The landscape in and around one of the world's seven natural wonders has a long history of stunts being staged — or turned down. An acrobat, a magician and overall daredevils are among those who have approached Grand Canyon National Park over the years with visions of a made-for-TV moment.
Now Hollywood icon Will Smith will celebrate his 50th birthday by bungee jumping from a helicopter. While it's been billed as a leap "in the heart of the Grand Canyon," it actually will take place over a smaller gorge on the Navajo Nation, a tribe whose reservation borders the east rim of the national park.
Getting permission to film or stage something in the Grand Canyon means meeting a lot of criteria. Among the outrageous proposals the park has declined was in the 1990s, when now-deceased artist Ron Nicolino collected thousands of bras that he wanted to string across the Grand Canyon. The park said no.
Grand Canyon spokeswoman Kari Cobb said Smith did not approach the park for the bungee jump, but it wouldn't be allowed anyway. She said the park is responsible for protecting its assets.
"It's everything relating to safety, impacts to visitors and impacts to the resources," she said.
Todd Berger, author of "It Happened at Grand Canyon," says the earliest-known publicized stunt he can recall from his research of the Grand Canyon was an aeroplane landing near Plateau Point in the early 1920s. Ellsworth Kolb and a swashbuckling pilot took off from the plateau below the South Rim and "spiralled" up and out of the canyon in front of large crowds and cameras.
The Grand Canyon is alluring for promotional purpose because it's "world-famous, spectacular and scary to most people," Berger said in an email.
According to reports, Smith will plans to make his big leap from the Navajo Nation to walk a 5-centimetre-thick steel cable 1,476 feet (450 metres) over the Little Colorado River gorge, just east of Grand Canyon National Park.
Navajo Nation spokesman Mihio Manus said any stunt or filming project in the tribe's Little Colorado River park requires a special permit. Applicants outline their plans and fill out paperwork. If a department manager approves, they talk about the scope of the event and location. Environmental and wildlife officials also weigh in before a permit can be issued and a fee assessed.
Manus declined to comment on Smith's jump. However, according to Smith's social media page's, he plans to make the jump on Tuesday.
The "In Pursuit of Happiness" actor previously jumped from the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.