For years, moviegoers have found themselves drawn to the Fast & Furious franchise and its parade of gravity-defying stunts. With each installment, the stunts got bigger and more elaborate, going from better-than average driving, to dragging a safe through the streets of Rio, to throwing cars out of airplanes, jumping from one skyscraper and into another skyscraper, and even racing a submarine.
The series’ first spin-off, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, goes deeper into the realm of science fiction than any previous movie in the series. So it comes as no surprise to find that the stunts are a little different this time around as Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) is no mere villain: he is a cybernetically-enhanced superman who doesn’t need a car to protect him from crashing into buses or even getting shot in the face.
And now we’re going to get into spoiler territory.
“There is a balance in how super we could make a human character without going full superhero,” director David Leitch told us. “Our characters’ punches hit a bit harder and they can take a bit more of a beating, but had to have a balance between the grandiose and the cartoonish.”
This extended to the action sequences. The Fast & Furious movies have always had big, elaborate action stunts, but in previous movies they were mostly based on using cars. No matter the task, Toretto and his crew could not pull any kind of mission unless they used sports cars, but Hobbs & Shaw has a superhuman who can’t be hurt by cars crashing into him or even bullets. “We had to do a combination of practical stunts and visual effects,” Leitch said. “With Brixton, the scene of the motorcycle going under a truck, we shot real stunts with real guys, and then added the CG element of the bike.”
Indeed, Idris Elba’s character, Brixton Lore, is seen jumping around and being more mobile than any previous villain in a Fast & Furious film, so this created different opportunities. “We definitely had to enhance the action,” supervising stunt coordinator, Chris O’Hara told /Film over the phone. “We didn’t have to rely on using vehicles, but we do some wire work to make the stunts with Idris’ character bigger and better.”
Then there’s the big action scene in the third act. After flying home to Samoa to seek the help of his family, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) find themselves chasing a helicopter where Brixton has Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) captive. In order to ground the helicopter and prevent it from flying away, Hobbs has his family hook their cars in a straight line, with the last one chained to the helicopter, and drive away to drag the helicopter inland. It’s a scene that not only brings cars back to the stunts, but also NOS – Nitrous oxide, the magical solution to every Fast & Furious problem.
“About 90% of the helicopter work is practical,” O’Hara said. “The helicopter flying by all the cars was practical, the cars on the ground are real, so the chase sequence was all done practically.” Of course, a scene that looks unbelievably dangerous in the movie is doubly so in real life, so a bit of visual effects magic was required.
“When we actually jumped the car and hooked up to the helicopter that was a melding of practical stunts and visual effects,” O’Hara explained. “But once we were on the ground and sort of towing the helicopter, the chain is added digitally. But the driving was done practically and with very well coordinated timing so as to make the visual effects easier to believe.”
Of course, this being a Fast & Furious movie, the stunts don’t stop with a bunch of cars being chained to a helicopter. When Brixton realizes he’s been towed, he commands his pilot to fly off the Samoan cliff where the chase is taking place, lifting up the cars in order to drag them off the ground and down to the rocks below.
“As soon as you start pulling cars up in the air, there’s no way to do that practically and safely with the helicopters that we chose.” O’Hara told us. “At that point we started to rely on the visual effects department to help tell the story of the stunt. We had all the cars driving in a convoy and as cars started getting lifted up by the helicopter, what we did was use a rig with a hydraulic lift underneath to lift the back of a car five feet up, and as one car went up in the air we had another rig and another truck that was able to get the second car up in the air.”
As much as the stunt team wants to do everything practically, there are limits to what physics and the human body allow. David Leitch tells us that there is a mixture of techniques used at any given point. “We had different methodologies depending on the car and the size of the car. For some we used the rig with the hydraulic lift, we also hung some cars against blue [screen] with a crane and connected them to cars, and then some were simply CG cars.”
In the end, no matter how bigger and crazier the Fast & Furious movies get, there’s always a dedicated stunt team trying their best to make even the most impossible stunts feel as real as possible. “You’d be surprised to know what is real and what isn’t,” Leitch said and laughed. “Some of the most realistically-looking sequences are mostly done with blue [screen] and visual effects, while some impossible and over-the-top stunts are mostly real.”
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