Doesn't it always look so convincing? Star lead actor is frantically sawing at the wheel, and when it cuts back to the wide, damn if that wasn't a perfectly clipped apex, with a tinge of four wheel drift counteracted by just the right amount of opposite lock. Even Steve McQueen couldn't pull it off for Bullitt. The real story behind all those inspiring scenes of cars whipping hither and yon is that they're piloted by stunt drivers who have one of the best car guy jobs ever.
There's a nice little sequel to a sequel quietly making its way to theaters, perhaps you've heard of the Bourne Ultimatum? Besides offering a cinematic venue for Matt Damon to further cement his status as a cross between James Bond and John McClane, its serving as a nice little advertisement for Volkswagen's second generation Touareg. Several of the vehicles were given the General Lee treatment (i.e. a couple were kept nice, a whole bunch were thrashed and trashed) during the 140 days of production. Even the stunt drivers were impressed at how the Touaregs just hunkered down and took whatever abuse they were thrown. To get all those bitchin' shots requires maneuvers that'd make you screw up your face in horror. We're talking about things you wouldn't even do to a rented car.
Being a big-budget feature film, they couldn't resist the urge to make things exceptionally difficult for themselves. Several scenes call for Matt Damon to do this thing called acting - pretending to dodge bullets, leaning out the window to shoot at the bad guys, all while pulling off wheel maneuvers that would make Tazio Nuvolari hang it up. Acting and driving just don't mix - so stunt drivers were used. So far so good, so let's throw in a 360 degree coverage of the interior, so there's no place to hide who's actually piloting the car. That just wouldn't do, so the filmmakers got creative and had a large tubular safety cage bolted to the roof so that a not-insubstantial driver could point the Touareg where it needed to go via extended controls. An extra 500 pounds on the roof must have done wonders for vehicle dynamics, and being all the way at the end of that pendulum would have made us puke in our helmets, but that type of silliness and suspension of your sense of self-preservation are de rigeur in the movie business.
All that effort apparently paid off, as the trick driving looks great in the release, and nobody was flung from the roof of a Touareg like a frozen chicken leaving the bucket of a ballista. All in a day's work, everyone would likely say. Oh, and McQueen? He was replaced by stunt driver extrodinaire Bud Elkins for a variety of reasons, even with his race driving chops.
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