Bullet Train Director David Leitch Breaks Down Action Sequences from His Movies
BULLET TRAIN is in theaters now, https://www.bullettrainmovie.com
Director: Ashley Hall
Director of Photography: Sam Chatterjee
Editor: Jordan Calig
Celebrity Talent: David Leitch
Producer: Funmi Sunmonu
Line Producer: Jen Santos
Associate Producer: Clarissa Davis, Emebeit Beyene
Production Manager: Andressa Pelachi
Production Coordinators: Peter Brunette, Carol Wachockier
Casting Producer: Meredith Judkins
Camera Operators: Shay Eberle-Gunst, Josh Andersen
Audio: Will Miller
Production Assistant: Faith Evans, William Lott
Post Production Supervisor: Marco Glinbizzi
Post Production Coordinator: Andrea Farr
Assistant Editor: Billy Ward
Released on 08/11/2022
I don't know if they negotiated it.
I didn't think any of us think it was gonna happen,
but pretty sure Ed hits Brad in the ear.
They really did Fight Club for a moment there
in Fight Club.
Not what I would've recommended if I was stunt coordinating
but I was just a new guy on the set.
Turned out great though.
Hi, I'm David Leitch
and I'm the director of Bullet Train.
I'm here to break down the action sequences
from my previous films.
I was a stuntman for so many years
and a fight choreographer and an action designer.
And as I got more into creating
these elaborate action scenes
where I'm taking over a big chunk of the movie
and driving the narrative forward,
I wanted to stretch my wings
and see if I could tell that story
from beginning to end.
A scene from one of my first films that I co-directed
with the amazing Chad Stahelski, John Wick.
[intense synthesizer music]
So I think the great thing about this sequence
was 99% of this is Keanu.
That helps us shoot these long takes.
And you'll notice the photography is long
and we're not cutting that much.
It was a choice for this sort of dramatic lighting
to add to the tension in the scene.
But there is a point where this type of lighting,
which can be oversaturated,
you can lose the choreography.
We were really careful in the mix that we had.
We wanted to make sure you still understood
the moves were happening,
felt the drama within the choreography,
but this extra layer was being effective
in an unnerving way.
You're feeling the tension that John's feeling.
So you see these moments
making sure you come back to the actors.
Sometimes these are the most important moments for me.
The reaction of the bad guy,
making a decision to do something diabolical,
the intent of John to finish this fight.
Never leaving the character alone too long
where I don't feel stakes.
[John hitting the floor]
So that stunt, couple things going on.
We had him on a wire assist
so there's a little bit of de-cell in his fall.
And the floor, we had cut out a section of the floor
and made a padded floor.
It was seamless with the regular floor.
And we're ramping the speed just slightly
to create the illusion of full gravity.
So this is a scene from Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.
Everything was on the table
to make these sequences
what they were in Hobbs & Shaw.
Every trick of the trade.
[car engine roaring]
So that shot, this is back lot Universal,
tying into footage that we shot in Scotland for London.
When you make these big epic action movies
it's hard to find streets and long places to lock down
and do things safely and securely at speeds.
You sometimes have to piecemeal these scenes together
and bring the illusion to life
that it all happened in one location.
That medium shot was a shot on a rig
where the bike is off the ground.
This is now a bike on the ground.
This is practical.
Might be time for some [indistinct].
So that is some visual effects enhancement.
We had a proxy dummy
that we were holding outside of the car
and then we added animation.
The great artists at Double Negative
helped us with this sequence and did some great stuff.
You wanna tell me just what in the fresh turkey hell
we're dealing with here?
So you get fresh turkey hell.
There's probably like 12 other improv's
on the cutting room floor.
And to do that, while on a trailer in real traffic
with a limited time, it wouldn't be feasible.
You had to shoot that on a stage,
like really to get the performance,
and the number of takes you want,
to get the timing right,
we prefer to do that on a stage
and comp in the backgrounds with great visual effects.
I would say it's pretty cool.
So, the car's practical,
sliding through the intersection,
real play photography.
The trucks, we shot multiple passes of the trucks
in different configurations,
but then the element of the motorcycle
because of its transformer sort of aspect
was all completely virtual.
So it is a sort of a bit of a science project.
And like I said, like,
there's incredible practical stunts in this
but when you're working on a movie like Hobbs & Shaw
where you're defying physics and that's the universe,
it's really fun to play
with the visual effects to this level.
They can be anywhere between 30 to 60 miles an hour.
We're not going a hundred.
And a lot of it is because
not that the drivers aren't skilled,
it's just, you run out of bandwidth
in the places that you can lock down.
