It’s not easy portraying the Man of Steel, and a stunt team can only help out so much. This is why some Superman stars over the years have preferred performing their own stunts and action sequences, and the scenes were at times designed in a simplistic way so that the star can himself perform it. In the last few decades, smart editing and visual manipulation were used to achieve a perfect stunt. But millennial viewers are a lot smarter and all of them are on Twitter.
Naturally, with the evolution of DCEU, Superman is a lot grittier now and requires to show off quite a few, intense fighting styles be it hand-to-hand combat or parkour. So who are the Superman stars who are scared to risk it and rely heavily on stunt doubles and who insist on doing their own stunts? Let’s have a look:
8 Did His Own Stunts: Christopher Reeves
Most of the action in the 1978 Superman was basically flying from one place to another and was established with the help of wire flying riggings which were usually suspended from tower cranes or studio ceilings.
Reeves insisted on doing most of the stunts himself though stuntmen were present on set, and for one rather brave scene, he was suspended fifty meters off the ground. To make the flying seem more organic, counterweights and manual pulleys were used instead of electronic ones and some optical illusions were also used to manipulate certain stunt work to make it look impressive.
7 Never Risk It: Tom Welling
Tom Welling played Clarke Kent in Smallville, and the show was more about Clark’s journey into a superhero and thus paid a lot of attention to humanizing him. But that didn’t mean the show featured easy action, Welling used stunt doubles and Christopher Sayour was his principal stunt double.
Lauro Chartrand, a stunt coordinator for Smallville revealed that most of the stunts for the show were planned weeks in advance and though Welling himself did quite a bit of stunt work, Sayour is responsible for most of Superman’s most audacious actions, since he had a great physical range.
6 Did His Own Stunts: Kirk Alyn
Kirk Alyn played the Man of Steel in the 1948 movie serial Superman and its 1950 sequel Atom Man vs. Superman and was in-fact the first live-action Superman. But back in the forties stunts were designed in a way that would require the minimum stunt work, they were not brutal and the action sequences were much shorter.
Most of Alyn’s stunt work involved flying, or rather pretending to fly. Alyn usually wore a metal harness that was attached to steel wires and was usually suspended to create the illusions of flying.
5 Never Risked It: Dean Cain
Scott Leva was Dean Cain’s main stunt double for the 1990s television series Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. The show focused on the romance between Superman and Lois, and the stunts on the show weren’t very elaborate. Interestingly, though Cain had an impressive frame and even had a brief stint with NFL’s Buffalo Bills, he was conceived as an ‘everyman Superman.’
But most of his fall and flight sequences were performed by Leve who was not just a stunt performer but also an innovator who got awarded the Science and Technical Oscar for this design for coming up with a unique design on airbags which made them safer and efficient.
4 Did His Own Stunts: George Reeves
George Reeves played Superman in the film Superman & The Mole Men (1951) and the series Adventures of Superman (1952-1958). The flight sequences were rather extensive in this one and in fact, the show got into hot water after children put their lives at risk trying to imitate Superman flying.
But the show also featured some well-designed fight sequences and Reeves handled that part mostly on his own. For his flight sequences, the makers set up a mechanical arm and a piece of plexiglass Reeves’ chest and thighs. A very efficient wind machine was used for that amped up whooshing effect, and for the multi-level jumps, Reeves would usually run and jump on a springboard, dive through a window, and land on wrestling mats.
3 Never Risked It: Brandon Routh
Brandon Routh’s Superman Returns attempted a sleek rendition where Superman is classic and yet in sync with contemporary visual styling, so most of Routh’s stunts were actually achieved by editing and visual manipulation. It is important to note that in later DCEU films like Nolan’s Batman series or the in Batman v Superman, the action and stunt work were designed to be very gritty and intense and would have been impossible to achieve without actual human contact.
But Superman Returns noticeably did not have elaborate fight scenes, there were a lot of shots of Superman flying, landing, and rescuing people. Even the audacious plane crash sequence was achieved digitally, as the film’s editor Elliot Graham revealed later. There was a stunt team on the stunt, but Routh, for the most part, did not have to break a whole lot of sweat.
2 Did Own Stunts: Henry Cavill
The Man of Steel star is famous for attempting all of his crucial stunts, be it for his superhero films or for The Witcher. But of course, it wasn’t possible for him to do all of his Superman stunts alone.
In Batman vs Superman, for instance, there’s a lot of intense action and military-style, hand-to-hand combat involved. Though Albert Valladares is Henry’s main stunt double who was present at the filming locations and Henry even praised him during the behind-the-scenes footage, he was only responsible for the superbly high-risk, free-falling scene and heavyweight parkour sequences but, generally speaking, Cavill preferred to do his own stunts and went underwent intense training for the role.
1 Never Risked It: Tyler Hoechlin
TV’s Superman Tyler Hoechlin who portrays the Man of Steel in Supergirl was praised for his sharp depiction but relied on a talented stunt team for most of his stunts. Hoechlin’s Superman was very action-forward and he was seen engaging in quite a lot of combats with others, including his cousin, but most of the intense fight scenes were achieved with the help of stunt doubles.
In fact, the famous fight scene between the two cousins of steel was performed mostly by stunt doubles, since there was a lot of high-risk moves involved and eagle-eyed fans criticized the show for not hiding the doubles better for a scene this crucial.
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