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Stuntmen eye Oscar as Pitt shines light on dangerous trade

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Hollywood (United States) (AFP)

For Hollywood's stuntmen, the sight of one of their own receiving an Oscar at this Sunday's ceremony would be a cause for celebration.

Stunt performers have been campaigning for their own Academy Award for years, arguing their input equals that of the sound mixers, makeup artists and visual effects gurus already honored.

But the "stuntman" favored to win this Sunday is Brad Pitt, nominated as best supporting actor for playing one in "Once Upon A Time... in Hollywood."

For Los Angeles-based stunt performer and trainer Daniel Locicero, a win for Pitt would bring "good exposure" for his profession, but falls short of the real deal.

"I'm sure he had a double in the film!" joked Locicero, whose credits include 2017 Oscar-winning war movie "Dunkirk."

Stunt performers are already honored at the prestigious Screen Actors Guild awards, where "Avengers: Endgame" and "Game of Thrones" stunt teams won last month.

"Our stunt performers put everything on the line, they actually protect us and save our lives," SAG president Gabrielle Carteris told AFP.

"The work they do is not easy, and they actually help to make our TV shows and films dynamic -- that's why we honor them."

But so far, the Academy has been reluctant to add categories for stunt work.

"I think the Oscars are a little afraid of us right now," said Jack Gill, who is spearheading the campaign for recognition. "They've given me every reason why we can't be in it."

One of these reasons included the fear that stunt performers would be incentivized to take excessive risks in pursuit of Oscars glory -- a notion ridiculed by Gill.

"If that's true, special effects would do (the same) because they have explosions -- they're blowing things up... they haven't gone out and tried to kill people for an award!" he said.

- 'Step up' -

For Locicero, another factor explains Hollywood's reluctance -- studios' fear of letting audiences see behind the curtain.

"They don't want to burn the magical aspect," he said, giving as an example a "clip of supposedly Leonardo DiCaprio kicking the guy."

Oscars viewers might say, "Oh, that wasn't Leonardo doing that!" and the film could lose credibility, Locicero said.

Many stunt performers have called on actors to rally to their cause.

"Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" portrays a close bond between Pitt's stuntman and DiCaprio's actor, with the pair inseparable even off set.

This is close to reality in many cases, says Locicero.

"I've trained more or less famous people and created that connection with them as a friend," he said.

In return for keeping their A-list actors safe, "the friendship, the thanks is everything, you know?"

But more than friendship is needed if Gill's campaign for a change in stunt performers' status can come to fruition.

"When you see Brad Pitt... do something like this and then get nominated for it, it's the time we really want to push as hard as we can," said Gill.

"What I really want to see on the red carpet is for these actors to step up and say, 'I think it's about time we had an action category in the Oscars.'"

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