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UNSTOPPABLE

About The Production
A longtime veteran of action films, Denzel Washington knows exactly how far he wants to take his stunt work. With nothing to prove after dozens of movies, he is very clear about what he will and will not do, and as a director himself, he knows what is required in terms of close-up action. But even Washington was sucked in to be a part of the film's elaborate stunt work by Tony Scott's charm and passion for verisimilitude. "I must be insane,” Washington laughs, trying to explain why on earth he agreed to run across the top of a moving train for one of the film's many action set pieces. "The train is going down the track at 50 miles an hour, I'm running across the top, a helicopter is hovering ten feet above me, I'm hanging off the side; it's crazy! I was very happy when my stuntman left town because I knew Tony wouldn't be asking me to do his job anymore,” he jokes.

Scott first asked Washington to run across a low platform train car made to look like the top of the train. Slowly but surely Washington became comfortable with the movement and before he knew what was happening, Scott switched the stakebed for an actual train car rigged with a harness and pulley system. "Tony is very slick; he didn't say anything,” recalls Washington. "They warmed me up and before I knew it, I ended up on top of the train. Trains are a lot taller than you'd imagine. And those helicopter pilots [Alan Purwin and Fred North] were slaloming between trees and train cars, up and down and all around. As Chris Pine says, ‘those are some urine-provoking moments,'” he laughs. [Stuntman Clay Donahue Fontenot doubled Washington for the more dangerous gags the studio (and insurance) would not permit.] "When you read a script, you forget that you actually have to do what's written on the page,” says Pine. "Whether that means that every scene you're in takes place in the cab of a train, or whether your character jumps from the back of a truck driving 50 miles an hour onto a train that's going even faster.”

In one harrowing scene, Will valiantly struggles to couple the knuckles of two moving cars while being pelted by a freight car full of grain. "My stunt double, Daniel Stevens, was incredible,” he says. "He slipped the first time and had to use his upper body strength not to get dragged under the ballast, but he did it five times!”

In another scene, Pine was strapped into the bed of a pickup truck traveling along a road parallel to the track – simulating his stunt double's jump from the truck onto the train. Even though the production would not permit Pine to perform the actual stunt, he did have to climb onto a metal toolbox mounted in the bed and fake the jump. "I just had to trust the stunt driver and hang on for dear life,” he recalls. "I had bugs and gnats in my face, and even though I'm only faking the jump, there's the stress of knowing that Tony has 40 cameras going and a helicopter hovering overhead. Of course I want to do a good job and play to the right camera, so there was a second there when I was catapulted off the back and thank goodness the harness caught me.”

"Obviously the biggest challenge in performing any stunt was the train,” says stunt coordinator Gary Powell. "Whether it was a stunt double or an actor, we took the same precautions because if someone falls, that train is not stopping. From the cast iron wheels spinning in your face to the ear splitting noise of metal on metal, when you have a couple of tons of steel moving 40 miles per hour down the track, it's all very intimidating. But the stunts we did for this were real, which is rare these days with so much CGI. We did the movie old school with real stuntmen jumping from a truck onto a moving train, running across the top and hanging off the side with the ballast inches from someone's head; they were all proper stunts.”

Washington and Pine, like their director, extensively researched the world in which they were about to be immersed. Not only did the two actors spend time with Scott and screenwriter Mark Bomback discussing characters and story arc, both actors haunted rail yards for weeks in order to understand the various jobs from yardmaster to conductor, and learning the ropes from real professionals – not simply the terminology but real, hands-on experience at driving a locomotive and some of the most dangerous work, coupling and uncoupling individual cars. After committing to a project, Tony Scott turns first to production designer Chris Seagers and location manager Janice Polley to help weave a visual tapestry. He begins his process by pulling together images that remind him of the look, texture and emotion he wants for the film. For Scott, who is an artist and painter, these images explain what words cannot convey.

Seagers' first concern was finding the right trains. "Obviously there were many issues, but the trains themselves were our top priority,' he says, "the size, the look, the color. That, in turn, made us conscious of the time of year we'd be shooting, so color became paramount. We had to see how the two trains played against one another. Before we could really look at anything from an artistic angle, we had to consider the political issues within the train world because every company has its own look. Then we began sourcing trains, making sure we had the correct type of train. Most of us think a train is a train is a train, but once you get involved, you discover how many types and models there are. When the railroads buy them new from the manufacturer, they trick them out the way they want, for their own specific needs.

"We ended up leasing four 777s and turning them all into blind drive trains,” he continues. "We did the same thing with one of the 1206s which had to be operated via remote control whether the driver was on or off the train. Given that the 1206 is a much smaller, more compact model, we used the same kind of mesh screens that advertisers drape over buses. All you see from the outside is the paint job of the ad across the bus, you can't see inside, which worked pretty effectively.”

Seagers' team built many sets pieces that resembled what he calls "bits and pieces” of the 1206 and 777 engines. "It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle,” he says. "When it became clear that we couldn't do certain scenes and stunts on the real trains, we had to make sections of engines and different cars and mount them on our high-rail vehicle so that it would resemble the train, but we had to devise each piece so that it worked from behind the train or locomotive. We could never use anything in front of a moving train; we always had to tail it.”

As the production crew arrived in Canton, Ohio, Seagers and his painters worked feverishly to complete the 1206 and the rest of the AWVR fleet set to work the first day of production. As shooting progressed, the trains became dirtier and showed the normal wear and tear of travel as well as the appropriate stages of damage described in the script.

"Initially, Tony showed me pictures of Montana,” says associate producer and supervising location manager Janice Polley, a longtime Scott associate, "the mountains, the craggy rock, the open plains, like something from one of his Marlboro commercials. But then he saw a photo of the elevated track of the Wheeling & Lake Erie line where it curves in Bellaire, Ohio. The rest of the locations evolved from there. "He was also inspired by the look of the Rust Belt,” she explains, "but he didn't want the industrial look to be too heavy handed. The idea that the train would travel through beautiful country into these small towns that had seen better days was much more interesting to him.”

Polley and her staff were somewha

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