Stirling Matheson is an automotive writer, reviewer, and spewer of sarcasm of Indianapolis, IN. When not playing with cool cars, he is working as the Artistic Director of Ballet Theatre of Indiana. Hear his pseudo-sane quips on Twitter and Facebook.

Aug 30, 2013

When Getaway’s PR team contacted us, the first thing we were told was that there was no CGI in the movie, and that all the stunts were performed by real stunt people, and we decided right there that the movie was awesome, even though we hadn’t yet seen so much as a trailer. We just love knowing that there are guys out there who can elevate hoonage into an art form, and there might be no better man for that job than Charlie Picerni. You might not know his name, but if you’ve seen Starsky and Hutch, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Magnum P.I., or any one of hundreds of other stunt-heavy action movies or TV shows, you’ve seen his work

Needless to say, we wanted to talk to him about his work with this modern take on an old-school car chase movie. “In all my years of working, I have never done this much car work” said Picerni. “When a lot of directors do a movie set in the real world, they bring a lot of CGI and they over do it. I don’t like it, and a lot of times the audiences don’t like it. This is okay for Michael Bay’s Transformers or something, because you need it, but if you put the cameras in the right places and you rig the stunt the way you want it, you don’t need the CGI. If you do something real, [CGI] doesn’t fit there.”

Preach it, Charlie.

One of the stunt sequences we talked about was one in which Brent Magne (Ethan Hawke) is being chased through a train station by two men on motorcycles (above):

“This scene took a lot of choreography. The Shelby is being chased by two motorcycles, and ends up in a train yard. The Shelby drives up onto a flatbed that’s covered in equipment while the two motorcycles are up on the platform. There’s very little clearance for the my son, who’s driving (he’s very good), or the two riders. They’re shooting at each other, and Ethan hits the lead motorcycle guy. The motorcycle crashes into the station, which is filled with gas, and sets off an explosion. This sets off more explosions, sometimes four or five at a time. Some of them are right in the middle of the car, and that was a little hairy. It was a real timing sequence, because there were a lot of explosions going off and a lot happening in some long takes.”

Both Picerni and director Courtney Solomon feel strongly about showing real action, rather than stiched together snippets, so action sequences were done in as few takes as possible. In order to achieve this a huge crew was assembled out of everyone from the Picerni family to Hollywood stuntmen to a group of moto-cross riders from Bulgaria who did all of the motorcycle stunts:

“Courtney likes the shots to be real and long, so there’s lots of choreography” said Picerni. “There was another scene that needed a lot of timing where there were 25 stunt cars coming in one direction, and the Shelby was going in the opposite direction with two cop cars chasing it. I had to choreograph each car, but you can only choreograph so much, so I just told each driver to give themselves a way out in case something went wrong. With all the cars going 60 mph there’s some improv that you have to do. At the end, the two cop cars hit head on and we used air cannons to launch the back We did that scene all in one take.”

Getaway is out today, and while it might not win Palme d’Or, we think it’s a masterpiece of the stuntman’s art.