Skip to main content

Bullet Train Director David Leitch Breaks Down Action Sequences from His Movies

Bullet Train director David Leitch breaks down action sequences from his movies, including 'John Wick,' 'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,' 'Atomic Blonde,' 'Deadpool 2,' 'Bullet Train' and 'Fight Club.'

BULLET TRAIN is in theaters now,

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.

[glass smashing]

[men yelling]


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.

[gun firing]

[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.

[glass smashing]

[men grunting]

[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]

[motorcycle skidding]

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.

[dramatic music]

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.

[guns firing]

Might be time for some [indistinct].

[man yelling]

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?

Long story.

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.

Pretty cool.

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.

[engines roaring]

[glass smashing]

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.

[gun firing]

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.


Another cut.


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.


somebody knows


[David chuckling]

[gun firing]

[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.

Thank you.

[David] Hold it.

Hold, hold, hold.


Uncomfortable beat.

Not particularly, no.

[Ladybug sighing]


[bottle clanking]

[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?

Two -

I know who killed the kid.

[Tangerine] Yeah, where is he then?

He's on this train.

Oh, that narrows it down.

And boom.

And so you feel the escalating stakes in the choreography.

You wanna do that when you're building a fight,

it's arching.

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?

[Tyler groaning]

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.

[David laughing]

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.