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Insights From Stunt Coordinator Garrett Warren On ‘Road House’

Insights From Stunt Coordinator Garrett Warren On 'Road House'
Insights From Stunt Coordinator Garrett Warren On ‘Road House’ (Photo Credit – Instagram)

‘Road House’ made its global debut on March 8, 2024, premiering at South by Southwest as the opening night feature. Amazon MGM Studios dropped it on Prime Video on March 21, 2024. The film received a mixed bag of reviews from critics. While some hailed Gyllenhaal’s performance, others slammed the script. Of particular note, cinematographer Henry Braham crafted a one-of-a-kind handheld gimbal akin to a robotic arm, capable of replicating the stabilizing prowess of a Steadicam. This innovation allowed for breathtaking shots, even aboard a speedboat.

As Dalton finds the spark to confront McGregor and his nepotistic underworld boss (played skillfully by Billy Magnussen), the climax unfolds mainly on boats. These vessels crash, explode, narrowly miss swimmers, and smash into the Road House. The film faced balancing practical effects at high speeds, slower sequences, wirework, and visual effects. “Road House” strived to create its water-based set pieces in longer shots, avoiding excessive fragmentation of the action for a smoother viewing experience.

As per fight coordinator Steve Brown, accomplishing such feats hinges on the leading actors memorizing stunt choreography and immersing themselves physically and emotionally in the fight scenes. Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren reiterated that they managed to craft ambitious set pieces because everyone on board was ready to brave getting soaked, tossed around, and pushing their limits to ensure the physical stunt work left a lasting impression.

In an interview with IndieWire, Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren he expressed his distaste for movies lacking tension. Drawing from his experience in water-based stunts and boat chases, especially in James Cameron’s “Avatar” sequel, Warren emphasized contextualizing the action and acknowledging the genuine risks involved. This principle guided the approach of the “Road House” team, especially in crafting the boat chase sequences. Their goal extended beyond showcasing boats in motion; they aimed to vividly depict the endpoint and the imminent peril, ensuring viewers remained engrossed and fully immersed in the scene, as Warren explained.

Deciphering the perfect camera angles poses a formidable challenge. In “Road House,” we observe boats converging amidst obstacles like rocks, an interstate bridge, and a treacherous anchor, altering their course. The boat drivers play a pivotal role here. Like “Fast and Furious,” Warren clarified that adept wheelmen are sought after. They play a vital role in evaluating safety measures and identifying feasible options. The question then arises: how can we elevate the stakes even further? He added.

Road House Still. (Photo Credit – Instagram)

In an interview with IndieWire, Braham highlighted the importance of using a camera that captures character action clearly without excessively widening the frame. This prevents characters from seeming like action figures in visually striking but non-threatening activities. “It’s easy for the action to feel disconnected from the camera,” Braham explained. He emphasized the need to place the camera amid the fight to maintain clarity and coherence in the action sequences.

Although a scene may initially appear straightforward, it often involves complex layers of planning and execution. Stunt coordinator Warren elaborated on a sequence depicting a boat collision, where Magnussen’s getaway jetboat collides with an inflated motorboat, propelling Gyllenhaal onto the roof before crashing into the villain’s vessel. Warren emphasized the meticulous planning involved in the stunt, which spanned over two days of filming.

An entire day was set aside to film the buildup to the crash, which included positioning a drone behind a stunt performer as they steered towards the larger, more robust vessel in open water. Warren commended Eric Linden for his performance in this scene, emphasizing his expertise and narrowly escaping a collision with the edge of the speedboat.

Initially, the production built a ramp to mimic the collision and the path of the inflatable boat. Subsequently, a cable was employed within a tank to swiftly pull the ship, preventing any damage from its motor. The jump required hitting the ramp, leaping off the ship, and plunging into the water. Warren clarified that as no boat was approaching them, visual effects would be employed to add it during the post-production work.

Afterward, fight coordinator Steve Brown employed a set of wires to mimic being pulled off the inflatable and onto the roof of the speedboat, albeit at lower speeds. Later that day, the team filmed the sequence of him falling off the roof and hitting the back of the speedboat, this time at a higher speed. Warren explained that achieving this single shot took approximately two and a half days of filming.

In devising the water stunts for “Road House,” Brown emphasized the importance of enduring impacts and ensuring that the action resonated emotionally and visually. He stressed that the escalation of action should stem from the challenges faced by the hero, not merely the quantity of foes vanquished or explosions ignited. According to Brown, viewers should emotionally connect with fight scenes, transcending mere spectacle to understand the motivations driving the characters and their struggles.

Brown and Gyllenhaal collaborated to infuse the action with emotional resonance, ensuring that the sequence’s progression doesn’t solely rely on the protagonist’s combat prowess (though remarkable) and highlights his resilience and capacity to surmount obstacles. As Brown explains, this partnership enhances the action and allows the actors to contribute to elongating, broadening, and enriching every shot in the stunt sequences.

Jake’s involvement in water scenes was significant, enabling the capture of wide shots with his expressive performance and adeptness in aquatic activities. Brown emphasized the value of having exceptional performers in the collaborative process.

Warren noted that Jake suggested the stabbing and slapping sections in the final fight scene, which had a significant impact. Additionally, Conor McGregor joined the collaboration. McGregor helped Jake make his punches look more aggressive and offered reassurance with his velvet gloves, saying, “Don’t worry, mate, I’ll take care of you.”

The teamwork and mutual admiration among the actors and stunt crew empowered them to craft compelling fight sequences. These moments portray characters pushed to their limits, struggling to regain the upper hand. Whether armed with guns, a motorboat, or just their fists, the action scenes exhibit an intense exchange of blows and tactics.

Brown stressed the significance of upholding continuity and realism in fight sequences. He underscored the need for characters to show signs of fatigue and decreased accuracy as the fight unfolds, portraying their exertion to secure victory. The objective was to guarantee that each action carried weight and consequence throughout the sequence.

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