I like to talk to strangers on planes. They usually initiate, but I keep it going. Recently I met and talked to a middle-aged man named Jerry for almost the entire duration of the flight from Denver to Pittsburgh, ~ 4 hours. He told me stories from the life of his cousin, the veteran Hollywood stunt man, and I was just blown away, eyes wide, in disbelief.
His cousin (we'll call him Tom) became a stunt man in the 70s, back when a stunt required enormous physical ability, agility, precision, bravery and being OK with your life ending on the job. There was no crutch of CGI or green screens to make action come alive on the screen. It was just you, and your body.
Jerry told me a number of stories from Tom's job, but one really stuck with me (no pun intended, you'll see).
Tom's first paid stunt was supposed to be relatively routine. He was to drive a car off a bridge, into the water. /end scene. He would have an oxygen tank and there would be a team dedicated to pulling him, and the car out.
He drove the car off the bridge without a hitch, but instead of water, the car landed straight into a big mass of mud. Tom tried all he could to loosen himself, the mud, and get out, but it wasn't working. nothing would budge. He was in the car, safe, yes, but the car was surrounded by thick unmoving mud. Many minutes passed. His oxygen was running low. lower. lowest. He was pretty sure this was it. the end. of his life.
until. he felt an arm, pulling him through. Once on land, Tom's rescuer explained that it was an inch of the front bumper that reflected, his flashlight shining on it.
Pure, dumb, incomprehensible luck. If it wasn't for that inch of bumper, Tom would have drowned to death.
Imagine that being your first day of work at a new job.
but on Tom went to become one of the most prolific stuntsmen of his time.