You do feel speed in camera,
so it's important that you have a level
of real practical speed,
but there's a point where it's diminishing returns
on what you're photographing
and how much distance you have to shoot in.
The thing I like about that sequence the most,
for me as a choreographer,
is you understand what's happening.
You really understand the geography,
but it still has the speed
that you expect for these types of set pieces.
This is one of my favorite sequences
and it's the stairwell fight.
There's a lot of old school stitches
like in camera cuts where we're matching frames,
we're whipping and connecting things,
using wipes in front of the foreground.
And the idea was to build tension
and stay with Lorraine Broughton.
Training is so important
to be able to do these long pieces of choreography,
and having a great stunt team
that can be there to support the actor
and take up the dead spots.
But those are all old school cuts,
there's no visual effects enhancing them.
It was great as a director to be able to hang the scene
on an Academy Award winning actress.
We had six weeks with Charlize
training four or five days a week.
Them putting in the time and the work ethic
to be able to have the stamina to do this
is incredibly impressive.
Even though there are all these little stitches,
you have to remember they're doing this all day long.
There might be four or five takes of that other stitch.
Then they have to show up
and regain the energy for the next setup
that I'm gonna have to do four, five, six, seven takes
'cause I'm that big of a jerk.
For years, I've been wanting to do this type of scene.
As a choreographer,
I had shot Stuntvis of this type of scene
for multiple movies and pitched it to different directors
before I was directing.
For whatever reason it never landed.
So then when we're doing Atomic Blonde,
Kelly McCormick, my creative producer,
my partner and my wife,
was like, you should do the one-er.
This is the perfect movie for it.
She's a protagonist in peril
and if you stay with her,
you can basically hang the scene on her
and feel stakes the whole time.
And I was like, great idea.
So I went to the stunt team and they were like,
We're never gonna be able to pull it off!
Like, How do we do this?
And I just challenged them.
I'm like, you know, get in there,
start digging into the choreography, I'll be back.
Then it took a long,
it was a long process.
A couple months of pre-production,
figuring out all the stitches we would need.
This is an action scene from Deadpool 2.
What I like about this scene
is we have multiple characters.
And sometimes in action,
inter-cutting between characters actually builds up tension
and it's a really great way to get to the highs quicker.
So you don't have to have the shoe leather
for the dynamics of the sequence.
You can actually have more punctuated beats
because you're inter-cutting between characters.
And give me back my ski-ball token.
Working with Ryan on Deadpool 2
is like a master class in comedy.
He improvises, but he also has a lot of alts and ideas.
He thinks about the scene
and he has his list in his pocket of things he wants to try.
And so it's even more methodical at times.
Stacking up the jokes for the edit.
[sword slicing bullet]
So, this was actually a part of additional photography.
Cable and Deadpool had a little bit more tension
so we extended the fight in additional photography
and the stunt team came up with this great idea
of spoofing the original carnation of Deadpool.
And so, again, you don't know where
the great ideas are gonna come from.
Often time they come from the stunt team.
Generally, at some point in the scope of the whole movie
the choreography team that I have built for this movie
plays a role.
You know, they're usually one bad guy in one scene.
So, a lot of times they're people
that are working on the choreography with the actors anyway.
And so, there's also that trust that's built in
which provides a security and a comfort
so we can really go for it when we're on set.
Here's the fight in the concession car
with Brad Pitt and Aaron Taylor-Johnson on Bullet Train.
[dramatic intense rock music]
It's all about the timing.
To get the joke to work in a fight scene
we did grift from the best.
We were really inspired on Bullet Train
by Jackie's movies and his comedic timing.
So, there's a lot of physical comedy
built into the fight sequences.
The process with all of these fight scenes
is to work with the stunt team.
So there's a group of five or six who come in,
the key choreography team,
and we start to play.
And we know where we wanna go in this fight scene
and we know we have some funny moments
we're trying to achieve.
And we'll actually shoot what we call Stuntvis.
So we'll actually shoot and edit the fight scene
in the sound stage with cardboard boxes as sets.
And a lot of times you can see our past fight vis
and you can see how close it is
to actually how we end up doing it.
I remember seeing the stunt guys deliver
this first piece of choreography to me
and I was really laughing.
[attendant speaking foreign language]
Oh, I would love a bottle of water.
That's the one.
[David] Hold it.
Hold, hold, hold.
Not particularly, no.
[upbeat rock music]
You can even see how the music comes in
to punctuate the comedy
and how the sound effects come in to punctuate the comedy.
So, a rule of three on the button.
So we're setting up the stakes.
It's like one, oh, is he gonna get it?
I know who killed the kid.
[Tangerine] Yeah, where is he then?
He's on this train.
Oh, that narrows it down.
And so you feel the escalating stakes in the choreography.
