Fast and Furious: Filming the Stunts

The producers and director Justin Lin knew that action was just as key to satisfying fans as the family reunion of Dom and Letty and Brian and Mia.  Eight years have passed, and although the players have changed, the L.A. street-racing game remains the same.  Brian spends his days tailing criminals behind the wheel of an FBI-standard issue Crown Victoria, and Dom is a legend whose exploits have been eclipsed by the young guns.

Lin, DP Mokri and 2nd unit director Leonard did their homework when it came to crafting visually credible driving sequences.  Staying true to the street-racing subculture, they wanted to infuse the plot with moments that will excite the diehards…as well as raise the bar for the action and, logically, the characters.

“A valuable lesson I learned from Tokyo Drift was how to deliver danger safely on screen,” Lin says.  “Nothing beats these cars when they go out on the road—the way they turn, flip and land.  We’re all excited to capture it in a new, authentic way.”

For Walker, it was important that the driving in Fast & Furious reflect moves through the streets of L.A. and under the tunnels in Mexico that looked as real as possible.  “The first two films were hyper-reality, especially 2 Fast 2 Furious,” says the actor.  “I wanted the driving for this one to be as real as possible.  I always thought Brian’s driving was different from the other guys.  He’s more A to B in a straight shot, as opposed to drifting and style points.”

Adds the director: “It was great talking to Paul about the cars.  He’s very knowledgeable about design and the import scene, which has evolved so much, and we wanted to respect that.  This time, I’m looking to enhance the actual design of the cars, rather than trying to decorate it.”  

From breakneck tunnel drives to hairpin city U-turns, the filmmakers looked to Leonard to execute the audacious driving sequences from Morgan’s script.  Alongside stunt coordinator FREDDIE HICE, Leonard visualized the over-the-top driving sequences and choreographed the hardcore maneuvers that elevate the exploits fans have come to expect with each new film.

Using the tried-and-true camera rigged PORSCHE CAYENNE, the M1 OFF-ROAD BUGGY and the MIC RIG, designed by The Fast and the Furious stunt coordinator MIC RODGERS, they were able to guarantee filmgoers a memorable ride.

Referring to a driving shot upon which he improvised, Walker offers: “Justin asked me to come hauling up and then slow down to a stop.  It was the second take, so I thought I could do it a little faster.  I was pushing it harder and harder and, at one point, I thought I was going to run out of real estate.

“There was a lot of dirt on the road, and the tires were semislick [performs better on clean asphalt] so the grip wasn’t as good,” he continues.  “I was doing 80 mph when I finally came to a stop, less than 10 feet from a parked car.  It was a bit of a nail-biter, but you couldn’t get it much closer or much hotter.”

To re-create Dom and Letty’s fuel-tanker heist in the Dominican Republic, the scene needed both film units to capture all the movements.  Over the course of several weeks, the production used specialized machines with customized features.  These included multiple Buick GNXs—all rigged for different stunt techniques (e.g., driving in reverse at high speeds)—as well as self-driving tankers (able to drive solo or haul additional tankers) and rear-drive tankers.

Diesel and Rodriguez were able to experience an adrenaline rush as they filmed the sequence, most notably Rodriguez and her stunt double HEIDI MONEYMAKER, who both, according to Rodriguez, “got to hang off the tanker at 25 miles an hour.”  To portray daredevil Letty, they scaled the racing tankers and hung on for dear life.

Diesel sums the cast and crew’s sentiments about getting behind the wheel.  He reminisces: “Doing 180s, 360s, 90s…it was a lot of fun to get back behind the wheel.  A true car lover will tell you that a car is an extension of his character.  So getting back to that reliable, stoic Charger was very fun.  It was like an old friend—like an old cast member that I had worked with a long time ago.”

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