China's daredevils to stars

Updated: 2012-01-11 15:56

By Xu Pingting and Lee Michael Hannon (

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Li Tao is struck by a taxi travelling at 30 km/h, bounces over the roof and tumbles to the ground.

It may look like a horrific road accident, but Li is actually working and this is the eighth time he has been hit in one morning.

He is just one of the unsung heroes of the big screen who often risk life and limb undertaking dangerous acts to give Chinese movies greater visual impact.

China's daredevils to stars 

Li Tao is hit by the taxi travelling at a speed of 30 km/h. [Photo/CFP] 

China's daredevils to stars 

Li rolls over the running car and falls to the ground. [Photo/CFP] 

But while 'Chinawood' is undergoing a boom and the pay for actors has rocketed, the wages for Chinese stunt performers has dwindled due to the fierce competition for daredevil roles.

Stunt doubles used to be paid around 400 yuan ($63) a day, but lately they have seen the amount tumble to 200 yuan.

Their work is often dangerous - fighting, dodging explosions or running into cars – but it is all in a day's work for those who get a thrill from a high risk job with little pay.

Li Tao along with Cao Xu, Meng Mingang and Wang Meiying are all stunt performers on the movie Shou Zhu Ren which was filmed on location in Tianjin in December.

The stunts in the suspense thriller are the work of action director Zhao Zhenhua, who is a kungfu expert and played the stunt double for Nicolas Tse in the film A Man Called Hero in 1998.

On set he is demanding, carefully choreographing the scene with stunt performers and camera operators to achieve the most realistic shots.

But even onlookers recoil in horror as Li throws himself in front a taxi for the eighth time. "One man can't get knocked down and fall like this, even if he is trained in kungfu," remarked one bystander to a local newspaper.

Once again, Li steps out into the road, gets struck by the pale blue taxi and rolls over the roof, crashing to the ground.

This time Li is hurt, but it's a minor injury to his finger and the young stunt performer tells everyone "it's fine, it's fine."

But the action director, who affectionately calls his performers his brothers, is not so convinced.

"My brothers always say 'it's fine' whatever they've been through. But how is it possible to be fine after knocking and falling eight times. I used to be stunt performer and I know if it hurts or not," said Zhao speaking to China Business.

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