About The Stunts
The film's intricate, elaborate and dangerous stunt sequences presented
unique challenges to the crew, and demanded the collaboration of the visual
effects, stunts and special effects departments. "There's a kind of
synergy when all this talent comes together to do something that hasn't been
done before," says visual effects supervisor Boyd Shermis. "Or, to
give a familiar visual a new twist or take it to a new level. It makes it very
Jeff Mann, who collaborated with director Dominic Sena on "Gone in 60
Seconds" and many of his music videos and commercials, was instrumental in
creating the film's finale — an incredible stunt involving a Sikorski
helicopter and a bus full of hostages. "At the climax of the film, Gabriel
has loaded the hostages on the bus and they are surrounded by SWAT teams,"
Mann explains. "There doesn't seem to be any way out. I envisioned a
spectacular escape that Gabriel and his operatives would have planned months
before. This massive sky crane appears like some huge insect and swoops down,
plucking them off the ground and depositing them on the roof of a
At the time Mann pitched the idea to Sena, they didn't know if it was
actually feasible to do the scene physically. "When we started to do the
research," says Mann, "we were taking a 7,000-pound liberty."
Mann met with representatives from Erickson Sky Crane, a firm that
specializes primarily in putting out fires, transporting lumber and positioning
large air conditioning units on very tall buildings. To execute such tasks, the
company designed a custom rig that counter-balances and stabilizes heavy
equipment so it doesn't twist dangerously while being hoisted through the air.
After numerous discussions, the filmmakers decided that it was feasible to
fly a bus through downtown L.A. using the special crane, but there were too many
liabilities and insurance issues to set the bus down on an actual rooftop. After
initially considering a graphic solution, it was decided it would be simpler to
build a rooftop set.
Mann created an exact replica of a downtown rooftop and built it in the
mountains above Chatsworth. One of the considerations in choosing the location
was that they needed a clear vista looking west and south.
In order to pull off the unprecedented flying bus stunt, explains Boyd
Shermis, "We did a pre-visualization of the bus's flight path by creating
a very detailed version of the area, in a virtual sense, so we could literally
put ourselves on top of any number of buildings along that pathway and know
exactly what we were going to see and how we could place the cameras."
Shermis placed a virtual camera on just about every rooftop along the bus's
flight path and was able to give director Sena a range of options in terms of
their positions and lenses. "There were legions of cameramen," says
Sena. "It was sort of like Napoleon's army. We had 14 or 16 cameras
shooting at a time."
The day finally arrived and the filmmakers' dream became reality. The
massive sky crane sat in a downtown parking lot as the crew looked on
expectantly. As the rotor blades began to rotate, an ungodly noise filled the
air and spectators covered their ears. The huge machine slowly rose and dust and
debris filled the air. It hovered above the bus as the cables were attached. As
it swept by base camp, a violent wind buffeted the onlookers and they turned
away covering their faces trying to stay upright as the wind reached almost
"This thing would knock you to the ground and just hold you there,"
Sena notes with a laugh. "The rotors seemed to be about 80 feet across, and
the rotor wash was devastating if you were under it. I made the mistake of doing
that once as it was hovering to take off on North Hope, and it
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