Michelle Rodriguez And Her Stunt Driver Walk Us Through The Craziest ‘Fast And Furious’ Stunts

The Fate of the Furious, the eighth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, hits theaters on April 14 as the crew continues their quest to travel the world doing bigger and more ridiculous stunts involving cars and explosions, while simultaneously stopping a super villain hellbent on world destruction.

What began as a simple movie about the underground world of street racing has exploded into the world’s biggest action movie franchise, which is a staggering thing to think about if you go back and watch the first three films. The central theme of family remains constant throughout the films, even as that family grows and grows to include the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese, and more, but what that family does together has changed dramatically.

In The Fate of the Furious, we know a few things will happen. One, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel’s character) goes rogue against the family. Two, Jason Statham goes from super villain to member of the crew. And three, there are some absolutely amazing action sequences.

Many wondered where this franchise could possibly go from the Furious Seven, where cars jump between buildings and into helicopters and The Rock crashes an ambulance into a drone. Well, the answer is still up. Just from the trailers we’ve gotten, we know there’s a massive wrecking ball that they use to crush cars chasing them, a scene where cars come crashing out of a parking garage and a damn submarine/tank/car chase on an ice shelf with lots of explosions. Suffice to say, the ante has been upped once again.

We spoke with Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Letty and has appeared in films 1, 4, 6, 7, and 8, and legendary stunt driver Debbie Evans, who has worked on films 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, and 8, about the unbelievable growth of the franchise, the craziest stunts they’ve worked on, why the franchise connects so well with the audience, their virtual reality stunt project and why Michelle wants the writers to stop picking on poor Letty and let her get back to the fun stuff.

With what you got to do with the Castrol EDGE Titanium Ice project, you two have worked together now on four of the films in the Fast & Furious franchise. How fun was it to be able to get together off the set and do this collaboration?

Debbie Evans: This was really cool, and I’m so glad Michelle was involved. This is the Titanium Ice project that’s inspired by The Fate of the Furious, just like the ice sequence we did in Iceland, and it was amazing. I tested the motor oil out and it gave me maximum performance and it was titanium strong. In the video, you can see Michelle actually challenging me, putting me through the gauntlet.

Michelle Rodriguez: [laughs] Yeah, right. You’re so gangster with it. You don’t need me.

DE: Yeah, I do! We’re a team.

MR: Yeah, respect. I just love the idea of augmented virtual reality, that you can impose images into live action while you’re driving with goggles on.

DE: It was amazing.

MR: That must’ve been a little bit challenging. Is the technology there, or does it need a little bit more advancement?

DE: It’s there, but I think it’s just going to get better. And what a different thing to do. That’s one of the things that’s so cool about my job is I get to do all these things that have really never been done before, and this was one of them. The goggles went on and I could see what the naked eye would see, but I was also seeing a submarine popping through the ice and missiles shooting at me and things exploding …

MR: That’s dope! So, special effects guys could actually create some augmented reality skit for you on a trek while you’re doing stunts, and they could impose that into your eyeline and you could actually drive and see what’s happening in the movie with the special effects.

DE: That’s correct. That possibility is there. Right now, I would not want to test that …

MR: [laughs]

DE: I would not want to do that. For this, I had a nice, big frozen lake to work with, with no obstacles other than the edge of the lake, and, uh, I’m a little leery of testing that one. But this was awesome. It was the perfect setting for it.

MR: Alright, so we’re not there yet. But close! The technology’s getting close.

It’s amazing what they’re able to do now. I want to start with a question for Michelle. Is it crazy to think about how much this franchise has grown from the beginning with the first movie to where it is now as a global phenomenon on its eighth film?

MR: Yeah, I mean you know, it’s not like I expected that to happen. Back when we did the first one, making a sequel was tacky. It was like, “Sequel?! Who does that?! What are we, Lethal Weapon?” [laughs] And here we are on [movie] eight.

DE: And enjoying every second of it.

In terms of what’s in the films, how dramatic is the difference from what y’all are doing now compared to that first movie or even the fourth? I mean, there’s a damn submarine in this movie!

MR: That’s more of a Debbie question, cause she’s the one that has to go out there and actually do the stunts.

