The 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards took place on January 30 and Houston stunt coordinator and performer Mark Chavarria was recognized as part of a group of stunt performers to take the “Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture” for Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION. Mark has performed stunts for both independent and big budget films and television for over twenty years. I caught up with Mark and asked him what it was like to work on INCEPTION, playing Cheech Marin’s stunt double (in Robert Rodriguez’ MACHETE) and the difference between low-budget indie and big-budget films.
SCENE Magazine: “You won a SAG Award for INCEPTION – what exactly did you do on that film and what was most intriguing about it?”
Mark Chavarria: “The most intriguing thing about INCEPTION was the budget; and the special effects. Chris Nolan does not like to use CGI for the stunts and action. It is all real. He is old school, and I believe respects the audience in that respect. Because now-days, people can say oh that was fake, or that is CGI―not a real person.”
SM: “What’s different between these big budget studio pictures and your typical indie film?”
MC: “Big budget films have a lot of money; little indies don’t. Major difference. What we spend in one day on a show like INCEPTION is probably the budget for an indie. So you have to learn to be real creative when working on indies. I love working on both because you really have to think outside the box sometimes; and your creativity is more appreciated and valued.”
SM: “You’re credited as Cheech Marin’s stunt double in MACHETE – tell me about that.”
MC: “Doubling Cheech was a blast. He was so nice; and it is always amazing to me that I grew up watching his movies as a kid, never knowing in a million years I would one day double him. It is complete job satisfaction that everyday you never know what you are going to be called to do, but you wake up loving every minute of it. On MACHETE I get my butt kicked by Robert DeNiro as well, and then he takes my taxi. Now that was an experience of a lifetime!”
SM: “So, you and your team got the award―albeit, recognized off-screen. What’s that like?”
MC: “Winning a SAG award is nice; but it’s funny how the actors get a statue, and we that risk life and limb, get a certificate for the win. Still unfair treatment in that arena. Not very many news outlets even knew of the stunt category in the SAG awards. Thank you for recognizing it and giving us props. Even though we love our craft, and not looking for bragging rights―like “look at me”―but it is nice to be recognized for your craft during awards season. Actors/makeup people/directors of photography/sound designers/music composers plus many others get awards for their craft, but yet another part of the film making process, the “action,” gets no credit or recognition. I think I may start dedicating my time to get stunt personnel more attention for their craft. We get Emmys, but no Oscar? Really? Can you believe that? Someone can get an Oscar for putting clothes on an actor, but no Oscar for a stuntman making the action in the movie. Can you picture movies with no action? Keep up the good fight and have faith!
Originally published on The SCENE Magazine LIVE – www.SCENElive.net