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Stunts And Cars
"It can be tough for a writer to create these things without having seen different locations," concedes Picerni. "It's tough to envision what the director or the stunt coordinator has in mind. On this film, the process of creating the end chase sequence evolved over the months we were shooting. Dominic and I and Johnny Martin [Picerni's assistant coordinator] reworked the plans many times."
The driving force behind the chase is Memphis' ongoing relationship with one particular car, a 1967 Shelby Mustang CT 500 he calls Eleanor. He and his buddies demonstrate their affection for the cars they take by giving each a girl's name.
Designating proper names also operates as a practical code so that the authorities are unaware of which automobile is about to be stolen.
"It's a car he's never been able to obtain in all the years he's been stealing cars," explains Picerni. "He's never been able to capture this prize. Holding on to Eleanor is the culmination of years of frustration, and he decides this is it, this is the one and the heat is on because this is the last time I will have a chance to get this car.
"There are so many great car chases," he continues. "We wanted to make this one different, but we really took care not to go over the top. We added interesting elements and some unique locations to make the stunts and the chase exciting in their own entity rather than going for the crash and bang."
trickiest thing about this chase scene,
says Sena. "You
have to be more inventive because you don't have bad guys chasing after good guys firing rounds at them, leaving death and destruction in their wake. It had to be big and spectacular and exciting so that the audience will get caught up in it, but nobody can get hurt. I was adamant about that. This is a car thief with a good heart who's doing what he's doing because he is trying to save his brother's life and there's no other way to do it. So good guys are chasing good guys. In this respect, we went into it with one hand tied behind our back. We couldn't have big crashes or blow anything up or hurt people. Hopefully we found a way to make it exciting without getting anyone's hair mussed!"
The most intricate part of the chase involved shutting down the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which links Long Beach and San Pedro. Luckily for the filmmakers, the city was retrofitting the bridge
periodically throughout the year, closing it down on intermittent weekends during the months of filming. Supervising location manager Laura
Sode-Matteson worked tirelessly to secure the proper permits, enlisting the aid of the California Film Commission, the California Department of Transportation, the Cities of Long Beach and San Pedro, the Port of Los Angeles as well as the Entertainment Industry Development Corporation. Each agency was integral in assisting the production company with pulling off this most complex sequence. No complete closure of the bridge has ever been done before. On two different weekends in October and November, the production team descended, creating an accident scene as a major obstacle in Memphis' escape route. Stunt coordinator Picerni and visual effects supervisor Boyd Sherman worked with Sena to create the fantastic visual of Memphis jumping Eleanor up and over the tangle of cars, fire equipment, ambulances and unsuspecting pedestrians.
Cage, Ribisi and co-star Angelina Jolie prepared for their roles by training at a variety of driving schools as well as with professional mechanics. Ribisi went so far as to build his own car. With the help of a professor from Pasadena City College, he rebuilt a 1967 Camaro using a 502-crate engine from Chevrolet. Robert Duvall whose character Otto Halliwell knows literally everything about cars, inside and out, learned the detailed t
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