|Bruce Law: I won’t refuse any stunt or movie just because of the difficulty. I might turn something down because of difficulty working with the director! And I think a lot of American movie personnel who’ve worked with Hong Kong directors might understand what I’m talking about!
Personally I think it is a challenge to overcome difficulty, that’s what the main aim of being a stuntman is! Being a stuntman in Hong Kong doesn’t earn you a lot of money, so you have to have a deep interest and want to overcome various obstacles and challenges to keep going
It is quite common for me to challenge myself. I sometimes suggest action design that is difficult for the directors to know how to shoot. When we were making The Killer, John Woo had only asked for a car to roll down a 35-foot slope, I suggested a double from 70 feet! In Hardboiled, Chow Yun Fat uses his shotgun to blow out the tire of one bike and flies over a sliding bike, gets up and shoots again, that was one of my suggestions too.
I don’t really care about the level of danger. But more as to can we achieve what we want the way we want without compromising our safety and the finished shot. I left my previous stunt-team because of this. The action director and the director wanted a western style of stunt work but knew nothing about modern techniques and how to shoot it without greatly endangering the actors and stuntmen. I realized this and knew that I would need to learn how to shoot action and be able to demonstrate how we can do it safely.
My old team was always working with a new director or action director, and I remember for one film they wanted a shot of an actor catching on fire while he was drunk. We shot it twice in two separate locations, and I risked my life twice. The first time was ok, the second time I ended up burning 70% of the skin on my back, and that’s about 20% of the whole body.
This accident became a talking point within the industry at that time. After I was injured, nobody else wanted to attempt to do this scene. I came back and was able to complete the action by breaking it down into 2 parts. We used 3 cameras for the shoot, all of which were simply using high speed and wasting a lot of film. The fire would keep burning out and a lot of time and footage was being wasted. A lot of accidents back then were because of mistakes in the filming and creative process but nobody seemed to want to change the way we were doing it.
Some directors were real barbarians! "I am the director, I don’t care how you do it, I just want to see this effect and now!!". They would not consider the safety of the team or the crew, or spend money on safety measures, they just wanted results. I remember one movie, The Good, the Bad & the Beauty when the director wanted there to be a big fire scene involving boats and people trying to escape. I requested a lot of safety equipment and facilities which came to more than our salaries, we were then replaced with another stunt-team led by my ex-boss who charged a bit more for their salary but didn’t need as much safety backup. They did the shoot but a number of stuntmen got hurt, and things like that are just the tip of the iceberg.