Jack Reacher Training Day Event at Paramount
On April 16th, Home Theater Forum was invited to an educational event at Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles, covering the stunt work for Jack Reacher, which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 7th. The event was held on New York Street in the middle of the Paramount backlot and featured several of the stunt personnel who worked on the movie.
Emceeing the event was Paul Jennings, the stunt coordinator and 2nd Unit Director.
Paul Jennings gave a brief talk about the stunt work in the movie, discussing both the stunt driving and the fighting. One major sequence in the movie has Tom Cruise driving a 1970 Chevelle at high speed versus some bad guys in a current model Audi. Jennings discussed this sequence as a look back at the classic chases seen in movies like Bullit. Jennings noted that Cruise is a skilled driver who did many of his own stunts for the movie, thus allowing the production to get multiple high speed driving shots where it’s clear that Cruise is actually driving the car. The fact that Cruise could be seen driving changed the nature of the chase a bit, in that shots were now designed to feature him wherever possible. Beyond the car chase, the movie also features several close-quarters fights, which used a combination of techniques. Chief among the techniques was the Keysi fighting method, which emphasizes protecting your head and body while engaging in a scrappier mode of fighting than normally seen in the martial arts. Here again, as much as possible, Tom Cruise did the actual moves onscreen, allowing the filmmakers more freedom to stage the shots. Andy Norman (the co-founder of the KFM) and assistant stunt coordinator/fight coordinator Rob Alonzo then provided a demonstration of the fighting style, with the help of several other stuntment in a fight ring at one end of New York Street.
The attendees were then shown a brief clip from a featurette on the upcoming Blu-ray, focusing on the fight sequences. After this, a stunt driver pulled up in the Chevelle and offered attendees a ride in the car. (The initial plan for the event had involved some stunt driving, but the cramped area did not permit this.) I did not participate in this idea, as I have a friend who drives a 70 Chevelle and I’ve been up and down the coast many times in that car.
The event then split into two groups, one focusing on the stunt driving, the other on the fighting.
I attended the driving group first. We were all given an opportunity to interview Paul Jennings about the driving work. Jennings told me that there were multiple Chevelles on the production, each of which was useful for different kinds of shots. The car being driven around the backlot had special bracing on the outside to allow for safety during impacts and to provide a mounting place for equipment. (This car was clearly used for interior shots) Jennings noted that, as you’d expect, several of the cars were destroyed in the process of making the movie, with a cannibalization of whatever parts were possible. In the end, one car was taken apart to allow for insert shots of the accelerator and brake pedals, among other things. Jennings discussed the work of the 2nd unit on the movie, which was happening in tandem with the main unit. For the big shots where Tom Cruise could be seen driving, Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie would come over to the stunt unit and work from sunset to 1 or 2 AM, getting several pieces of Cruise behind the wheel. (I note that much of the movie, and almost all of the stunt work, takes place at night.) Jennings ruefully noted that he would then have only three or four hours left of dark to get all the OTHER shots that were needed for each of those sequences.
My group then switched over to the fight ring, where we were given a short class in stunt fighting. Attendees were taught a brief 10-move sequence, which we were then able to test on the stunt team in the ring, meaning that we were attacking three men at the same time. I am attaching a link to a YouTube file of this fight to illustrate the technique and to encourage readers to be sure to write glowing appraisals of my Blu-ray reviews in the future…
I also conducted a short interview with Rob Alonzo on video, which I am including here. I should note that I conducted an interview with Paul Jennings, but no sound came through on the recording, unfortunately.
Having watched the movie since the event, I can say that the Chevelle/Audi chase is a fun piece of work, with several key shots, including impacts, featuring Tom Cruise at the wheel. I can also say that the movie includes three fight sequences, each displaying a different aspect of close-quarters fighting. One is a group exercise. One is a 2 on 1. And the last one is a grudge match between two evenly matched opponents. The movie is more than those moments, of course. But the work that went into them is notable. If anything, the fight sequences have a wit to them that belies their seriousness. This isn’t a matter of quips but more of inventiveness. Although the movie’s signature line comes from the first fight – as the goons gather around Cruise, he looks at them and wearily notes “Remember, you wanted this.”
A thank you is in order to Paramount Pictures for inviting Home Theater Forum to this event. I had a good time, had some good food, received a very nice complimentary bag and was able to spar with three stuntmen at the same time. All in all, a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.