About halfway into the movie 'Drive,' Ryan Gosling -- playing the anonymous character only known as Driver -- ends up on the wrong end of a botched robbery. Minutes later, he's in a high-speed chase, navigating his black Ford Mustang GT through the California hills with a charcoal gray Chrysler 300 hot on his tail. Driver soon realizes he's going to have to do something drastic to get rid of his pursuer. In a split-second decision, he yanks the hand brake, shifts into reverse and guns it full speed down the highway. Another second passes -- he hits the E-brake again, this time forcing the Mustang into a 270-degree spin. The 300 can't handle the turn -- it hits the barrier and shoots up in the air as Driver speeds off into the distance.
On film, the sequence looks perfect; it's a beautifully choreographed chase set to the sound of brake squeals and cars downshifting. But behind the scenes? Well, that's a different story.
"We were trying to do something else," says Jeremy Fry, the stunt driver, as well as Ryan Gosling's double, for 'Drive.' "What we were hoping was that [the Chrysler] would come off of that turn and spin and then the car would flip over. But instead ... it shot straight up in the air."
Luckily for Fry, director Nicolas Winding Refn ended up liking the "mistake" and decided to leave it in the film.
Most moviegoers rarely think of the work that goes into a fight or an explosion or a car chase. Not that we blame them. Stuntmen are the guys who make the A-listers look good. The majority of viewers come to see the eye candy, and have no interest in which stuntman did this scene or that scene (or that any stuntman helped out to begin with).
However, for a film like 'Drive,' which sees Gosling playing a stunt driver by day and hired getaway driver by night, Moviefone wanted to focus on the real man behind the wheel.
Enter Fry, whose credits include films such as 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,' 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' and 'State of Play.' For 'Drive,' Fry was brought on to complete the more dangerous stunts as well as double for Gosling. He also helped map out some of the sequences themselves -- among them, the opening scene where Driver eludes two police cars and a helicopter during a getaway, the moment where Driver is working on a movie set and flips a cop car (which, according to Fry, used a standard tool known as a cannon: "You start the car rotating with the E-break, it starts to rotate, and at a certain point you hit a button [which] fires something that will roll the car over"), a scene where Driver is driving a stock car around a race track and the aforementioned Mustang/300 chase scene with the 270-degree spin.
Of course, car chases have been done to death in action films, which is why coming up with something new and exciting was a big priority for Fry, particularly for the Mustang sequence. Obviously, completing that stunt isn't as simple as just hitting the gas pedal and turning the wheel. There is an enormous amount of preparation and timing involved. To hear Fry tell it, the opportunity to make a mistake is always around the corner. (Obligatory car-related pun quota filled.)
"The reverse 270, that was something that I had been practicing just because I had never seen someone do that ... and I just thought it would be really cool," admits the stunt driver. "The hardest part for me was the [Mustang going] forward into reverse ... because in a stick shift, you have to shift it -- you are going forward and then you spin it and then you are going in reverse, so somewhere in there you have to shift it from whatever gear you are in into reverse. The problem is, it has a hand-pull emergency brake. So you have a hand-pull brake you are using and [at the same time] you are supposed to be shifting with your right hand."
The Mustang scene is by far the best -- and, really, only major -- car chase in the movie. Up until that point, Bryan Cranston's character, Shannon, raves that when "you put this kid [Driver] behind the wheel, there's nothing he can't do." The scene is not only a perfect example of Driver's abilities, it's a perfect example of a movie car chase done correctly.
"I want perfection," says Fry. "There's times you get close enough, and I am not really happy with that. It's nice when that's all [directors] need is 'good enough,' but I want perfect. So, I just feel like there's a lot of pressure -- some of it is self imposed -- but there's definitely real pressure there, too."
On 'Drive,' that pressure translated into a successful chase scene. Fittingly, Driver is focused, yet completely calm throughout the sequence. The best stunt drivers, by nature, have to stay under control, whether they are flipping a police car or spinning a Mustang at high speeds. The pressure, as Fry admitted, is always there, but he didn't let that stop him from completing the stunt -- and how could he for a film whose central character is based on Fry's real-life job?
"I feel honored that Darrin [Prescott, the film's stunt coordinator] asked me to do it because there are a lot of very talented drivers in the business who would love an opportunity... It's a movie about a stuntman. What stunt guy wouldn't want to be in that?
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*Images courtesy of FilmDistrict