Stuntman Jack Gill Talks Fast 5 and Beyond

Recently I got the chance to speak to stunt legend Jack Gill. Jack has done stuntwork on many classic films and most recently for Fast 5. Jack was kind enough to talk to us about his career and future projects.

GVK: How did you get your start in the business and what was your first big break?

I was racing motocross professionally in Florida and after the race, I saw a film set nearby and stopped to watch. I was so fascinated that I stayed there for two weeks and got to know the stunt guys pretty well. The director told me if I ever wanted to come out to Hollywood, to look him up. I packed everything I owned and was out in California two months later. That director was Hal Needham, the most famous stunt man in the world.

GVK: What type of prep do you do for each film and how much advance work goes into each stunt?

Each film is different, but in most cases, we are prepping and testing for 4-8 weeks before we shoot. There are some films that require more test weeks and some that require less. Any and all stunts in the film that are tricky or complicated are tested prior to filming so that we can figure them out and work the bugs out.

GVK: How has the digital age affected your work?

CGI has helped and hurt the stunt business. We no longer have large stunt calls of a hundred people or more because CGI can clone 25 stunt men to look like a thousand. There also is a tendency to make the stunt CGI if it becomes too difficult The studios used to be very quick to push the stunt to CGI if there were any problems in the testing phase. That trend is changing with the success of FAST 5. CGI has helped us because we can now use larger safety cables on stunt people that are flying in the air because they can “paint” those cables out easily, whereas before we were limited to very tiny wires on the stunt people that could snap at any second. Lately, the tide has turned and now most directors want REAL stunts with very little CGI. They want the audience to feel the action and that is what we were striving for on FAST 5.

GVK: How do you decide what is digital and what is a real stunt as we loved how much of the work in Fast 5 such as the bridge jump did not appear to have much if any CGI.

98% of that chase is a real Vault and real cars. 2% is CGI – We all decided early in pre production that the real thing, when filmed and designed correctly can be a very captivating sequence to watch. The viewing public are very aware of CGI these days and are not as excited and involved in the movie when they can tell it was not real, so we decided that if we couldn’t do what was written for real, we will re-write the sequence to something that is just as exciting and can be done for real.

GVK: With car chases being such a standard in films, how have you managed to keep the action in the Fast films fresh and original?

I believe the gritty and “in your face” type stunts that we filmed in FAST 5 are what is needed in movies and was lacking in the past. We strived to push the envelope with real physical stunts in FAST 5 and I think it keeps the audience on the edge of their seat all the way to the end.

GVK: What are the most dangerous stunts you have done and how many times have you been injured?

I was blown off of an 85 foot cliff at night carrying a real M-16 assault rifle with 13 gallons of gasoline going off around me and two 8 gallon gas canisters going off as I fell past them in the air. I landed in an air bag and was OK. The movie was called The Exterminator and it starred Robert Ginty. It’s the opening shot. I would not do that stunt again. You can see the shots on my web page at jack Gill in the photos section. I have broken my back twice and my neck once…and 23 bones

GVK: What were your biggest challenges for the film and the greatest triumphs?

The Vault was definitely the biggest challenge of the whole film. The sheer weight of it and the speed at which it was traveling was difficult to comprehend. If the cars were pulling the vault around a corner at 60 mph, it will swing on an arc and be sliding at 90-100 mph…until it hits something, and then it destroys whatever it hits. That was my biggest challenge and my biggest triumph. No major injuries and we destroyed a lot of cars.

GVK: Did working on location in Rio present any new challenges?

We shot all of the 2nd unit Vault sequence in Puerto Rico and they were very accommodating to all of our needs. It rained about three times a day but dried out pretty fast

GVK: Since Fast 5, involved cars, guns, fights, and jumps Which type of stunts do you prefer and which are you least favorite?

Cars and motorcycles are by far my favorite. Horses are my least favorite.

GVK: What do you have coming up that viewers can look forward to?

I have a TV series called STUNTS UNLIMITED coming out on the SYFY channel in 4 months and I am reading a script now that films in Rio for a secret agent type adventure with no morals.

GVK: If you had no restraints what is the one stunt you would love to do?

Strap me in a rocket and shoot me to the moon. I would love to travel in space.