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NEED FOR SPEED – Interview With Director Scott Waugh & Stunt Coordinator Lance Gilbert

Need For Speed makes the transition from video game to film in a high-intensity, no excuses movie directed by long time stunt man Scott Waugh and starring Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul.

Despite bombing in the box office, the film really wasn’t as bad as you may think. Some of the casting choices probably could have been better, Paul was a little flat in the lead role and Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson completely missed the mark, but other than the cast was solid. There were some great supporting actors – Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez, Dominic Cooper – along with veteran Michael Keaton, that gave Need For Speed a little something unexpected. And, of course, there were some great sports cars featured in the film that came directly from the selection utilized by the video game franchise.

Agents of Geek had the opportunity to sit down with Waugh and his lifelong friend, stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert, who is responsible for the incredible racing sequences throughout the film, at a special screening of the film in Blu-ray format at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The venue created the perfect ambiance for watching the movie, and viewers got a chance to see the custom-made Ford Mustang GT featured in the film, live and in-person.

Need For Speed arrives on Blu-ray Tuesday, August 5. Check out our interview below for some behind-the-scenes insight into the film.

There’s been an outcry in the film community for increased safety precautions on set after the tragic death of Sarah Jones while filming a dangerous scene on Midnight Rider, how important was it for you to make sure that everyone was 100% safe versus getting the perfect shot?

Scott: Safety is paramount. We pride ourselves on a 100% flawless record for the 43 years I’ve been in the movie business, and it’s something that we take extremely seriously. Highly trained professionals like Lance are the ones that should be put in those highly difficult situations. You put the best person in the game for that particular thing. If it’s outside the skillset for that particular type of person or skill, then you don’t do it.

Lance: Or there’s always another option, or another technique, or style to get that same image, in a sense. If there’s something that’s just completely out of hand, not doable, there’s no way you can possibly ever do it without having a problem, we talk about it and say ‘hey, let’s do it like this instead.’

What was casting like for this project?

Scott: It was really challenging and fun. It took me three and a half months to cast the movie. I really was just wanting to put an ensemble of guys together that each one had their own different attributes, so when you put the band together they made a good song. It takes a lot of thinking about, ‘Okay, Aaron Paul has a certain type of dynamic. We don’t want to have another one of that in the band.’ And, I really wanted to go against the grain with the casting. It was a challenge, but I was so lucky to get the actors that we did because I think they’re super talented.

Is there anyone you really wanted but couldn’t get?

Scott: No. To be honest with you, they didn’t think I could get Michael Keaton, that was the one they were like ‘no way, he’s not going to do this.’

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You come from a stunt background, how did that play into the production? Did it make things flow smoother?

Lance: I do.

Scott: First of all, Lance and I have been friends our whole lives. So there’s an extreme short hand with him and I. Yeah, I think it definitely does help. Lance knows that I’ve been out of the stunt world for a decade, so I actually sometimes don’t know the answer because I’ve been out of that, so I have to ask him, ‘Hey, how would you do this bc I don’t know how you guys do this now.’ It’s been great because sometimes we can bounce ideas off each other, how to accomplish certain gags that we want to do for real, and just by pinging it off each other, it’s fun, it lets me be a kid again and get back into that stuff.

Lance: Scott was an amazing stunt man, when he was younger [laughs], and he knows all the dynamics so for me to work with him, if he couldn’t see it, I would be able to explain it in a way that he could really visualize it and it just made our shorthand working together that much easier and fluid. And then there’s trust too. He knows that I know what he wants, and that way he can focus on other things with his cast and stuff like that, he can get into the performance aspect of the film.

Scott: With Lance, I just know him so well, if anyone can figure it out, it’s going to be him. So sometimes I task him with something extremely complicated but I know he’ll put his mind to it. Like we wanted to do the Pete crash for real, and I knew it was going to be extremely challenging to pull that off. I had a very specific thing in my mind that I wanted to recreate an F1 crash and how those cars take flight. It took ‘Hey man, this is what I want, figure it out,’ and he finally came back and showed me different things and eventually he nailed it, and I was so proud. That was exactly what I had in my head.

Was it painful to watch those very sexy vehicles get beat up, blown up, crashed?

Scott: People say that, and I get that, but we’re stunt men. We’ve wrecked cars for our whole lives and it’s fun. I’m not going to lie, it’s fun. But, some of those cars in the movie are art pieces, and we of course did not wreck those. We built replicas to wreck those so that the art pieces could stay intact.

How did you pick the cars?

Scott: We had a big slate of cars to choose from. Really you just think about it, what were the cars made from 1965 to now? And, you start looking at stuff, and then you start looking at cars that were in all the games over the last 19 games, and really try to pay your homage to the game, but the cars have all been in these particular games. We just wanted the slate. I wanted to go from classic to super cars, and everything in between. I had a great relationship with EA, so EA gave me a really good list of all the super cars they had from the last five years. I wanted to choose the current. I was very hands-on with them about which cars we were going to use for the super cars.

If you could choose any of those cars to drive home with, which one would it be?

Scott: Actually, I did drive home with the 68’ Gran Torino because Mr. Spielberg gave it to me, and I’m extremely proud of it. It was one of the coolest gifts anyone has ever given me. Dreamworks was a great company to work for, and when the premiere was coming up, I got the call ‘He wants to give you the Gran Torino.’ They gave Aaron the other Gran Torino, so him and I both have one of the Gran Torinos.

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How hands on did you get during the action sequences versus just sitting back on the sidelines? Did you get in a car, were you part of the scenes?

Lance: This was the type of movie where I couldn’t take time to be in the scenes. There was just too much going on, and the pace that we had to do everything at, and just maintaining the safety aspect – it was just too crazy. I was basically in a way, racing with them, either dragging them through our set or chasing them through our set.

Scott: He would always have to be in the pilot car, which means he would have to go in and sweep, and make sure there was nobody on the roads, that it was totally clear, and we’re waiting in the line-up until we get his word.

Lance: Basically, I was like the orchestra leader in a sense. I would que them and make sure that everyone knew, and then if something went bad, I could abort before it got to that point [which is important] because they’re travelling at such high speeds.

My favorite part of the film was the scene when they stop in Detroit to pick up Finn before heading to California for the race, is there a scene that stands out to you?

Scott: You just like seeing Finn naked, let’s just go with it.

Lance: No. They’re all a lot of fun. They all have their own personal moments, each of them.

Scott: Yeah, I really don’t. I enjoyed making the movie. Every scene to me has some special memory.

The Author

Lindsay Sperling

Lindsay Sperling

Lindsay Sperling has A.D.D. and her tastes reflect it. Her movie collection boasts everything from Casablanca to John Tucker Must Die to every season of Sons of Anarchy to-date. She adamantly supported a Veronica Mars Movie, hopes that the Fast & Furious franchise continues far into the future, and has read every popular YA book series turned film in recent years (except Harry Potter..). When she's not on an indie film set or educating the youth of America, she uses her time arguably productive as a freelance writer.

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