“It’s great that producers bring in racers since all we do is train how to slide around.”
Hobbs & Shaw contains huge explosions, epic gunfights, and lots and lots of fast cars. We won’t give away anything more than that, but suffice it to say it has all the hallmarks of a Fast & Furious movie.
Rallycross and drift racing champion Tanner Foust provided stunt driving for the film, particularly in its epic island finale. We chatted with Tanner on his involvement with the project, the awesome cars he drove, what’s changed over his movie driving career, and the C8 Corvette.
Hobbs & Shaw opens Friday, August 2, in theaters everywhere.
With each installation, Fast & Furious movies raise the bar for cinematic car driving and stunt action. In your view, does Hobbs & Shaw continue that tradition?
Tanner Foust: Not only do Fast & Furious and Hobbs & Shaw raise the bar, they also explore new genres of motorsport every time. In Fast & Furious it went from street racing to drifting to rally cars. Dennis McCarthy, who was responsible for building the cars for Hobbs & Shaw, races off-road vehicles himself, and that influence was clear. I was driving machines the likes of which I’ve never seen before. They’re basically off-road rat rods, like a Peterbilt truck with gnarly King shocks, and I was in a deuce coupe that was super off-road capable and had 500 horsepower. It was incredible to drive, which isn’t always the case with stunt cars, but for this movie the machines were ones you’d like to go race the Baja 500 with.
The Peterbilt you mentioned sounded like it had a diesel engine—what was actually under the hood?
TF: I don’t think it was diesel for filming—more likely a gas V-8 with 500 or so horsepower. But they built several copies of it, so that’s not to say they didn’t have one that was diesel. On camera it looks amazing, but in person, slammed to the ground with big, knobby tires and turbos sticking out of the side, it’s absolutely badass. These cars worked well, too. The drivers actually jumped and slid them around.
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Huge and warm mahalo to all our press friends who flew into Hawaii from all over the world to come and chat with me and my ol’ raggedy truck here that helped saved the world in HOBBS & SHAW. As always with my press junkets, I try and make ‘em as fun as possible and bring ya to sweet locations where the energy and vibe is cooler than the other side of the pillow. Then you all eat like royalty and get drunk every night – so I can then just send the bill to Universal Studios ???? Safe travels, happy you loved @hobbsandshaw and see ya down the road ~ DJ ???? @hhgarcia41 ???? #pressjunket #hawaii
The vehicle I drove in the island chase sequence was the deuce coupe rat rod, the one leading the pack. It could handle some pretty good-sized jumps and had insanely fast steering so it was completely comfortable sliding around and spinning the back tires everywhere it went. It had a ton of power for how tiny it was—it was a go-kart with off-road tires, basically.
In the film, we see all kinds of wheeled machinery: mil-spec Range Rovers, tube-frame off-roaders, armored eight-wheeled flatbeds, cyborg-inspired motorcycles, a Jeep Gladiator, turbocharged nitrous-injected trucks, and of course, a McLaren 720S. Which did you drive and which were your favorites?
TF: I drove the rat rod, and a few of the Range Rovers, which were armored up with turrets. The experience in those was interesting because the Black Hawk helicopter chasing them in the scene was not CGI—it was controlled by an amazing pilot hovering right over the cars. The rotor wash was so strong that it would actually blow those Range Rovers sideways on the dirt. It was super fun to be so close to such a big machine. The only scenes I was in were shot in Hawaii, so I didn’t get to drive that McLaren over in England.
We saw that video on your Instagram of you being chased by the Black Hawk, which was shot top-down from another helicopter above it. Surely you’re used to helicopters filming you driving, but was having a military bird of that size and scale so close to you a different experience?
TF: It was off-the-charts insane to have that much rotor wash blasting around me. I don’t know how those pilots handled it because a bird that big is sucking a huge amount of air down from above it. The guy flying the camera rig is in the danger zone of being pulled into the rotors. The choreography and artistry they created with those helicopters is staggering. It’s shocking because they’re flying so low it might look like it’s CGI, but I can tell you that he’s nearly touching his landing tires on top of those cars in real life—it was pretty exciting.
That scene was full of explosions and action, and it sounds like it stuck out—even among the other movies you’ve worked on—as being really cool and memorable.
TF: It was amazing. I have my pilot’s license and I love flying, so to see guys that are so good and experienced was awesome. These guys are generally ex-military to have that level of experience and skill to do that safely. They were literally flying under the tree canopy with the rotors ripping around.
Director David Leitch is a legendary stuntman himself, so he’s not going to take second best for any of his movies, which makes it fun. There were over 50 stunt guys out there for the shoot. One scene required weeks of fighting at night. The Rock, plus a lot of ex-NFL guys, were out there for incredibly long hours. I did a little fighting—none of them body slammed me, and I generally stuck to driving so I didn’t make anyone look bad… But it was awesome to watch.
How do you go about planning stunts? Is there someone in the production crew that tells you what you need to do, are you telling them what you can make a car do, or is it a collaborative process?
TF: It’s a two-way street. Once we get into the car stunts, we talk about what needs to happen, through the story points based on the script, then what’s physically possible with the cars we’re given on the road that we’re at. Rehearsals are inevitably shot on camera, so I need to have my A-game on as soon as I get in a car. I have to tell the story, but in a way that’s reminiscent of these incredible blockbuster movies in such a big scale, so I gotta go big.
Sounds like what you’re saying is there’s a specific goal that needs to be accomplished for a shot. That differs from the racetrack, where you’re simply trying to go as fast as possible. In that regard, do you feel more like an actor or a racer in this work? How do those roles overlap?
