Real crocodiles, five tries. (Image: Eon Productions)
That's right, through interviews, behind the scenes videos, and analysis done online, we break down how these action packed scenes were done. We start by describing the scene, followed by a How Did They Do It or HDTDI to simplify.
#5 Zero Gravity Fight Scene - Inception
Image: Warner Bros.
The Scene: Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Arthur is in a dreamscape within a dreamscape and his body in the first dreamscape takes a tumble in a car affecting his second dreamscape. This causes his ‘world’ to tumble in rhythm with his first ‘world’ car tumble. In this scene, even though the gravity of the 'world' is affected, the camera stays completely level – not affected by the change.
HDTDI: A 100-foot corridor was built that would rotate 360-degrees with the help of eight concentric rings, 30-feet in diameter, which surrounded the set. Capable of spinning up to eight revolutions per minute. All of the lights and fixtures on the corridor were real and lighting for the scene itself was built into the corridor. Finally, two cameras were used to film the sequence. One was a floating camera suspended via a crane that tracked the motion of the hall while another was bolted to the ground to track the motion of the actors while making it seem like gravity was warping around them. Joseph Gordon-Levitt practiced for two weeks on the rotating stage.
#4 Walking On Crocodiles - Live and Let Die
Image: Eon Productions
The Scene: James Bond is stuck on an island surrounded by crocodiles. He has no means of escaping the island and the hungry lizards are getting all up in his business. As he backs away he turns around and notices a pathway in the distance with a line of crocodiles lounging in the water. Like a legit smart person he runs across the backs of the three crocodiles and makes it to the other side.
HDTDI: The stunt used live crocodiles and was filmed on a crocodile farm that housed 1300 crocodiles at the time. Since being eaten alive wasn't on Roger Moore's to-do list that day, Ross Kananga, the farm's owner was tasked with the stunt. The crocs were tied down to the spot and the scene was only done after five takes. After the first take, the crocodiles were aware of his antics and kept getting more and more vicious as he repeated the stunt. On the third take, the last croc actually snags his shoe (crocodile skin dress shoes by the way) and Kananga nearly loses his foot. Watch all five attempts here and the chilling backstory of Ross Kananga's crocodile farm.
#3 Pole Cats: the final chase scene - Mad Max: Fury Road
Image: Warner Bros.
The Scene: In the final dash to the Citadel, Max and gang are attacked by bad guys on poles that bend. Part of the sequence involved an abduction of one of the wives of Immortan Joe.
HDTDI: "We didn't do any CG Pole Cats," says visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson. To make the poles, the crew used high-tensile steel with a system of counterweights. Cirque du Soleil performers were then used to perform the stunts on the poles. Each car fitted with a pole was built with a wide axle to avoid the rig flipping over and the stunt crew put in 15,000 person-days during the shoot. There are so many more scenes that are amazing and you can read about it in the interview that WIRED did with George Miller.
#2 Bear-y Ferocious Attack - Revenant
The Scene: Leonardo DiCaprio's character Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear and his companions leave him to die. Leo is bitten, tossed around, and left for dead. Leo unintelligibly reaches for a gun, and is attacked again. He really wanted that Oscar.
HDTDI: Sadly, the bear wasn't real. Stuntwork was performed by Glenn Ennis who portrayed the bear in a blue suit and was later brought to life with CGI and motion capture. It was shot to appear as a single take but of course, it wasn't one take. Leo's body was covered is prosthetics to make it believable, with four hours of makeup constantly being applied. To get the attack just right, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubzki and visual effects supervisor Richard McBride met Scott McMillion, the author of Mark of the Grizzly, a non-fiction book about bear attacks. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu also met with Werner Herzog to talk about his 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. From then, Glenn in a blue bear suit would move like a bear and attack like a bear would. Whenever you see Leo flipped or pushed, it is done with wires.
#1 Every-Single-Fight-Scene - The Raid 2:
Image: PT Merantau Films
The Scene: There's the fight scene in the prison toilet, the prison riot, the night club massacre, the train assassination with Hammer Girl, the fight in the hallway between our hero and Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, and the final showdown in the kitchen with the assassin. That's just naming six of the 19 fight sequences in the movie's run-time of 150 minutes. We also want to mention the car chase scene which puts to shame every cookie-cutter Hollywood chase scene in recent memory.
HDTDI: Choreography for this film was done after Gareth Evans filmed Merantau in 2009 and preparation for the fight scenes took 18 months. Actors Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman area already martial artists and fight choreographers but newcomer Julie Estelle who plays the iconic hammer girl, underwent six months of training to prepare for the role. Every shot is filmed with a wide angle lens so that viewers see exactly what is going on and there is minimal cutting between scenes. Iko demonstrated in an interview that punches actually land on stuntmen and actors, mutual trust and camera-work help sell the realism of the hit. Watch the choreography compared to the final scene below.