Did the POV Film “Hardcore Henry” Really Use a Stand-In?

By | 2016-03-22T11:10:25+00:00 March 23rd, 2016|Challenges, In Culture, In the News, Stories, Terminology, Video|0 Comments

In a recent story from Deadline, the first-person point of view film Hardcore Henry (formerly known as simply Hardcore) is said to have used a “stand-in” to capture footage, rigging a cage containing a GoPro camera to the stand-in’s head.

Here’s a trailer for the film:

As the author of the Deadline article explains:

[T]he production created a cage mount for a GoPro camera that fit over a stand-in’s head, along with lots and lots of meticulous and often risky choreography. That required plenty of trial and error — for instance, the realization that they had to make whomever was wearing the mount wear sunglasses too, or the other actors would look at their eyes rather than into the camera. It also made for some harrowing stunts; after one in particular, Copley and Naishuller spent several minutes terrified they’d accidentally killed the stand-in.

Stand-ins — at least in the sense of the term as used on Stand-In Central — rarely perform this kind of work — they are usually used for setting up cameras and lighting, not actually wearing a camera. More than likely, if a stand-in were meant to perform such detailed camera work, a principal actor would be hired instead and given the responsibility. Or, if safety were a risk, the responsibility would be given to a stunt performer or stunt double.

So was a stand-in really used on Hardcore Henry? Let’s investigate.

Stand-In … or Stunt Double?

The Internet Movie Database entry for Hardcore Henry offers no credit for a “stand-in” for the film — and if a stand-in were used in the same sense as implied in SAG-AFTRA contracts, it would be a major slight against a stand-in to have done such pivotal work for a film without being awarded credit.

But stand-ins in the sense of filmmaking discussed on Stand-In Central — and generally in the sense of SAG-AFTRA contracts — do not appear on camera in any form. It’s unclear whether this stand-in’s arms, legs, or other body parts appeared onscreen, but if they did, that stand-in would be additionally classified as some sort of “double” — whether a hand double (more generally recognized as a “photo double”), a body double, or a stunt double.

“Stand-In” in the General Sense of the Term?

The film was shot in Russia, and there is some reason to believe the use of the term “stand-in” in discussing the person (or people) who wore the GoPro camera was loose — that is, not the same meaning for the term “stand-in” as typically implied in American filmmaking.

more general meaning for the term “stand-in” sometimes irritatingly shows up in media, misrepresenting the technical work of stand-ins, and this may be the case here.

Camera Operator(s)?

A story from The Verge gives a little more detail into how Hardcore Henry was shot:

The film ended up going through three directors of photography over the course of production, with one of the operators forced to step away due to health concerns caused by the GoPro rig. “He got a herniated disk because the thing was a little heavy. The early prototypes — we were still developing while we were shooting — they were metal instead of being plastic and 3D-printed. He had to take a break and do some yoga.” One of the actors in the film subbed in for some scenes, as did [director Ilya] Naishuller himself when shooting some of the sequences where Henry is talking directly to Sharlto Copley’s character. “It was a big learning curve for everybody involved,” the director says.

These details imply that it wasn’t just one stand-in — or one stunt performer — used for capturing Hardcore Henry, but instead a range of people who wore the camera rig over the course of shooting. Perhaps even camera operators served as stand-ins.

These details also imply the non-traditional cinematography methods used for the film, and quite possibly that job lines blurred in the effort to capture the shot. So, if stand-ins in the SAG-AFTRA, American sense were used, perhaps they were used in non-traditional ways or had non-traditional responsibilities.

Yes, Plural!

In an interview with the director on /Film, multiple performers played the POV of Henry:

It was about a dozen or thirteen [who played Henry overall]. The guy who plays Slick Dimitri in the movie, Andrei Dementiev, he shot a little more than half of it. Another guy, Sergey Nosulenko, who I shot the “Bad Motherfuckers” video with, shot about a third. I’m not sure if that works. I’m not good with fractions. I did some of the talking scenes with Sharlto [Copley] and some of the little basic shooting sequences. We had specialized stunt men. The guy who has to get on a horse? That’s a horse wrangler. The guy who fells out of the helicopter? That’s a base jumper. The guy who gets set on fire is the guy who usually gets set on fire. Four different guys drove. I got the the chance to drive at high speeds with Sharlto in the car and that was quite entertaining. 

In an interview on Birth Movies Death with the director and lead actor Copley, Copley details some of the people working the camera to whom he played:

[S]ometimes Ilya was manning the camera; sometimes it would be someone else, who is sort of acting but also doing a stunt. So the whole energy revolving around that type of performance was different and difficult to get used to.

So, What’s This about Nearly Killing a Stand-In?

It may be that the Deadline reporter misunderstood. In a Tribute.ca interview with Copley, Copley explains when he and Naishuller thought they had killed someone — but Naishuller was the camera operator at the time, not a stand-in:

So it was a stunt performer not handling the camera that the actor and director had feared they killed, not a stand-in operating the camera.

Summary

So it would seem that the Deadline report of a stand-in nearly being killed on the set of Hardcore Henry is not true — in that it wasn’t a stand-in but a stuntman being referred to, and that (if you watch the Tribute interview) it was more that the actor and director thought they had killed that stuntman when instead something else on set had happened.

All in all, suggesting that a “stand-in” operated the camera in Hardcore Henry is a bit of a misnomer, at least in the American filmmaking sense of the term “stand-in,” and in the sense of the term documented and explained on Stand-In Central.

Did you work as a stunt performer on Hardcore Henry? Did you operate the camera on the film? Were you a “stand-in” for Henry? Share your experiences below!

About the Author:

Ben Hauck (Editor, Stand-In Central) has stood in on a number of projects shot in the NYC area. In addition to day-playing, he has stood in on major projects for John Oliver (Last Week Tonight), Jason Bateman (The Longest Week, Disconnect, and The Switch), Jason Sudeikis (Sleeping with Other People), Seth Rogen (The Night Before), and Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie and American Odyssey). Ben is an actor and improviser, author of the 2012 book Long-Form Improv (Allworth Press), and host of The Acting Income Podcast. http://benhauck.com

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