TF: I love acting with a car. And I love driving for camera. There’s a purity in motorsport, where it’s you against the clock. But doing film, it’s so fun to get an understanding of what a character is going through, how a move should look, and then act with that style of driving. For example, one of the most fun movies to shoot was Tokyo Drift because the skill of the character’s driving progressed as the movie went on. I doubled the bad guy, DK, and I tried to tell the story with my driving style. Usually with the bigger blockbuster movies, it’s more stunty rather than any particular style of driving, but you want to show desperation in some places, supreme control in others, and do it at the right angle for wherever the cameras are placed. I really love that challenge.
So the experience you’ve gained in motorsport supports this acting behind the wheel.
TF: One hundred percent. The stunt players out there are good at so many things—one guy in the stunt cast can light themselves on fire, jump off buildings, do martial arts, do incredible things with weapons—but training to race cars is expensive and difficult. So it’s great that producers bring in racers since all we do is train how to slide around. We come in for those sorts of specialized jobs. I have a huge amount of respect for stunt players and the diversity of skill they have, but for sure racing and competition is great training for stunt driving.
Despite all your preparation and however many times you might rehearse, how much “assistance” do you get from CGI in post-production? Does it vary from stunt to stunt?
TF: Generally, if a purpose driver is there, the reason is to avoid doing things in CGI. We’re working in the physical world and very rarely interacting with CGI. But sometimes it’s necessary. Maybe in the film, we’re driving on the edge of a cliff that isn’t actually there, or an explosion we have to drive around didn’t actually happen. Most of the concentration is on the angles that the camera sees so that we’re telling the biggest, most effective story to that angle. And sometimes CGI can add a cliff here or there, or make the cliff steeper, so the danger is still there but CGI can make things a bit safer.
In the movie we only see the best of your work, but like any film, there’s a lot that gets left on the cutting room floor. Any stunt outtakes you’re willing to comment on?
TF: There’s always an occasional spin, or something doesn’t look quite right. But honestly, the crew assembled for Hobbs & Shaw was pretty A-lister, with many legends that have a hundred times the experience that I have. With a group like that, things tend to be pretty tidy and efficient. We loved hanging out on the island together, and the most fun part was the work—shredding these insane machines on a closed-down road with a badass helicopter hovering over your head. It was really an awesome job, so hopefully it comes off that way on screen, too.
It definitely did. I know you’ve worked on several Fast & Furious movies, and for this one you mentioned it was really an A-list crew. Does that go back to what you were saying about acting with a car, and does it let you better collaborate with other drivers?
TF: When you work with people you’re familiar with, it makes it safer, more fun, and you get a better product. We can anticipate what the other guy is gonna do, and we have a blast.
Can you talk about how stunt driving has changed since you started, in terms of cars and production? Or is it the same fun it’s always been?
TF: Stunt driving has changed a lot in the 15 or so years I’ve been doing it. The mentality used to be to build a ton of cars so that when one broke, you could simply swap it out for another one. For example, in Dukes of Hazzard we went through 26 General Lees. That mentality has shifted, so now if we want to do extraordinary things, then we need extraordinary cars. In Tokyo Drift, for example, we convinced the producers that rather than build nine 350Z drift cars, to only build five and put proper money into just two of them, to give them high horsepower, good handbrakes, and good suspension. Then when there was a jump or a crash, we’d use one of the basic cars, but when there was tough drifting or technical stuff, we’d use a built one.
It’s also become more acceptable to use specialist drivers out of the racing community, rather than only stuntmen out of the stunt community. Then you can get a racer to take more advantage of the higher skill set that the car has, and you can make some cool stuff on film. A lot of directors are taking that approach, and over my time it’s become more accepted in the stunt community that driving specialists may come in to do some of the moves, as the films want to incorporate technical things like drifting and other motorsport-specific skills.
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham each have legendary car movie titles to their names. Idris Elba set a flying mile speed record in a Bentley Continental GT in 2015. All three are car guys. Were you able to connect with them as fellow auto enthusiasts and drivers?
TF: Jason in particular is a genuine petrolhead. I met him at a track day I attended with Paul Walker a few years ago. He loves any kind of in-car training. In films you’ll get actors into the cars to learn new skills, but the petrolheads always walk away unsatisfied. They want to learn how to drift, learn how to do all the stuff the stunt guys can do. While I don’t know Statham well, my impression is that he’s extremely interested in driving, his craft of driving, and that if he was given the chance to race or spend more time in drift cars that he would take it in a heartbeat. It’s fun when the actors want to drive. They care about how it looks, they’re super involved on-set, and they want to leave the film with the skills their characters have. It’s no wonder, then, that you sometimes see actors in semi-professional racing.
Regardless, seeing all the Hobbs & Shaw actors drooling over the machines that got built for the movie was great. You hope that’s how it is—you hope these guys are in car movies because they love cars, and I’d say that’s generally the case.
On an unrelated and more personal note, what do you think of the new C8 Corvette?
TF: I tend to reserve my opinions about cars until I get them on the road and feel the engineering decisions that were made. So if Chevrolet pulled off a lightweight dynamic monster that takes advantage of that mid-engine layout, especially one that’s a real competitor in motorsports, then I’m all for it. It seems like a strange car to wear the Corvette badge, and I’m sure there were heated debates internally to evolve it to mid-engine. But I’m a big fan of competition, and if it’s for competitive purposes on the racetrack, then it sticks to the Corvette DNA. I’m ready to rip it up, so call me if you get one.
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