“F9: The Fast Saga” is the latest “Fast & Furious” movie to push the franchise’s action scenes to a new level. Andy Gill and Justin Lin, the director, shared their experiences. Did one car make a car fall off a cliff? Other cars appear to be magnetized. To drive upside-down, I got a 26-ton three-section truck.
F9: The Fast Saga” is the latest “Fast & Furious” movie to push the franchise’s action scenes to a new level. Andy Gill and Justin Lin, the director, shared their experiences. Did one car make a car fall off a cliff? Other cars appear to be magnetized. To drive upside-down, I got a 26-ton three-section truck. The “F9” is now in theaters.
Narrator: This is one of the biggest stunts in "Fast 9," the latest "Fast & Furious" movie. It's a four-second shot they could have made entirely out of CGI, but instead, they spent eight months planning the stunt with real vehicles.
The "Fast" crew broke down the shot into two parts and built this track to carry the car through the window and into the back of this truck. Then they programmed two motion-controlled cameras to perfectly sync, and then stitched it all into one continuous shot.
This was just one of many over-the-top stunts in "F9," which were all done with as little CGI as possible.
Justin Lin: We see cars every day. So anytime you go to kind of a CG option, if you're just off by a tiny bit, the brain knows it's not real.
Narrator: And spoilers ahead for "F9." Car flips are a common stunt in the "Fast" franchise, but for "F9," the production team needed to take this move a step further when Letty uses a magnetized car to latch onto an SUV during the film's climactic chase in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Yeah, that's right. That's a car that attaches to another car and then flips, without CGI. To get this to work, the team had to reconfigure Letty's car so it could tow the second vehicle and then release it at the right moment.
First, stunt coordinator Andy Gill and his team removed the trunk. Then they replaced it with a steel cage so the SUV's wheel would lock into place.
To make it look like the SUV is being sucked into the trunk by a magnet, the crew built a ramp behind Letty's car so the SUV could easily hop onto it.
A weighted overhead cable system then helped with the final backflip. When the SUV hit the end of the line, the cables yanked it backwards.
Now that the crew could attach and flip one car from a moving vehicle, how about two?
That's what happens when Dom pulls two SUVs to his magnetized car before repelling them. One SUV survives its jump. The other SUV leaps in the air thanks to a hidden ramp built by the stunt team. And that SUV is destroyed when it hits this small car followed by this parked van.
Andy Gill: And then that car was pinned down on a big steel plate in the ground, so it wasn't going to move.
Narrator: To stop the SUV's momentum, the van also needed a wall inside.
Gill: I just had effects build a steel wall. If here's your car, right here is the firewall all the way up to the roof, and it put kickers back so you can't get through it. Then it blows through that second car and gets halfway through and hits that steel plate. And that's what turns it over.
Narrator: Cables just weren't enough for this stunt, when a car is flipped over on its side. While this elaborate flip could have been completely CG, Gill found a way to do it practically.
The key for this scene was something called a flipper. Basically, the car's placed on a giant pad with two hydraulic arms that extend and cause the pad to flip up, launching the car along with it.
And that henchman you see here didn't actually get hit by this car. To flip the car without hurting anyone, they shot the scene twice. The first shot had the performer standing on the car, but there was no flip. In the second, they flipped the car from the same position, but with no actor. These two shots were then merged together in postproduction.
Magnet-charged stunts didn't just involve other cars. For this moment, it was all about kitchen appliances. Unlike the flipper move, it was possible to have extras in this shot, but that added another risk factor.
Gill: Yeah, you don't want to be in front of one, I can tell you that.
Narrator: Before placing any extras, Gill used sandbags to see how safe each mark was. And location was everything.
Gill: We put a lot of time and effort into picking the right store for that. Had big windows, the sidewalk was just right, we didn't have trees or telephone poles in the way for them to come out.
Narrator: Launching the appliances involved first welding a tube into each one. That tube was then inserted into another tube filled with compressed air. Once that air was released, the appliance would shoot out like a cannonball.
Gill: So, as the car's coming up, I would say, "Three, two, one, now," and we'd videotape it all, and I'd put white marks on the ground so I'd know exactly when I said "one" where the car was and then where those machines were coming out.
By doing all the tests, we knew that there was a big brick wall between windows. It was going to be tight, it was going to be a lot of stuff coming out, broken glass and all that. But they could hunker down, and people in the shot just looks good.
Narrator: Dodging washing machines is hard, but what about explosives?
