One reviewer of the $175 million “Fast Five” movie commented, “Not since ‘The Blues Brothers’ movie have so many cars been wrecked.”
That may be true. The filmmakers admit to wrecking more than 200 vehicles! But this may top even the legendary ride of Jake and Elwood Blues: Many of Fast Five’s vehicles were wrecked repeatedly, and rebuilt overnight between takes so they could be punished again the next day.
They really did wreck all those cars – there was very little computer-geneted mayhem in the scene – and they really did demolish parked cars (some unintentionally), smash trees, flatten bus kiosks, snap off light posts and gut the lobby of a bank (specially constructed).
Most of this carnage occurred during the finale chase sequence, when the heroes drag a vault out of a bank, and tow it, chained to two specially built Dodge Chargers. The careening vault set new cinematic standards for demolition.
Filmed in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico (not Rio de Janeiro) and on the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge that leads into San Juan, the filming of the chase closed down those areas for nearly two weeks.
“The vehicles used to pull the safe were all 2010 Charger SRT8s with the 6.1-liter HEMI delivering 425 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm,” wrote Dianna Gutierrez in an email to me.
“The 20″ x 9.0″ Forged Polished SRT Design Wheels were replaced with bigger 26” x 10.5 Street Radial Drag tires, requiring the installation of special spindles to accommodate these larger all black wheels.
“All vehicles were painted a flat black, giving them a mean, raw look.
“A steel tube support structure was built around the vehicle, attaching to the frame, to hold a heavy-duty winch mounted at the rear center, just below the trunk line.
“The interiors were gutted and replaced with racing 5-point bolt-in seats in the front.
“The fuel tanks were removed and replaced with smaller single-piece fuel cells, which were securely mounted in the trunk. (Interestingly, these only held 2 – 3 gallons of fuel and so had to be re-fueled several times during the long shoot days.)”
I asked Jack Gill, the second unit stunt coordinator, if they really used a bank vault. Turns out they did – but only for part of the shooting. For other scenes, different look-alike vaults were used. Two of them were motorized, and had a driver inside, so the “vault” could be steered in the direction of desired destruction.
“We had seven different vaults,” Mr. Gill explained to me in an email. “Each one was used for a different type of shot:
1) Hero Vault
2) Drivable and 4 wheel steerable Vault – Henry Kingi driver
3) Drivable and steerable super heavy Semi truck Vault – Mike Ryan driver
4) Super Heavy crasher Vault – 5-6 tons
5) Heavy dragging Vault (we called it the lightweight vault but it was still
6) Tipping Vault – this had hydraulic rams inside and was used to get it to
slide, tip up and catch an edge and tumble.
7) Bank Vault – this one was built specifically for the bank scene to roll
on a specific path.”
The latter one that memorably tumbles through a glass lobby, scattering the stunt ensemble, dressed as customers.
“In some cases we built two of each of the ones listed above, so there were a lot of vaults,” Mr. Gill continued.
Was anyone injured in the filming?
“We never had any serious injuries but had a lot of sore stunt people and
some bumps and bruises – plus one stuntman’s shoulder dislocated when the
police motorcycle wrecked into the car windshield,” he answered, “but he had it popped back in and was back to work the next day.”
Such is the life of a stunt man; Mr. Gill a prime example himself, with the scars and broken bones to attest to his years of work on such classics as the “Dukes of Hazzard” TV show, and most recently on the movie “Date Night”. Check out one of my past columns for more on his career. But Fast Five sets some of a new standard for stunt work with vehicles.
“We ended up wrecking over 200 cars because each wreck you see in the film was shot three different times,” Mr. Gill added, “so that we could get multiple angles and coverage of the crashes.”
It worked. I spilled my popcorn.
May 3, 2011