“Bullitt,” “Fast and Furious,” “Le Mans,” “Baby Driver” — we remember the stars who made these famous racing films but what about the actual stuntmen driving the cars?
Moviehole was able to corral award-winning Robert Nagle who is one of the most prolific stunt car drivers today for an interview after his latest film just debuted — “Ford v Ferrari.” Ask Nagle and he’s worked on some of the most iconic films of today (not to mention two in the above paragraph, “Baby Driver” and “Fast and Furious”). And how about “Black Panther,” “Venom,” “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “John Wick” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” to name a few?
Here Nagle talks about the way that he works, how newbies should start off and how flipping over and over down an embankment doesn’t faze him at all.
Moviehole: How did you get started as a stuntman?
Robert Nagle: I have two answers. One, I ran out of money racing (laughs). But the truth and complex answer was when I was racing, I met guys who were doing what I was doing and a race movie came along where a guy wanted real race car drivers to be able to drive at speed. So I worked on the “The Dale Earnhardt Story.”
I did a couple car commercials and really enjoyed it but I got frustrated with racing as it was more about chasing money than anything else; it took out the passion for me and so I walked away. I applied myself to the film industry then. One thing was that the creative process really fulfilled me a lot, working with directors and getting a vision on camera.
Moviehole: What is your favorite stunt?
RN: A lot of stuff that we did on “Baby Driver,” it’s more stunty. The “Ford v Ferrari” film too, but I was trying to be more racing-oriented. If I had to go back, there was a stunt for “Public Enemies” with a running gun battle with two cars — one flips off the road and flips over and over. I had to set the car to come off the embankment and start tumbling, there was a lot of precision involved… off we went and nailed it, as it didn’t work for the first stunt. I was in the car when it was tumbling. There’s a lot of preparation and a lot of safety involved; you do get banged up, it hits the ground pretty hard.
Moviehole: What has been your toughest challenge ever?
RN: I don’t know if there was an “ever” – the stunts are all so different with each project and I enjoy the challenges.
Moviehole: How did you get involved with “Ford v Ferrari”?
RN: It’s a project that’s been around for about 10 years and Michael Mann was once attached to it. I got word that it was coming back around and Darrin Prescott, the second AD, mentioned my name and I got a personal phone call from James Mangold (producer) to come meet with him. It was very fast and not uncommon in this industry — when it goes it happens fast.
Moviehole: What was it like to work on “Ford v Ferrari”?
RN: James Mangold is a storyteller, he is not a car person, and I absolutely loved that challenge — I wrote a story for each of the races for the film so it would have creative content and fit a narrative. There are three races — the first was a street fight, dirty and a bit messy and the races get more refined with the second race and third race – to credit Christian (Bale), he plays it amazingly.
Moviehole: Have you had any major scares/injuries while working?
RN: I’ve been very fortunate, the only injury I had was in a NASCAR commercial where I had to slide a car into another car and I hit my thumb on something and broke my thumb. Other than that, I have accumulated injuries.
Moviehole: What do you advise newbies?
RN: It’s a tough business and you better have thick skin. It’s very competitive, crazy hours and your life changes with a phone call — you have to drop everything at that moment. It’s tough to plan anything in your normal life. I’m at a point where it’s more consistent, especially when I’m coordinating rather than being called to drive for a week or drive for two or three weeks. You may do a night shoot and then get a call to do something else.
Moviehole: How do you protect yourself from getting hurt? What do you do to keep in top shape, diet, exercise, etc.
RN: I diet and exercise, I don’t hit the gym as much as I used to and I do more coordinating and less crashing. There’s no special gym plan.
Moviehole: Also, you’ve invented a special car rig?
RN: Allan Padelford and I designed Biscuit Jr. and received an Oscar for technical achievement. It’s a driveable platform where you place a car on it and we put an actor in the car and there’s a drive pod that can be moved around — it gives the director about a 270 degree view. We can move the drive pod and look forward and back. We invented it in 2004.
Moviehole: Do you have any race car driving idols?
RN: Two favorites — Michael Schumacher and Eric Senna.
Moviehole: Do you have any upcoming films?
RN: There’s “Baby Driver 2,” we are looking for a start date. Also “Stumptown” and “Birds of Prey: And The fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.”