During the first big chase of "F9," Dom and his brother, Jake, try to outpace each other on jungle roads filled with land mines. Filming on location with real explosives meant dealing with unpredictable weather and smoke-induced visibility issues.
Instead of using the overgrown muddy jungle roads on location in Thailand, the crew built their own roads out of decomposed granite, a much more suitable material for racing. In the end, they only created about a half mile of new roads, but the camera crew, using helicopters, drones, and off-road buggies, could make it feel much bigger on camera.
Gill: So it's short sections that we'd use over and over, and we would film in different directions, so it looks different.
Narrator: The crew had to consider even the tiniest details to keep the drivers safe. To make sure fires didn't start near any of the drivers, the crew wet down the mulch that flew up in the air with each boom, and they welded steel plates under the driver and passenger sides of each car to provide an extra layer of protection between the passengers and any of the 30 real mortars planted in the road.
The stunt drivers also limited their speeds to below 50 miles per hour, even though in the movie they're supposed to be going at least 80.
Gill: A lot of times, we're not going as fast as you would think in a chase, but it looks a lot faster 'cause we're usually in confined areas. Where you really want to speed it up is when you have big, wide-open areas and there's not really anything relative to your speed. So you could be doing 120, and it doesn't look fast.
Narrator: To ensure that the main cars looked fast, other cars had to slow down.
Gill: We'll do wipes with cars that are only going 10 miles an hour, so you're going by them really fast.
Narrator: And the climax of this sequence is even more extreme.
This is a moment when Dom and Letty jump from one cliff to another, attached to land by just one rope. Even for a "Fast" movie, this was risky. But the crew managed to create the scene practically with just a little help from CGI.
They filmed in a quarry with a 60- to 70-foot drop-off to imitate the cliff's edge. On that edge, they reconstructed the end of the rickety wooden bridge as well as a steep ramp. So the car really did jump.
Gill: We could jump, hit that post, and then land still on the road.
Narrator: Careful camera placement obscuring the quarry made it look much higher on screen. The swing was CGI, but the swing and eventual landing still needed to try to follow the rules of physics.
So Gill first conducted a toy-car test for the swing and landing, like he did with many stunts in the film. Here, he tied one to a string and ran it over a table.
Gill: The toy car came off like that. It fell really nicely for a while. And as soon as that caught, what happened, instead of just swinging like this, it snapped it around almost upside down this way, and then back and around.
Narrator: For the landing, they used a real car rigged to complex cables strategically placed on the hood and around the back wheels. As the car got closer to its mark, another cable attached to the nose stopped the front of the car from going any further. The forward momentum then swung the back around, hitting its mark perfectly.
All of these stunts were extreme, but nothing compared to the extensive chase involving what may be the franchise's most ambitious custom build yet.
This is the Armadillo, a 14-foot-high, 26-ton, three-section armored monster. This beast of a vehicle had to navigate narrow streets while doing everything from driving on its back to sliding down a huge cliff.
Between this and all the magnet stunts, it's no wonder the entire Tbilisi chase took nearly a year to bring to life.
Four of those months were dedicated to custom-building two versions of the Armadillo, one for driving it like a normal truck, another for making it drivable when it's turned upside down.
Lin: Those trucks are really, really heavy, as we found out.
Narrator: Instead of building new roads, they worked with what was already there, first by carefully selecting the run-up area. These are the portions of road where the cars in a sequence can gather speed before getting to the piece of road they're filming on.
Because it was so massive, the Armadillo needed a lot of room to get up to speed, and it also needed a run-out area, or extra road after the shot ends so nobody has to slam their brakes and kill the momentum.
Even though the Armadillo was fast enough, Gill found that getting right up close to it could make it look even faster.
Because the Armadillo is so heavily armored, the crew used all the tools they had in new and imaginative ways. For example, they could make a dent thanks to the flipper, which was just off camera launching cars over here.
And the parked cars seen at these two angles were attached to cables on the ground that, when cut loose, could be pulled right into the Armadillo's path.
Because so many parts of these impressive feats were done in-camera, every little detail needed to be laid out far in advance. But it's the experimentation and commitment to practical effects that make every flip and crash feel so visceral.
That's what has always set this franchise apart from its humble beginnings.
Crew: Good job, man. Nice job.
Lin: I think that when you do things practically, when two elements interact, it almost defies physics because you can't mathematically predict it because there's so many variables. And there's something very visceral about that that we connect to.
Gill: I have my toy cars all the time, and Justin's eyes light up every time I walk in with them because he knows we're going to play.
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