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About The Stunts And Visual Effects
Director Peter Berg depended on a retinue of experienced artisans when it came to creating the look of the film. From his director of photography, Academy Award®-nominated cinematographer Tobias Schliessler (Dreamgirls), to production designer Neil Spisak, Academy Award®-winning visual effects designer John Dykstra, stunt coordinators Simon Crane and Wade Eastwood, and special effects gurus John Frazier and Jim Schwalm, every department worked in tandem with the others.

The overall process began with Steve Yamamoto, who created Berg's pre-visualization renderings. Like storyboards, "previz” footage has become the standard in action films, and on Hancock it was the reference guide each department would look to as the spring board for new ideas.

Schliessler, with whom Berg had worked on The Rundown and Friday Night Lights, teamed with camera operators David Luckenbach and Lukasz Bielan. A good portion of the movie was shot using the hand-held techniques Berg is known for, but with a twist: filming variations of the same sequence using different levels of camera activity and different lenses.

"I didn't want the same kinetic effect I was trying for in The Kingdom,” explains Berg, "so we stabilized some of the camera work by varying more with the techno crane and dolly on this film. It also helped protect the epic size of the story of a superhero when a frenetic style just doesn't help.”

In keeping with their desire to do much of the film with handheld cameras, Berg and Schliessler even strapped their cameras and operators into harnesses similar to those worn by Smith and his stunt double in order to keep pace with the action. 

Stunt coordinators Simon Crane (who also acted as the film's second unit director) and Wade Eastwood supervised the details of the flying sequences as well as overseeing their customary fight scenes and chase sequences. But unlike many action movies, Crane and Eastwood were called upon to come up with less-than-graceful moves for the main character.

"It's not like Superman or Spider-Man™, where we would plan a nice, stylistic landing,” says Eastwood. "We'd have to test and test to get an accurate landing where Hancock stumbles or falls down on his knees and has to balance himself before he can stand up, which means you have to program every point into your winch and counterweight and we'd simply have to rehearse over and over with Will. I'd always heard he was athletic and fun, and the reports weren't wrong; he was a trouper.

"My favorite gag was when we flew him sideways, lying down, about an inch and a half above the ground,” he says. "It was one of our simpler rigs, but it went very fast and visually it looked great. As Hancock flies toward a stranded cop who is hiding behind a downed police car, he's traveling at about 35 miles per hour, head first, toward the car. We needed to use a separate set of winches to pivot him up so that he stops right next to the cop in a kind of sitting or kneeling position, and we had to do it all in one shot. Despite rigging the night before the shoot, we had to remove our lines during the day because of traffic, and then set it up again and test it again with weight bags before putting anyone in the rig.”

Smith did as much of his own wire and harness work as was possible. "There were a couple of hairy days,” laughs Smith. "Flying 100 feet above the street at night and then free falling until a wire kicks in about two feet from the ground, all in about 1½ seconds – that drop was a real rush. It's like being on a roller coaster without the coaster. Now that was aggressive!”

Actors and stunt doubles agree the different harnesses can be constricting at the most inopportune moments, sometimes making acting and concentration difficult despite a couple of weeks of stunt rehearsals and flying practice, but rehearsal and staying limber is

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