Unstoppable: Tony Scott Finally Gets It Right

Filmmaker Tony Scott (“Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire,” “True Romance” and “Top Gun”) likes to mix non-stop action with strong characters that bring audiences further into the drama.  

UNSTOPPABLE tries to blend action, character, drama, and emotion. “It’s a movie that starts out at fifty miles an hour and ends up at 150 mph; it’s speed-on-speed,” says Scott, who claims UNSTOPPABLE was the toughest project, mentally and physically, he’s undertaken. 
 
Scott is referring to more than the logistical challenges of filming aboard a vehicle hurtling down a railroad track at 50 miles per hour or the film’s heart-stopping stunt sequences. Sitting in the same 6 x 9 foot space aboard the blue and yellow 1206 for most of the film brought its own set of obstacles and keeping the characters interesting inside that box was one of the most daunting tasks for the director. 
 
“This was the most challenging and brilliant adventure I’ve ever encountered because I had to tell a character story inside something going very, very fast,” says Scott. “It’s always about the performances – how I look at these two characters in a way I haven’t done before and be honest to who they are.”
 
Real Action
 
In keeping with the film’s realistic tone and characters, Scott largely eschewed the use of CGI, opting instead for real action and the skills of some of the industry’s most inventive stunt people.
 
Drama coupled with Scott’s dramatic flair and his visual expertise makes for a wild and captivating ride. “The real challenge with UNSTOPPABLE was capturing the character evolutions of Frank (Denzel Washington) and Will (Chris Pine), who are undertaking this monumental journey trying to stop this runaway train,” says the director. “But first, they must come to terms with one another and resolve their differences.”
 
Train as Villain of the Story
 
Before Scott put his stamp on the project, producers Julie Yorn and Mimi Rogers presented the idea for UNSTOPPABLE to writer Mark Bomback, who began with the concept of a train as the villain of the story. “Like a lot of children, I liked trains as a kid,” says Bomback, “but I certainly wasn’t a fan. I started researching the film from a place of complete ignorance. Trains are ubiquitous, but you never think about how the entire country depends on them so it seemed like an interesting setting for a film. Trains haven’t been done in a while so I thought this might be a new way to introduce them; they’re so old school, they’re new school.”
 
Relentless Pace
 
Bomback’s chief goal in telling the story was to maintain a relentless pace. “We wanted audiences to think that Frank or Will could die at any moment and the movie would still continue,” says Bomback, “because audiences would understand the train can’t derail until, at best, the end of the film. So the question is, how do you maintain that sense of tension? I did my best to stay within the bounds of realism and not go too far.”
 
Bomback worked on the script on and off for two years before Tony Scott came aboard. The director says it was the first, and likely the only time, in his career when a studio took on his first draft with no notes before beginning to assemble their cast and crew.   
“Mark’s script was the best page-turner I’ve ever read,” says Scott. “I flew through it. The characters became stronger as the story unfolded and the action took care of itself; it has a forward momentum and it never lets up.”
 
Denzel Washington
 
Scott turned once again to his muse, Oscar winner Denzel Washington, to headline his select cast. UNSTOPPABLE is their fifth collaboration, following “Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire,” “Déjà Vu” and “The Taking of Pelham 123.” Says Scott of Washington: “In every movie Denzel and I have done together, he’s always tapped into a different aspect of his personality. “Within each of us, and at a given point in our lives, are different personalities, and Denzel is brilliant in tapping into the personality right for a given project.”