Fast & Furious 6: London, Glasgow, Liverpool

Crossing the Pond:

After a decade of dazzling audiences with storylines playing against backdrops in Los Angeles, Miami, Tokyo, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and most notably, the gritty favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the Fast & Furious series roars across the Atlantic to Europe for its next chapter.

The producers Lin, Moritz, Diesel and Townsend assembled a team of behind-the-scenes talent to help them fully realize a script that even in its earliest of drafts had readers awed.

Says Townsend of the effort: “We’ve always said that it takes an army to make these movies. I can’t begin to properly thank the hundreds of crew members who took Justin’s vision and turned it into what I can honestly say is the most astonishing series of action pieces I’ve seen committed to film.”

Franchise DP Stephen Windon, costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hays, visual effects supervisor KELVIN McILWAIN (Fast Five), first assistant director VINCENT LASCOUMES (Fast Five), second unit director Spiro Razatos and second unit director of photography IGOR MEGLIC (Fast Five) were looking forward to continuing the work they began with Lin several years ago.

Massive Set Pieces

As with previous Justin Lin-directed Fast & Furious films, massive set pieces dominate the action. For audiences around the world, expectations are quite high with the release of each subsequent chapter. Like the franchise itself, there is nothing subtle or under-the-radar when it comes to the logistics of filming one of these productions. With this chapter, two film units traversed the United Kingdom and the Canary Islands with hundreds of people, hundreds of cars and tons of equipment.

Shooting in London, Glasgow and Liverpool

Ironically, the first four weeks of the production would find the majority of the principal cast—Diesel, Walker, Johnson, Rodriguez, Gibson, Bridges, Kang, Gadot and Carano—ensconced in soundstages at Shepperton Studios as they filmed interior dialogue-driven scenes instead of hauling ass down England’s A1 or M4 motorways. That would come in due time. However, the first few days of filming were anything but mundane, as the family of actors and behind-the-scenes crew were reassembled and raring to go.

Principal photography on Fast & Furious 6 began in mid-summer in London, just as the world was tuning in to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games. Lin and the crew needed to keep to a tight schedule of filming in London, even amid the spectacle of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Fortunately, it allowed some of the cast and filmmakers the rare opportunity to be fans and attend a few Olympic events and cheer on their favorite athletes.

Iconic Locations

Filming at some of London’s more iconic locations—such as Piccadilly Circus, Wembley Stadium, Lambeth Bridge, Canary Wharf, Waterloo Station and Battersea Power Station—was integral to the story. Indeed, this portion of the production would follow in the fall, when the city had returned to its usual bustling rhythms. With the bulk of Fast & Furious 6 set in London, the filmmakers wanted to make sure they captured all aspects—from the gritty streets of Hackney in East London and the Thames, with its spectacular views of the Tower Bridge, to the neon-lit streets of Piccadilly.
The production’s second “action” unit, once again helmed by Razatos, however, would escape the Olympic fervor in London and get straight to filming an hour north of the capital city, near Ipswich. An airstrip at a defunct Royal Air Force base would play host to the crew, who would spend more than three weeks shooting ambitious exterior nighttime coverage of the intricately choreographed third-act sequence—known among cast and crew as the “Antonov sequence.”

Perhaps the most ambitious shoot in the history of the franchise, the sequence finds Hobbs, Dom and the team racing down an airstrip in pursuit of Shaw and his crew before they can escape in an enormous Antonov 124 cargo plane. It’s a multilayered free-for-all as this final showdown occurs in- and outside the aircraft. The main unit would handle the filming of the interior portion of the Antonov sequence, as well as several key exterior beats of the scene, on the cavernous soundstages of Longcross Studios.

For second unit director Razatos, the scene was a massive partnership of multiple cameras filming practical stunt action with myriad lighting systems, special effects, picture cars and visual effects components. The art department designed and constructed full-scale sections of the plane fuselage, as well as wheels, the cargo ramp and other key plane sections that were augmented to make it fully operational and mobile when mounted upon semi-trucks.

Precision driving occurred by stunt drivers—both in front of and behind the cameras—as specially rigged camera cars tracked the action by maneuvering inches from the drivers. The Dodge Chargers, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Jeep, Range Rovers and the Flip Car would all get screen time screaming down the runway as they were followed by high-speed camera cars such as the turbo-charged PORSCHE CAYENNE, CADILLAC ESCALADE and AUDI RS4. These were merely a sampling of the arsenal of fast cars selected by Razatos, Meglic and second unit stunt coordinator Andy Gill as they worked in tandem with Lin and the main unit team to capture the driving exploits. Their collaborative experience of creating the cutting-edge action on Fast Five lent itself to stepping up their game for Fast & Furious 6. This shorthand would prove essential throughout filming, particularly for this exhausting first leg, which admittedly was the biggest challenge for the second unit team.

The streets of Glasgow and Liverpool would play host to filming of the “Team vs. Team” race scenes, which would give the locals their first glimpse at the new crop of eye candy roaring through their streets. London’s narrow maze of roadways, often clogged with commuters, was not conducive to filming the bulk of the fast-paced action, so the wider roadways of both cities made ideal substitutes.

Razatos and the second unit team would first go to Glasgow for two weeks to film the chase scenes in which Hobbs, Dom and the team were hot on the heels of Shaw and his crew for the first time. It’s here that the Flip Car was unveiled and wowed everyone as it zigzagged through the streets before launching several police cars into the air. Hobbs’ monstrous Navistar MXT also garnered attention as it dwarfed every other car on the street. A week filming in the tunnels and streets of Liverpool would complete the sequence in spectacular fashion.

Piccadilly Circus

Luckily, the filmmakers were able to film a driving sequence through Whitehall and Piccadilly Circus. In a rare move, city officials allowed the closure of Piccadilly for several hours so the production could film Dom’s Daytona and Letty’s Jensen racing through the streets and drifting through the main square. Squealing tires drew whoops and claps from fans and those lucky enough to stumble upon the film set and see the long-lost lovers reunited behind the wheel.

With second unit on an extended road trip, Shepperton Studios, located 13 miles south of central London, would serve as home base for the production’s main unit and house green-screen stages, training facilities and several film sets. These included Interpol offices, Dom and Hobbs’ London headquarters and the NATO military base.
Longcross Studios, a quick drive from Shepperton Studios, housed additional special effects-rigged film sets to re-create the interior of the Antonov 124 cargo plane. It was also home to the hundreds of picture cars used in the film. A racetrack and service roads on the property allowed the stunt and special effects department to test each and every car—not to mention the Chieftain tank—to ensure that any modifications to the vehicles would withstand their upcoming punishment.

Special effects supervisor Joss Williams and his team, which at its busiest numbered 137-plus, spearheaded Lin’s directive to implement as much hands-on action as possible for the film. It is a methodology that Williams wholeheartedly agrees with, as long as he has time to prepare. “It’s all about preparation in special effects.”