Here’s the second of the three scary incidents that occurred during the shooting of Terminal City Ricochet. During a prison break to liberate our heroes, a huge guard in riot gear jumps up and orders them to halt. A second guard, in true trigger happy Terminal City Ricochet fashion, appears on a catwalk some distance above and behind the first guard and, supposedly aiming at our escaping heroes, shoots him in the back.
The special FX contingent of the crew came to me with the idea. If the first guard could be dressed in a down filled vest, the front of which was packed with explosive squibs, we could backlight the performer and have a beautiful shot of feathers and shrapnel and rain hanging in the air. I was assured that this would be a spectacular image.
Since I’d be covering the scene in a wide shot, the guard with the exploding vest would have to push his own button to trigger the charge.
It happened that the night we shot this scene was blessed with a heavy Vancouver rain. That made everybody miserable, but with the water on the ground and in the air, glistening in the lights, the look was beautiful. We did one rehearsal with no exploding vest, then re-set for the real deal. The first guard stepped into the shot. “Halt.”
Cue the second guard appearing behind him. We see the muzzle flash of his shotgun as he fires the blank. We hear a muffled thump as the squibs in the vest are triggered and the down filled vest bulges out a bit. But no flurry of feathers. No shrapnel and feathers and rain gloriously backlit by film lights powerful enough to give us all headaches. Our first guard falls down and our heroes rush out of the shot. Ho hum.
So what happened? My first thought was that the squibs had been placed in the vest to blow inward instead of out into the lights. That would mean my actor took a full shot of explosives right over his heart. My god, we’ve killed the guy.
Fortunately that isn’t what had happened. Close, but not quite.
What had happened was that the rain had soaked the down filled vest, so that the filling became a solid mass instead of a nice fluffy bunch of feathers. The exploding squib had hit this mass of solidified feathers and bounced back onto the chest of the actor. He described it as being akin to the famous Bruce Lee three inch hard punch to his chest. Such a punch well might have killed our actor, but fortunately he was a sturdy gentleman with a good padding of flesh over his ribs. So it didn’t kill him. It just hurt the way you might expect a very hard punch to the chest to hurt.
It never ceases to amaze me, the courage and dedication of aspiring actors, especially the stunt performers in SBE (Special Business Extra) categories. For that matter, it never ceases to amaze me, the shear gall of my own a commitment as a director. I seem to turn into a psychopath. “Are you ready to give me take two?” He was, and he did, of course after we reset with a dry vest and made sure he wouldn’t get punched again. Now that was a guy with cajones. It still must have taken something to push that button.
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