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HOT ROD

Making It Look Real
The mechanics of making a film that progresses on from one stunt to another, raising the stakes and picking up speed all the way to the climactic "big jump,” required a top-notch stunt coordinator – and the filmmakers knew that Nick Powell, award-winning stunt coordinator for "Gladiator,” "The Last Samurai” and "The Bourne Identity” was the right man for the job.

Only in this case, Powell had a unique challenge. Since Rod's stunts are largely failures, he was entrusted with making all the screw-ups look realistic. "Sometimes it's harder to make a stunt look bad than it is to make it work successfully,” says Powell. "We had several Rod doubles for the approximately 20 stunts in the film,” he continues.

"There was one double for the hand-to-hand fighting, another for the motocross sequences and another for the big jump sequence. We would have one double working on set, while another was rehearsing an upcoming scene because the stunts just kept on coming.”

In addition, Samberg, despite his inexperience, did a fair bit of his own stunt work. "Andy had never been on a motorcycle; in fact he'd never even ridden a moped,” Powell explains. "We started him out with the basics and got him to where he was comfortable riding the motocross bike.”

For the big jump, Powell and his team spent seven days rigging and testing the wires. Since Rod has to separate from the bike in mid-air, after which both rider and bike continue to travel, there was the possible danger of the bike colliding with the rider. To help avoid any such mishap, he brought in James Churchman, who, with his team, designed and hand built what he has dubbed the "Superfly System.” "The system has four axes of motion, all controlled by a mainframe computer,” Churchman explains. "We use a laptop to tell the mainframe what to do and it's accurate to within literally thousandths of an inch every time. Our cable stretch is more variable than the actual programmed move itself.”

"Hot Rod” was the third outing for the "Superfly,” which was previously used on "Underworld Evolution” and "X-Men: The Last Stand.” "This rig allows us to control the relationship between the motorcycle and the rider, so they're not locked together,” Churchman explains. "A two-axis rig would just be traveling up and down, but with our system the motorcycle is on its own elevation and so is the rider. When the two hit the peak and separate, we can take the rider higher using the third axis, and keep the bike moving forward below him.”

The wire set-up for the big jump spanned 300 ft. and consisted of a 150 ft. down-ramp, a 130 ft. jump over 15 buses and a rough-and-tumble landing onto another ramp. "We had approximately seven days of rigging and testing on the wires,” Powell recalls. "Then on the day we shot, we had eight cameras running to make sure we got the shot in as few takes as possible.”

"The biggest challenge for the stuntmen was to look more amateur than they actually were…barely scraping by on stuff, all uncoordinated and out of control,” notes Samberg. "They have to flail around like I do, when I'm doing the closeups.”

A good deal of the hand-to-hand fighting between Rod and his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane), however, was done by the actors themselves. "Ian is, hands down, in much better shape than I am,” Samberg says. "That became apparent very quickly when we were rehearsing the fight scenes. We'd go through a few moves and I'd be like, okay, I'm done, but Ian was just getting started. He was also very specific about how he wanted to dress, you know like weird jumpsuits…very similar to what we were imagining.”

"Frank's more than a little crazy,” McShane says of his character. "The whole family is a bit mad. It's a very heightened reality. When Rod asks his mother why he was never told

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