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Wheel Man

21 Jul, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Jack Gill admires his work on the set of 'Fast Five.'

Explosions, crashes and high-speed chases — seasoned stunt coordinator Jack Gill has seen it all. But actioner Fast Five, the fifth installment in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, presented an all-new set of challenges.

Second-unit director Spiro Razatos called on Gill, who hadn’t worked on any of the series’ prior movies, to lend his expertise due to his extensive car background. Gill drove the iconic General Lee on TV’s “The Dukes of Hazzard” (1979-85) and body-doubled for David Hasselhoff on “Knight Rider” (1982-86) while driving KITT.

Director Justin Lin was adamant about conducting real, physical stunts, as opposed to using digital effects widely, as with the previous “Fast and Furious” films, Gill says. Thus, Fast Five’s ultimate action sequence painstakingly was planned and tested for about two months.

This signature segment involves a 10-ton vault containing $100 million, stolen from a ruthless drug lord in Rio de Janeiro, demolishing everything in its path as it’s pulled by two Dodge Chargers driven by key franchise players Paul Walker (as Brian O’Conner) and Vin Diesel (as Dominic Toretto).

“Every vault shot you see in there is a real vault, and it’s hitting real cars,” Gill says. “It cut through those cars like they were butter, and it runs over curbs like they were not even there. … That one shot was the epitome of just how destructive that vault was.”

Seeing the metal behemoth swing from behind the cars and tumble a few times before it gets under control, as it exits the police station for the first time, was an especially proud moment for Gill because it did everything he was hoping to accomplish.
“That’s what makes a good sequence — to be able to put the audience in the driver’s seat so that each scene they see, they feel that they’re in it, and that they’re having a hard time trying to catch their breath,” Gill says. “At the end of the sequence, they can jump up and clap because now they feel that they’re a real part of it.”

As with any major stunt, safety was of utmost importance. Gill was relieved that there only were a few minor injuries, which is commendable considering that a vault cable could snap with potentially lethal force.

“As a stunt coordinator, I’ve got to protect the entire filming crew, as well as the stunt people. … You have to be real careful about where you put people and make sure your rehearsals are spot-on,” Gill says.

Among Gill’s nearly 150 film credits are Beverly Hills Cop II, Hook, Con Air, Pearl Harbor, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Date Night and The Green Hornet. His career began in 1977 as a professional motocross racer in Atlanta.

Gill characterized his experience with Fast Five as a dream project that comes around only once in 20 years.

“The fact that we could do something that had never been done before was a big treat for me because usually when you get on a new project, you’ve always got some big stunt you’re doing but you’ve always done something similar to it,” he says. “With this, we were in the dark. Nobody could even think of anybody that had ever attacked something of this magnitude.”

Fast Five, which grossed more than $600 million worldwide, also stars Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tego Calderon and Jordana Brewster.

Fast Five hits DVD and Blu-ray Oct. 4 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

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