DE: They keep setting the bar higher and higher and coming up with these amazing ideas, and somehow we pull them off. That’s the thing, and that’s what’s kinda fun about it. It’s always a new challenge and there’s one sequence coming up on this one where, I think it’s on the trailer so I can say something, where the cars are coming out of a parking structure and crashing to the ground, and we’re all crashing into them. That’s pretty wild.

MR: [laughs] It’s raining cars!

DE: But that’s the thing about the Fast & Furious franchise, it’s always something new. It’s always something big, like when the cars are coming out of the aircraft carrier and flying through the air and landing. We actually did the landing in the cars. We had like a slide for life thing set up with all four cars coming out of the sky basically, and the effects guys hitting quick releases and we’re on the ground and starting our chase. That’s pretty cool.

Has there ever been something where you’ve looked through the script and seen what is planned on paper, and thought, “Okay, how are they even going to execute this?”

DE: Yeah, that’s happened a lot.

MR: [Laughs]

DE: We’ve actually read the script and gone, “What?!” Like, Vin’s going to hit the side of an overpass and fly through the air, and Michelle’s going to be on a tank and these two are going to collide in the air and land on a car perfectly together. It’s like, OK, how are we going to do that. But, we get it together, we make it happen. The weirder part is, I look at it and I go, “Oh, come on. Nobody’s going to buy that!”

MR: They buy it every time!

DE: I sit in the theaters with the people and it happens and they go, “Yeeeaaaaahhhhhh!” What just happened?! They love it. They absolutely love it.

Yeah, it’s almost like a superhero movie, where the superheroes are car drivers. Like, you kind of suspend belief of physics or whatever, because it looks so cool when Dom catches Letty flying through the air …

DE: Well, we’re not suspending physics because the thing is, I think CGI tends to suspend physics and that’s when you lose the audience. We keep the audience engaged because all the stuff is done for real in some way. You might have some essence of CGI as background or fill-in or little bits of this or that, but the main action is generally real. Even if it’s just the effects guys blowing something up. They’re blowing up real cars. They’re not CGI cars or anything.

MR: Like, my stunt double in Fast 6 was flying on that zipline like 30 miles per hour. When I did it, I was doing more like 15 [mph]. So, like, you’ve got that element of the CGI’s in the backdrop, but we did it. It’s not like everything is created by the computer board, because if it was I think we’d all get quite bored really quickly.

DE: And the other thing, and I don’t know why, but the audience loses interest.

MR: Yeah, they do. They can tell.

DE: So it’s really important we continue on doing things for real. Because that’s where the jeopardy is and that’s where people really get involved with the characters and what’s going on.

MR: 50/50 dance, you know.

So, for Debbie, you’ve done tons of action movies, but this franchise tends to push things and do things that haven’t been done. For this particular movie, you mentioned the cars pouring out of the garage, when you’re going through the planning process and you have these stunts that are obviously going to cost a lot of money, what’s the preparation process and spending the time to make sure you can get it done early in the takes, because I’m sure there’s pressure with all these cars and explosions to get it done the first time?

DE: What we do to prep is get there a week or two early, and sometimes we’ll go through all the cars and get basic action figured out. Then we go from there. And that saves a lot of time and money on production days. We have our second unit director, Spiro Razatos, and our stunt coordinator, Andy Gill, are amazing. They’re the ones that do all the planning and get everything nailed down and then they bring it to us, and we execute it.

Michelle, Letty’s character in 6 and really especially 7, has the opportunity to kind of grow and the audience gets to see a side of her that we didn’t necessarily get to see in the earlier films. Were you pleased that they took the time to develop more fully on screen, and with this movie, with Dom going rogue, are we going to see more of that as she handles that situation?

MR: I think that I would be really, really happy if they stopped picking on Letty [laughs]. I’m kind of tired of crying and looking miserable forgetting her memory, dying, coming back to life, losing her husband and it’s like, alright, just go pick another character. I’d actually prefer for them to focus on someone else [laughs]. Because I like the happy stuff, you know. I want to get back to the cars and get back to the fun stuff. The stuff that Debbie likes to do, that’s why I think we should switch roles.