his script from the 1997 Walt Disney Pictures film Flubber, in which he coordinated the basketball sequence. In this scene, Professor Philip Brainard, played by Robin Williams, tests out his experiment on a high school basketball team that doesn’t have a chance against their opponents. His experiment is a substance he classifies as “flying rubber,” leading him to call it “flubber”. The professor adheres flubber to the bottom of their shoes so they can jump far higher than normal. They end up jumping higher than the net itself, but there is no rule against jumping too high so they win the game. Players flew around the room and the final point was made by character Dale jumping with his flubber and subsequently flying across the court in a series of continuous forward somersaults. Waters, as stunt coordinator for this scene, helped design the sequence and cast the stunt doubles. His script in the exhibition contains notes of extra details that he as the stunt coordinator needs to know, such as cuts to add, his own work schedule, and questions regarding the stunts he is coordinating.
Smith, Jacob. “Seeing Double: Stunt Performance and Masculinity.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 56, no. 3, 2004, pp. 35–53.
Sullivan, George, and Tim Sullivan. Stunt People. New York: Beaufort, 1983.
Staff, Legacy. “Mack Sennett: The Father of Slapstick Cinema.” Legacy.com, Legacy.com, 15 Aug. 2018, www.legacy.com/news/celebrity-deaths/article/mack-sennett-the-father-of-slapstick-cinema.
“The Finding Aid of the Chuck Waters Papers 0122.” Online Archive of California, oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c80k2b7d/entire_text/.