The Times ran two extensive features (by Sharon Bernstein and Robert W. Welkos, Feb. 18 and 19) exploring whether the increasingly hazardous stunt work now undertaken for films should, and can be, controlled. I'm afraid you have hold of the wrong end of the elephant.
Disastrous choices are made on films all the time, from "Heaven's Gate" to "Waterworld," often by people ill-equipped for the task. These blunders can cost tens of millions, even close a studio. But if you make mistakes on a stunt sequence, you can kill somebody.
In the silent days, of course, they'd just give some poor cowboy 50 bucks and a bottle of bourbon and have him take a horse off a cliff. Then Yakima Canutt, the first and perhaps the best of the great stunt men, transformed a suicidal gamble into a modern profession, inventing a lot of the safety gear still used, for which Yak received an honorary Oscar. He deserved it.
I've made some 70 films; maybe half have included some sort of stunt work, from a simple fall onto a pad to two months in that chariot (plus five weeks of lessons first). Many of the action sequences in my films were designed and directed by Yak, more recently by his son and worthy successor, Joe. I have never once consulted with the director of the film whether I could learn to do whatever action was involved or if, on the day, I could handle it or should be doubled. That's the job of the second-unit director or stunt coordinator.
John Ford, George Stevens and Willy Wyler always turned action sequences over to a second unit, knowing they would be shot better, faster and safer. Willy said to Yak, "You shoot the race; I'll cut it." The tendency of modern directors to shoot such scenes themselves is costly and very dangerous, serving nothing but their own egos.
Roy Kinnear was a lovely actor, but he was no horseman. For Dick Lester to have him run a horse down a cobbled street was irresponsible. It killed him. Let the pros direct the stunt stuff.