Top Gear (Malaysia) - - Movie Cars -

The amount of prepa­ra­tion that goes into any driv­ing stunt is huge. It’s not un­usual for us to be pre­par­ing six months be­fore go­ing on lo­ca­tion. I’ll be brought in by the stunt co-or­di­na­tor once we have a script and know roughly what we have to do and what cars we’ll be do­ing it in.

We might use Dunsfold or Longcross, if it’s a UK-based film, for set-up work, mod­i­fy­ing and pre­par­ing the cars, work­ing out how we’ll do the stunts and re­hears­ing them so that when we go out on lo­ca­tion we know what we’re do­ing – it’s just like an ac­tor learn­ing their lines, re­ally.

There’ll be more prep once we’re on lo­ca­tion, which might be two weeks be­fore shoot­ing be­gins. We can have a look at ex­actly what we’ll be do­ing, tweak and re­fine our plans. We’ll of­ten push toy cars around a ta­ble, be­fore we start do­ing any driv­ing. If there’s only a cou­ple of cars in­volved – like the Rome scenes in

Spec­tre – it’s quite straight­for­ward. But you also have to work with cam­eras and track­ing ve­hi­cles. So if you’ve got 40 cars and 40 driv­ers for a street scene, things get a lot more com­pli­cated – es­pe­cially if there’s a lan­guage bar­rier. Those stunts

might not look dan­ger­ous, but there’s just so many vari­ables.

For Spec­tre, we were in Rome for a month shoot­ing ev­ery night. We had a lot of DB10s, but only re­ally used one for most of the scenes. But it’s ac­tu­ally more ef­fi­cient to have lots of cars. You’d imag­ine they’d be the big cost, but on a ma­jor film it’s ac­tu­ally the shoot time, so if you can have one car driv­ing, an­other rigged for on-boards and an­other for spe­cial ef­fects, like spurt­ing flames, it’s bet­ter. Above all, the shoot needs to be time-ef­fi­cient.

The at­ten­tion to de­tail stag­gered me to start with. Even if my face isn’t go­ing to be seen, it’s al­ways eas­ier to drive in cos­tume, just in case. I try to avoid wear­ing a mask, as it doesn’t help vi­sion – that said, if it’s a tricky stunt, my face would be CGI’d… And then there’s the con­ti­nu­ity peo­ple. Be­fore you start driv­ing they’ll come round and check the out­fit, that the wig’s on straight, even that the watch on my wrist and clock in the car is re­set to ‘film time’ af­ter ev­ery take.

We try to keep things as safe as pos­si­ble. When we drove down the steps for Spec­tre, there was a chance we might have ended up in the Tiber, so there was an aqualung in the car, and we trained in a dark swim­ming pool. I was told that if it went wrong, I had enough air for 20 min­utes and should just stay in the car and try to re­lax, and a scuba res­cue team would get me out. Not sure how easy that’d be!

We do get to feed back and say what’s pos­si­ble – you can’t do a mas­sive drift in a FWD Ford Fi­esta – but stick­ing to the script can be frus­trat­ing from a driver’s point of view, be­cause you’ll do what you know is a great se­quence but only a lit­tle bit of it is used. We do try and watch the rushes at the end of takes so we know what the cam­eras are see­ing, which can help us to un­der­stand what’s re­quired.

As a driver, I pre­fer to do real things. My first big film job was on Quan­tum

of So­lace – I was driv­ing the Alfa 159 chas­ing the As­ton DBS, and I had the stunt co-or­di­na­tor in my ear shout­ing, “Hit him harder, hit him harder,” and, well, who doesn’t like the sound of that? While ral­ly­ing for 20 years, I tried to avoid crash­ing, so be­ing told to have con­tact with­out a se­ri­ous talk­ing-to is great.

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