The world of stunt work is wide and vast, encompassing everything from hanging off the side of a plane to something relatively mundane like roller skating. Amazon Studios’ Bliss called for Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek’s lead characters to pull off the latter, in a scene where Hayek’s character Isabel clues Wilson’s Greg in on how their supposedly simulated world really works. Impressively, both actors decided to do their own stunts with this pivotal roller skating sequence, and in the case of Salma Hayek, she credits her experience on both Eternals and The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife for allowing her to do it so well.
During my conversation with Ms. Hayek, as she was promoting Bliss before today’s arrival on Prime Video, I wondered if she’s had experience with roller skating in the past. It’s one thing to jump in with a basic understanding, but it’s another to confidently wing it; and I had to know which scenario was the case in filming this sequence. But as if she was reading my mind, Salma Hayek burst forth with the energy that she’s been known to show on the big screen, and made all clear with a simple statement:
Mike, that’s nothing. Wait until you see all the stunts I’m doing in Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife and Eternals. By time I got here, it was just rollerskating. I didn’t know how to do it, but I learned fast.
Explained in that particular context, it’s easy to see why Salma Hayek would skip the usage of a stunt performer on Bliss. As she was returning from the world that sees her ready to match wits and skills alongside Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as playing the mother of the Eternals in Marvel’s big Phase 4 building block, roller skating must have looked like child’s play. Not to mention, if she could memorize the mind bending contents of Mike Cahill’s reality questioning drama, then surely learning the ways of the rink were like a walk in the park.
At this point in the film, Bliss has seen Greg (Owen Wilson) clued into the fact that the world he thinks is real is actually a simulation. The case is made by Isabel (Salma Hayek) who upon first spotting him in a neighborhood bar, declares he’s “real,” like her. From there, the two start their adventure between worlds, but not before Isabel give Greg a quick tutorial on the god-like powers they possess in this supposed simulation-- where life sucks and the color is literally drained from the world. And what better way to get a firm grasp on gravity defying powers than to knock over a bunch of alleged NPCs in a roller rink?
Though Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson did perform their own skating in Bliss, there was still some movie magic shorthand that helped make sure everything lined up in the end. In prepared remarks for the film’s press kit, Cinematographer Markus Forderer spoke to his amazement as to how the entire process came together, and mentioned an example of how Bliss’s big scene was executed as safely as possible:
There are always challenges, but at the end I always look back saying, "I can’t believe this really worked out." The roller rink was pretty tough because of the amount of stunts and working with two strong actors seeking to do their own stunts as much as possible. We used a couple of tricks to make everything safe (like a spinning turntable platform), while still capturing the playful atmosphere of the scene.
Through the dedication of the lead actors involved, and the safe approach of professionals behind the camera, Bliss executes a crucial moment in its sandbox of big ideas with as much practical magic as possible. To be absolutely fair though, this is Salma Hayek we’re talking about here. For someone as talented and persistent as she is, roller skating was never going to be a real challenge.