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‘It’s beyond ridiculous’: Las Vegas stuntman slams Oscars for snub

Updated March 8, 2024 - 5:59 pm

Rich Hopkins’ career is on fire. Really.

A stuntman for 36 years and a Las Vegas resident, Hopkins has appeared in more than 300 films and TV projects. He was most recently cast last year as “The Trucker” in Nicolas Cage’s “Sympathy for the Devil,” and he played an FBI agent in Mel Gibson’s “Boneyard.”

In September, Hopkins provided safety oversight for U2’s Atomic City” video in downtown Las Vegas (not an action-adventure, but the band did play on a stage set on a moving flatbed truck).

Hopkins has also appeared on “CSI:Vegas.” He has portrayed Spider-Man, scaled skyscrapers and dangled from helicopters.

For those who remember the Lee Majors’ 1980s series “The Fall Guy,” Hopkins is him. His body of work, sacrificing his battered body, should earn him consideration for an Academy Award.

But Oscar doesn’t perform stunts. Hopkins’ community is not on the list of nominees, again, as the 96th annual Academy Awards telecast approaches Sunday. Jimmy Kimmel is back as host, with the show airing live at 4 p.m. Pacific time on ABC.

In 1992, Hopkins founded the company Thrillseekers Unlimited, which places stunt professionals in TV and film projects. In his career, the “King of Extreme,” as he is known, has become an expert in fire burns, high falls, zip lines, air rams, ratchets, wire work, weapons, bullet hits (using squibs, or exploding fake-blood packets), car transfers, stunt driving and stunt fighting.

In that time, the industry vet has decried the absence of an Oscar for stunt performers.

“The Academy acknowledges pretty much every single category in the industry, except us,” the stuntman and character actor says. “It is beyond ridiculous and insulting to not include us. We add production value to any project, and our contributions are important and tangible.”

Hopkins goes on to say it is “unclear” why the industry’s most prestigious awards body would not honor these stunt pros.

“I would love to take the members of the Academy for a ride in a stunt car, have them follow me off of a skyscraper, or even do a fire stunt with me,” he says. “I promise after that, they will understand and respect our craft.”

Hopkins’ hardware, to date, include surgeries related to fractured C5 and L5 vertebrae, spinal stenosis surgery and open-heart surgery. He’s overcome injuries to his spleen, gall bladder and appendix. He’s withstood broken ribs and ankles, a hernia, concussions, and assorted contusions and cuts.

Despite the culture’s undeniable importance to filmmaking and TV production, the stunt community’s push for recognition has been splintered. A few Facebook groups and several leading stunt professionals, led by Hopkins, have approached the Academy.

The awards’ governing body considered adding the category this past July, but the effort fell short of approval.

As Hopkins notes, the Screen Actors Guild and Emmys present stunt awards. But not the “granddaddy” of all entertainment awards. As he says, “It’s time.”

It’s a painful process. Maybe next year.

Not Neil, but …

The Diamonds are the house band at Bruno Mars’ The Pinky Ring at Bellagio, when Mars’ band The Houligans are not holding forth. This outfit in formal pink outfits features members of Brian Newman’s band and also such Vegas stalwarts as drummer Pepe Jimenez and sax man Mat Schumer. We’re always radar-up for the local musicians.

She’s magic, too

Casey Thomas wowed the crowd Thursday night in her debut at Mirage Theater. Thomas is an experienced, yet largely unknown Vegas performer, wife of star magician Shin Lim of “Limitless.” I’d met Thomas when she recorded video of Lim performing a mind-blowing card trick with me at Paris Theater in November 2018. This was as Lim prepped for the“America’s Got Talent” live show following his Season 13 championship.

Thomas is also trained dancer who first took the stage at age 4, and who has co-starred in magic productions internationally. She and Lim met while both were in the “House of Magic” cast at Studio City in Macau.

Thomas has since worked as a creative director in “Limitless,” known as the show’s “third magician,” with Lim and renowned mentalist Colin Cloud.

But Thomas now is in the production full-time. She performed a high-difficulty card manipulation routine, made more difficult as she executed the act in an aerial hoop. Thomas ruled the meet-and-greet after the show. We’ll see her soon. Until then, catch her work on Instagram @caseykathleenmagic.

Cool Hang Alert

The ever-rocking Franky Perez heats up Rouge Room at Red Rock Resort on from 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursdays. Whether in a leather jacket or (in this case) a black suit, Perez levels the place. No cover, 21-over, go to rougeroomlv.com for intel.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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