Best of 2011 (Behind the Scenes): Stunt Coordinator Jack Gill explains the 'Fast Five' bank vault finale

Fast-Five

Image Credit: Jaimie Trueblood/Universal Pictures

As 2011 comes to a close, EW.com wanted to honor some of the hardworking names and faces from behind the scenes for their outstanding achievements. Stunt Coordinator Jack Gill is a veteran of the stunt trade. (One of his earliest gigs was stunt driving on The Dukes of Hazzard.) His skills were pushed to the limit for the climactic sequence in Fast Five, in which our heroes attach a pair of Dodge Chargers to a massive bank vault and drive said bank vault all around Rio De Janeiro while being chased by every police car on the continent. Learn all about the intricacies of managing a devastatingly destructive bank vault!

As told by: Jack Gill

When we first started on Fast Five, our director, Justin Lin, came in and said, “Look, I’ve done a couple of other Fast & Furiouses. The kids have all gotten very savvy to what is digital and what is real. I lose my audience the second they see something that they know in their mind is not real. What I want you guys to strive to do is to give me as much real as you can give me. If I have to change the script so that you can do it real, let’s do that.”

We started contacting different companies, asking, “How big would the bank vault really be?” We got anywhere from 8 to 10 feet wide, 10 to 14 feet long, probably 8 feet high. They weigh 80 to 100 thousand pounds. There’s absolutely no way you’re gonna carry an 80-100 thousand vault around. But we wanted one that at least looked heavy.

We started out with PVC tubing. We built the structure of a vault, and covered it in paper, and had it all painted like a real vault. Once we got the size down – which probably took us about three weeks — we said, “Okay, let’s start building it.” Once you start building it, we had to figure out how heavy this thing was going to be. It had to be really heavy, heavy steel, because it was going to be crashing into inanimate objects. By the time we finished working on it, this thing weighed 10,000 pounds. I attached two cars to it, and we couldn’t even pull it. Couldn’t even get it moving.

I jacked it up and I added Delrin — which is this really slick high-density plastic – to the bottom of it. We put it back down on the road. We were able to pull it around, but we couldn’t pull it around fast. So we went back to Dodge and told them to give our Chargers bigger tires and bigger engines with 400 horsepower.

Just from a safety aspect, we found out that if the cables were to snap at any time, it would rip the top off any car it hits. Much less what you think it’d do to a human! A big aspect of my testing phase was to get cables big enough that there was no way to snap them.

We had to build seven or eight different versions of the vault. I built a drivable vault that we put a stunt guy inside of. I built a vault strictly for crashing. I built a vault that had a guy inside of it that was really heavily built — there was a Peterbilt tractor semi-truck inside of it. He could run over almost anything in that thing.

If they hadn’t given me that big testing phase to find out what the vault could do, we probably would’ve just gone to digital. But I started getting time to show Justin all the decimation, and what the vault was doing to anything that was in its way. I said, “This is all real material. We’re not cutting to any digital. The cars are really pulling it.” That’s when he started putting more and more scenes in the end sequence.

NEXT: “If you take your helmet off, you’re gonna die.”

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