“There’ll be a four-minute sequence, and we spend months doing it.”
from the Venom trailers sees Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock flying off a motorcycle into the air, seemingly to his death, before the symbiote inside him lashes out its tentacles and pulls him back to safety. IGN exclusively visited the set of Venom earlier this year to watch part of the elaborate stunt sequence be shot on the streets of San Francisco, seeing in real life just how much work goes into bringing such an action-packed scene to the big screen.One of the biggest sequences
The motorcycle chase sequence is an important scene for the film because it sets up Eddie’s rational fear of Venom, but also shows his realization that the symbiote can protect him when he’s in danger. Spiro Razatos, Venom’s second unit director, told IGN, “This is the first time that Eddie finds out he has Venom in him. Obviously, he’s freaking out. He’s got drones that are blowing up all around him, he’s got SUVs that are trying to kill him, and he’s got Venom inside of him. So he’s trying to deal with this while he’s going at eighty miles an hour on a motorcycle through the traffic of San Francisco.”
To build up that tension, the set was right on the peak of San Francisco’s colloquially named Bullitt Hill (after the 1968 action movie). It’s a long, straight street with a whole lot of tumultuous bumps and dips, and that’s exactly why they chose it – it’s a great place for a frantic car chase full of Eddie Brock’s panic.”So we’re trying to tell the story where … Eddie here separates from his motorcycle when he jumps. It’s such a big, steep jump that he actually leaves the motorcycle, and you think he’s gonna die, and Venom actually reaches down, pulls himself back to the motorcycle, saves him, and now … he’s relying on Venom to save him when he gets in these dangerous positions with the SUVs and the drones that are chasing him,” said Razatos.
While the road was bumpy enough, a definitely steep enough for me to start getting tired halfway through the walk up, one of the first things I watched was a team of engineers putting together a fully adjustable ramp – one the stunt coordinator, Andy Gill, has used since the ’80s. Carefully framed out of the shot, the ramp was there to, as I overheard Razatos say at some point as they were doing another take, “send this guy to the moon”. And looking at the shot on the set’s display monitors, it really looked like it did. You can watch the full video of shooting this sequence above.
“We needed something where it looked like he was gonna skyrocket straight up in the sky,” said Gill. “The rest of this is like they did in Bullitt where they go one jump after the other, which is cool for that, but we needed one that was gonna launch you straight up like that, where the motorcycle can just fly straight up and get a lot of height.
Much of the scene was shot with practical effects. Even the SUVs chasing after Eddie had to go over the jumps, all while there’s a bunch of fake traffic on the street, making things look more muddled, and tighter. The main CGI sequence in this scene, which was previously filmed, involves Tom Hardy being pulled off of the bike in front of a blue screen. The VFX team then used visual effects to show Venom pulling Eddie back on to the bike, as has been shown in Venom’s trailers.The film’s stunt coordinator, Andy Gill, seemed comfortingly confident while filming the big stunt sequence, especially considering the way the night began; San Francisco was doused in rain, pushing the shoot to be several hours later than originally planned. It was still a little rainy, and pretty damn cold, but the threat was far higher for the stunt drivers than for any of us on the sidelines. There was an excessive amount of tire-screeching during one of the takes, too. I was too far up the hill to see what happened, so I asked Robbie Madison, the stunt driver, about it afterward.
“That was the number plate getting caught in the wheel and ripping off,” he explained. “Then my wheels bent, it looks like a stop sign.” It’s all far more collaborative than I would’ve thought when it comes to stunts, though – the coordinators trust that the drivers know the bikes (a disguised Ducati dirt bike was used for the jump – see video at end of article for more on the Scrambler Ducati used in Venom), and the drivers rely on the coordinators to make sure their surroundings are safe.
When they raised the jump to shoot Maddison just a little higher, he said, “I’m glad I’m working with Andy Gill and Jack Gill and their stunt guys, because they are the best in the business, and they advised me. I said, let’s jump two [dips in the road], they said let’s just do one. So my team saved me tonight, so I’ve got to shout out to those guys for keeping me safe and giving me this opportunity.”
MC on slide plate with Jimmy Roberts on for 90° turn – Venom (2018)
They had to move the jump over several feet from where it sat in their tests earlier in the week, too, so Maddison wouldn’t land on a painted line in the middle of the road, which could become slippery in the rain. Maddison said, “If I had landed on it, it could have been a different situation tonight. But, yeah. They saved me again.”
Jimmy Roberts, another stunt driver on the set, commented on how nerve-wracking high-speed scenes can be with wet pavement. “You can’t make mistakes,” he said. Especially since – sort of unfortunately for Roberts – he’s a good double for Tom Hardy, meaning he’s doing all the riding without a helmet.
“I can’t go down. I can’t fall. And we’re going through bombs, explosions, we’ve got big pyro things going on and cars crashing behind me. So there’s a lot of chances that things could be bad for me,” he said. The most tedious part of the job, though? Roberts said, after two full months of being on a bike every night, “I’m so tired of riding a motorcycle right now. I’m gonna take a break and go surfing for a while or something.”
“It’s like, there’ll be a four-minute sequence, and we spend months doing it.”
Alanah Pearce is a writer and producer for Rooster Teeth’s Funhaus and was previously a producer at IGN. Venom is one of her favorite comic book characters of all time. Follow her on Twitter at @Charalanahzard.
Exclusive sneak peek of the stuntmen who rode the Scrambler Ducati in Sony Pictures Venom.