Director Scott Waugh was adamant about duly honouring the car flicks of yesterday for the high-octane Need for Speed
There’s a scene in the new action film Need for Speed in which Aaron Paul is driving a $2.8 million Swedish Koenigsegg hypercar 130km/h on a bridge.
He pulls the handbrake and the car slides.
When audiences watch the scene, they will notice it is captured in one unedited shot.
You see Paul’s anguished face behind the wheel and the Koenigsegg, which has a top speed of 440km/h, sliding sideways for the camera.
It stops right on the mark – just centimetres away from the camera.
Paul, director Scott Waugh and stunt co-ordinator Lance Gilbert wanted Need for Speed to pay homage to the great 1960s and ’70s car films – Bullitt, Grand Prix, French Connection and Vanishing Point – starring the likes of Steve McQueen, Gene Hackman and James Garner.
The stars did their own driving stunts and there was no computer-generated action.
“It was all real, and the actors drove,” Waugh says.
“In French Connection, you watch Gene Hackman, in one shot, drive through cop cars, slide around the corner, slide into the wall, jump out of the car and run by the camera.
“The audience is like, you’re like, ‘That’s Gene Hackman!’.”
For Idaho-raised Paul, who plays blue-collar mechanic Tobey Marshall, who embarks on a high-speed race from New York to California, the film was a new challenge.
He liked cars, but it wasn’t until he received regular work on the TV series Big Love in 2007 and then shot to stardom in 2008, when he was cast as drug addict and meth cook Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, that he was able to say goodbye to his 1982 Toyota Corolla.
“When I had my first conversation with Scott, he said, ‘If you want to do this movie, great, but I want to do a throwback to the films that really started this genre, like Bullitt and Vanishing Point’,” Paul says.
When Paul signed on to the film, which is inspired by the hit Need for Speed video games, he spent almost every minute of spare time at the Willow Springs International Motorsports Park outside of LA performing stunts and driving at high speeds.
On the first day of Paul’s training, a nervous Waugh, who was a stunt man or co- ordinator of Spider-Man, Waterworld, Speed and other Hollywood action films before turning to directing, went out to the raceway.
He was relieved about what he saw.
“Within four hours Aaron is already drifting cars, doing reverse 180s, all this stuff, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is gonna be blast’,” Waugh says.
Waugh admits he shut his eyes as the Koenigsegg slid towards him for that bridge scene, so he didn’t know initially if he captured the risky shot that could have cost him his life.
Suddenly his cinematographer, who was watching on monitors in a van nearby, jumped out.
“I was like, ‘Did I get it?’,’’ Waugh recalls.
“He’s like ‘Oh, my God, that was great’.”
Scott Mescudi and Aaron Paul