You wanna do that when you're building a fight,
Starts out at a certain level
and it builds, builds, builds to the trailer moment
that you're gonna get from that set piece.
We do a lot of things that have the illusion of danger.
They're not comfortable,
but they are not dangerous, per se.
So, Brad did 99% of his own stunts,
but that moment where he was smashing the safety glass,
which is tempered glass,
that moment is Kyle, the stunt double.
And because of the great angles from yours truly,
the illusion's never broken.
Then there's the shot where Brad is being sat down
into the chair.
There's still rubber glass being thrown by special effects.
It's a combination of safety glass that's tempered,
that has laminate on it,
effects throwing rubber glass into the air,
using the stunt double for the few frames
that you need that stunt double
and then bringing the actor back into the action
at the perfect moment.
I want everybody out of here right now.
Hey, you should join our club.
So, this was actually a really important time for me
as a stunt performer.
I had been working on television shows
like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,
Marshall Law with Sammo Hung,
but I had never really gotten a chance
to work on a big Hollywood movie.
And I was hired to be
one of the fight trainers slash choreographers
on Fight Club.
Although there's not a lot of fighting-fighting,
David Fincher's idea was that
we could train the actors in combat and choreography
so they could do a lot of this stuff safely.
You hear me now?
No, I didn't quite catch that, Lou.
So, oftentimes this is Brad.
Or is this me?
I'm not sure.
This might be me, actually.
So oftentimes when you're over the shoulder of a punch
you might put the stunt double in to get a reaction,
but that's Brad.
What was great about Brad is he's super physically talented.
He took to action very quickly,
and especially the fighting sequences.
So, as much as I got to train him
and choreograph stuff and teach him,
he would do most of it because he could.
I got it, I got it.
Shit, I lost it.
[Lou punching Tyler]
Back! All of you!
Fight scenes don't have to be big or long.
They just need to learn something about this character.
And now we know something about Tyler Durden
by the end of this thing,
and it's punctuated with physicality.
Oh, that's right.
You get to shut the fuck up.
Oftentimes, the classic punch in a movie
is going across the face like that,
where you're seeing the head of an actor here
and you're seeing the punch go that way.
He wanted these direct punches,
but depending on where the camera is
it's really hard to sell.
So you have to have a lot of trust in somebody
that they're gonna put it right there
and stop it within an inch,
as opposed to when you're doing the big swing
and you're gonna have a foot of distance
and the camera stacked.
So that was what was really sort of interesting about this.
[Tyler laughing wildly]
[Loud hitting Tyler]
A lot of times you might even be doing
over the shoulder stuff
because there's so many head snaps, head snaps,
and after 25 takes of head snaps,
you're giving yourself whiplash.
Really, it is sort of like the art of taking a punch.
You don't really wanna like subject your lead actor
to that too many times
because they gotta go on and shoot the rest of this movie.
But Brad, he's the champ.
I think the thing that I sort of reflected on
is that when you're a stunt performer
you're helping an actor physically create a character
that supports a movie.
Training him, propping him up,
doing things if they really hurt, something like that.
And so, Brad and I did that for four movies.
20 years later, we come full circle.
And one of the best actors of our time
is now building one of his iconic characters
to support my movie.
And I think that that's a really special thing
and I don't think it happens that often.
I think we all feel really lucky
to have found this movie together
and get a chance to reunite and make something so fun.
I'm really proud of this body of work.
and I really want to give it out to the stunt crews
and the fight design teams
that I came up as a part of over 20 years
and how they really impact movies.
Whether it's a drama, or a comedy, or a thriller,
you couldn't have those movies without the stunt crews
that are designing this action.
My work, hopefully,
is a love letter to them
'cause it's my roots
and it'll never leave me as a filmmaker,
so there will always be action.
Bullet Train Director David Leitch Breaks Down Action Sequences from His Movies
'Stranger Things' Auditions and How the Cast Landed Their Roles
How 'Elvis' Costume Designer Catherine Martin Transformed Austin Butler Into Elvis
How Stranger Things' SFX Artists Created Vecna
How 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Visual Effects Were Made
How 'Dune' Composer Hans Zimmer Created the Oscar-Winning Score
How Tattoos Are Designed For Movies & TV
How 'The Lion King' Has Captivated Broadway For 25 Years
How Stop-Motion Animators Created Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
How Avatar: The Way of Water's VFX Were Made
How 'Asteroid City' Production Designer Creates the Worlds of Wes Anderson
'Jury Duty' Auditions and How the Cast Landed Their Roles
How 'Wednesday' Costume Designer Created Jenna Ortega's Looks
How 'The Last of Us' SFX Artists Created the Infected