David Koepp, director of the film Premium Rush, wanted to create a film whose plot unfolded “more or less in real time, very compressed, but wide open in terms of space.” He found his subject matter on the streets of New York City, where bike messengers are part of the everyday landscape.
Koepp knew he wanted to be true to the realities faced by the bike messengers and the subculture they inhabit. So everyone who worked on the film spent as much time as possible with actual bike messengers, learning the ways of the messenger lifestyle.
In addition, all of the film’s stunts and tricks were done with the actors performing on bikes as much as possible. “We never shot green screen,” says Koepp. “It’s always better to see them in the environment, see the bike moving, see that they were really doing it. Every stunt in this movie is done by an actual person on the exact kind of bike they are supposed to be riding. We didn’t want a mostly CG movie; we wanted a high-action movie with intense, physical stunts.”
Still, some stunts required the experts. Bike messenger Austin Horse was not only an adviser to the film — answering all kinds of questions from the stunt and prop teams — but doubled for star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a stunt rider for his character, Wilee. “Actually, there are five of us playing Wilee in this movie,” Gordon-Levitt explains. “There’s me, and certainly I did my share of riding fast, riding in traffic. But then there’s Austin, who’s actually just about the fastest bike messenger in town, if not the world. Then there’s Victor Paguia, a big-time Hollywood stuntman — his job was to get hit by cars and things like that. There’s Tom La Marche — he can do tricks on a track bike, the fixie, the kind of bike that Wilee rides for most of the movie. And finally there’s Danny MacAskill, who is crazy good at doing these insane tricks on what they call trial bikes.”
“You give Austin the cue and he gets up and goes,” says stunt coordinator Stephen Pope. “Now all of a sudden, the chase motorcycle — which has the camera — is chasing him, trying to keep up! It’s an amazing thing to see.”
Premium Rush is available starting Dec. 21 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
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