Vault Heists and Car Chases
As outrageous as the action sequences may have seemed over the course of the
series, Morgan constantly pushes the limits of what's possible (and filmable)
when he writes. Still, he has always kept in mind Lin's desire to shoot as much
practically as possible. The vault heist was an idea he'd been mulling as early
as development on Fast & Furious, but the premise didn't quite fit into how he
envisioned the sequence playing out. Therefore, Morgan filed it away until Fast
Five came around.
To ensure that the mind-blowing action would occur, the filmmakers tapped SPIRO
RAZATOS, who engineered the bold driving action on Death Race and Vantage Point,
to direct their second-unit action alongside veteran stunt coordinator JACK
Razatos and Gill were blown away by what they saw on Fast & Furious, and both
were enthusiastic when the filmmakers contacted them. However, the veteran
stuntmen were a bit overwhelmed when Lin explained the premise for the vault
heist. Always game for a challenge, the professional partners were sold on the
They began the project with a battery of testing all aspects of what the
Chargers and vaults were capable of physically doing. As chaotic as the scene
read, the damage exacted by the vault had very specific beats that had to be
synchronized with the drama playing out between Dom and Brian as they navigated
their cars down Rio's streets.
Razatos' approach was to access a number of camera cars used in previous films,
such as the ultimate arm-camera crane perched atop a Porsche Cayenne. This gave
him access to spectacular angles to capture anything he wanted, and it allowed
him to maneuver between high or low in a matter of seconds.
As well, the spunky Subie-cam, a Subaru STI modified with a steel cage built
around it (that allowed for a mobile camera head to be affixed), was able to
deliver beautiful tracking shots from a variety of camera-mounted positions.
There were several instances where stunt driver ALLEN PADELFORD was so close
that the Subie-cam and the vault connected. Fortunately, it created some sparks
that provide priceless footage well worth the nail-biting takes.
Another inventive tool used to capture multidimensional action was the
brainchild of Padelford. The Charger Pod, a top-mount dual-drive system that
allowed for tight-quarter filming inside the car—giving access to the performer
as he or she executed a 180-degree turn or drifted—served as the production's
new toy. The pod was secured atop one of the Dodge Chargers, and the steering
systems were aligned so that stunt driver ROBERT NAGLE could fully control the
driving as the actors shot their scene in the car below. It was a brilliant
solution to place the audience more fully in the midst of the tire-squealing
One of the more difficult aspects of filming the vault chase was to create six
versions of the prized vault that Dom and Brian intended to boost. It was a
gargantuan task that had Razatos, Gill and the special effects crew building
multipurpose vaults long into the night. Each vault had its own task, whether it
was to serve as a vault faĆ§ade (built and rigged onto the front of semitruck so
tight shots could be filmed as the vault destroyed five cars at a time) or to
function as the reinforced stunt vault that was hooked up to 30 foot cables and
dragged throughout San Juan by two Dodge Chargers. Razatos and Gill extensively
tested them with vehicles to ensure they were up to taking on the task at hand.
Make no mistake, the Chargers were workhorses that got the job done.
Understandably, the eight-foot-high, four-wheel self-drive vault, driven by
premier stunt driver HENRY KINGI, was the crown jewel of the vault builds. It
amazed crew and passersby who were lucky enough to stumble upon filming and see
the insane sight of a four-ton vault speeding down the street. Kingi, who donned
a special temperature-controlled suit to combat the crippling 100-plus-degree
temperatures inside the car, drove the vault from the holding area to the set to
prepare for the day's work.
As with Fast & Furious and Tokyo Drift, Lin used VFX judiciously to maintain the
proven Fast formula of big action. The director again turned to visual effects
supervisor MIKE WASSEL, who enhanced the look of the two previous Fast films, to
make sure that the VFX elements merged flawlessly with the filmed elements.
The San Juan suburb of Hato Rey saw most of the action, but the 1.5-mile Teodoro
Moscoso Bridge, a major thoroughfare that connects San Juan to neighboring Isla
Verde, was also used to film the final showdown between Dom and Reyes. A pier on
a former U.S. Navy base 60 miles outside San Juan substituted for the bridge to
capture the more hardcore action of the vault swatting police cars into the
water. Rio Piedras also had its fair share of filming as parts of a robbery and
ambush scene were filmed there. It wasn't uncommon to see a daily barrage of car
chases, gunfire and window-trembling explosions in the area.
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