Stunt Coordinator Steve M. Davison takes us through the action set pieces of A Good Day to Die Hard, on Blu-ray and DVD June 4
For the past 33 years, Steve M. Davison has served as a stunt performer and stunt coordinator on blockbusters such as Scarface, Beverly Hills Cop, Desperado, Lethal Weapon 4, Bad Boys II, and over 150 more movies and TV shows in between. His latest is A Good Day to Die Hard, debuting on Blu-ray and DVD June 4. Director John Moore's sequel delivers some of the biggest action set pieces in the whole franchise, and Steve M. Davison was there every step of the way. I recently had the chance to speak with this stunt coordinator over the phone to discuss his involvement in this action-packed sequel. Here's what he had to say.
First off, I was curious how you came into the stunt world, and how that transition from a stunt performer to stunt coordinator happened? That world really fascinates me.
Steve M. Davison: For me, I raced motorcycles and off-road cars and I was a skier. Most of the people I knew in the stunt world, I met from motorcycles. Back in the early days when I started, you had to work with a lot of guys, learn a lot of the stuff, and come up as I rookie for a number of years, and then you get a chance to do bigger stunts. Guys would hand you a day or two here and there to go coordinate little things, fights, car driving, motorcycle work, or teach an actor how to ride a motorcycle. Then, I got the opportunity on a small TV coordinating day here and there, then I got my first movie. La Bamba was one of my first bigger ones, and then once I did Desperado with Robert Rodriguez, I was pretty well set.
I watched one of the special features about the Anatomy of a Car Chase, and I had no idea about that chase, that they used the biggest green-screen ever, which was insane. Did that allow more freedom for an elaborate set-up like that?
Steve M. Davison: it allows many different great opportunities, as far as you can reset a lot quicker. You don't have regular traffic, and that was the big thing. How much would it cost to build that, and how much would it cost to shoot on the street? It was a big cost issue, but then it was like, 'We should do this because there are so many gags we could do on the freeway.' Then the bridge was built. There were a lot of studio cost evaluations, but, for us, it was a great thing because we could build the wall that the truck jumps through down onto the freeway, we could build the bridge where the G-Wagon comes through and down onto the cars. There was a lot of things we used it for.
One of my favorite sequences was with the helicopter at the end. I've never quite seen anything like that. Was that a challenging scene to control?
Steve M. Davison: The funny thing was, in February, we got to Moscow and saw the helicopter and said, 'There's no way. We'll have to shrink the truck.' It lifts 40,000 pounds, and it's amazing how big it is. We do these and try to make them look real, because we try to do everything real, and not CG. In the end, when they had to have the truck hanging out of it, that was CG, but, otherwise, we actually drove it out of a fuselage with the ramps, and the ramps fall down. The truck, we had it on a cable, and it feel the 15 feet it had to fall. Just backing it in, it fit like six inches on each side of the truck.
I know you shot in Moscow, but did you shoot somewhere else for these chase scenes?
Steve M. Davison: Actually, about 95% of the car chase was shot in Budapest, Hungary. They went and did a small unit with some Russian stunt people, just to drive a few run-bys in Russia, where you can't control traffic and you can't pull anything, and some wide shots to make it look like it was done in the Garden Ring in Moscow.
Yeah, that scene in the beginning with McClane in the cab, that looked like a real traffic jam.
Steve M. Davison: Yeah, the amazing part is I did get to go to Moscow, and that is real. It is huge and they have five or six lanes of traffic going into Moscow, and we said, 'We're never going to be able to do a chase here.' It was logistically impossible for Moscow, so we did most of it in Budapest and made it work.
I also noticed on the featurette that director John Moore is a really hands-on director. I saw him smashing stuff and really getting his hands dirty on the set. Does that kind of style benefit what you do?
Steve M. Davison: Yeah, it really helps when you know exactly what he wants. I did Behind Enemy Lines with John so I knew what he wanted. He's a very action-oriented director, and he knows what he wants. It helps.
Steve M. Davison:Jai is the rookie and Bruce is the veteran. I worked with Bruce back on Moonlighting in the TV days. Jai, he retains everything you tell him, he's physically able, he's physically gifted, and, on top of it, a really nice guy. He learns things really quickly, and he drives really well. He just came off this movie with Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher) where he had done some driving. He was very reliable. And Bruce, he's done so much.
I was really intrigued with that part of the chase where he was driving over all these cars, and you had gutted this car and put a roll cage in. That looked rather complex and logistically challenging. It looked very real though.
Steve M. Davison: Yeah, we did it on real cars and we reinforced stuff so it wouldn't collapse. It was a Mercedes G-Wagon, and we used about six or seven of those because we rolled a couple of them, and we used a couple of different ones for different gags. It's an amazing car.
Is there anything you're working on now that you can talk about?
Steve M. Davison: Not really. I'm working on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that's all I can say. I'm just a stunt guy over here, but I can't tell you what we're doing. I just finished a Fox TV pilot with a big car chase in it, and it went well.
You've done a lot of both TV and film. Is there a medium you prefer, as far as stunts go? Do movies give you more freedom?
Steve M. Davison: Yeah, movies give you a lot more chances to do bigger stuff. I've done some good stuff on TV. I've done Sons of Anarchy for four years, and we've gotten to do some good stuff. But, it's quicker, and everything has to happen on a smaller scale.
What would you like to say to anyone who didn't get to see this in theaters about why they should pick up the Blu-ray and DVD this week?
Steve M. Davison: Yeah, I'd like everyone to see the car chase and the sequence jumping out of the hotel was quite involved. The two guys doing that, Lance Dillard and J.J. Devlin, are probably two of the best stuntmen in the world. I was lucky enough to bring over guys from the United States to help me out, and I think the action came out well.
That's all I have. Thanks so much, Steve. It was great talking to you.
Steve M. Davison: All right. Thank you.
You can watch all the action-packed stunts coordinated by Steve M. Davison when A Good Day to Die Hard debuts on Blu-ray and DVD June 4.