“A bank teller (Ryan Reynolds) who discovers he is actually a background player in an open-world video game decides to become the hero of his own story –one he rewrites himself,” says the film’s official synopsis. “Now, in a world where there are no limits, he is determined to be the guy who saves his world his way… before it’s too late.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with supervising stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara about Free Guy‘s action scenes, what has changed during his career, and his work on the Jake Gyllenhaal comedy Bubble Boy.
Tyler Treese: Chris, I was really curious, how did you get into stunt work? It’s such an interesting field to get into.
Chris O’Hara: I was a gymnast in college and so when I was in college, I concentrated more on gymnastics than my studies. When I got out of college, I had a stack of applications to further my education and it meant one summer of prerequisites that I had to take and I didn’t fill out one application and I didn’t take any of the prerequisites. I never really felt that I reached the high of my gymnastics career, so I wanted to continue something that kind of allowed me to compete and perform and keep going somehow. So I kind of went into this phase of wanting to be a stunt guy. Being a gymnast is a good base, gymnastics and martial arts are a great base for a stunt guy. So being a six-foot-tall, ex-college gymnast was a great way to break into the industry.
Free Guy is just filled with action. What was the most difficult stunt that you coordinated and worked on here?
All of the action was driven by the story. So it was not super crazy over the top. I think one of the more tricky scenes we did was pretty much right out of the gate, the first scene with like Channing Tatum kind of coming into the city, skydiving, and then blending what real-life action was from a visual effects world and trying to get that and match that into that world and then recreate it with elements of live-action and stuff on blue screen. So as far as just a mental challenge of trying to work it all together, I think that that’s where that was just one of those scenes that way. As far as it wasn’t a huge, crazy, blow stuff up everywhere, but it was a good scene to get your mind around and push the limits a little bit.
Ryan Reynolds has a very unique brand of action. He blends a lot of everyman charisma and he is not really always playing a total badass. There’s more of a comedic element when working on something like this, an action-comedy. Is that something that changes your approach any, or is it kind of the same?
I will say that the person you see and Ryan Reynolds on every interview, every movie, everything is who he is. So, he doesn’t sugarcoat it for anybody. He’s just that type of guy and so he’s funny all the time. Even if he’s not trying to be, he still is. So bringing that to the character that he’s done in the past is I think it’s just he’s such a likable guy and people love it. So doing a comedic action movie like this, it’s just fun to have another layer to the story. Again, you think about action being driven by just action, but I think that comedic beats and the comedic timing of some of the scenes with layers in with the action is just really cool. It’s a challenge to kind of make cool, but I think it’s really fun. I think the audiences have kind of spoken that they love a comedic action movie. Well, maybe everything that Ryan Reynolds touches, everybody loves.
We already kind of know what Ryan brings to the table, but I was so pleasantly surprised with how much of a badass Jodie Comer was as a Molotovgirl. She just seemed incredible in that role. How was it like working with her and was she able to pick it up quickly? It seemed so natural.
The thing that we do is we want the actors to kind of be involved as much as possible when it’s safe. Molotovgirl in the game, she’s just this badass. So you put leather pants on her, a wig on her, her aviator glasses on, and she just brought that character to life. To also bring to that character to life action-wise, she put in a lot of time with our fight team and we kind of ran through beats and started her from baby steps and kind of just got her basics down and slowly built her up two moves at a time, five moves at a time, six moves at a time, and kind of allowed her to know that whole fight. So it was really all done in rehearsal for us and prep. So when we got to the filming, she was ready to go. I thought Molotovgirl Jodi created and we helped mold her into this badass.
I was blown away looking at your credits, and I saw you were a stunt double for Bubble Boy. So were you in that bubble? What’d you do in that?
I was. I was in that bubble. That was when Jake Gyllenhaal was just a new actor coming up, and did Bubble Boy and ran around in that bubble and fell downstairs, flew in planes, floated down rivers, and got thrown off the back of motorcycles. It was a cool experience. As a stunt guy, it was nice to nice to have a little bit of padding around you. So you didn’t have to worry about things too much. You had a big old pad that you walked around in. So it was a fun experience to say that I did that.
Motion capture stunts have become very popular in video games, but you actually did 007: Tomorrow Never Dies back on PlayStation. Do you have any memories from like that? Motion capture wasn’t used that often in video games back then.
Yeah. Back then it was a whole different [industry]. Now they have full studios that are devoted to it, and it’s gotten really, really big. Motion capture back then was a very daunting process. There were all these T-poses and recalibrating, and it was just a more elaborate process. This they’ve definitely whittled it down to a very streamlined process now. We did a little bit of motion capture stuff on Free Guy. So seeing it from what it was back then to what it is now, it’s way different. But it’s also a cool medium as well, because you can be right there. If you have the sensors on you, that’s what you’re capturing. So you can kind of motivate things and put people on a rolling chair that makes it feel like he’s standing on a motorcycle or something like that. So it’s cool being in that motion capture arena, you can create a lot of things that you can’t do in the real world.
You mentioned how things have changed in films. Just in stunts in general, what has changed the most in this field since you started?
I think definitely the collaboration between the visual effects department and the stunt department. Before, everything was they wanna do it for real. Not saying we don’t do anything for real, but the biggest thing is like high falls. So back in the day, there were definitely specific stunt guys that did high falls, and then as it started progressing a little bit, they started doing things with wires. So at the beginning, everybody was so worried about the visual effects, like painting out the wires, that everybody wanted to still do the high falls because they didn’t want to paint out the wires.
But as visual effects, technology got better, painting out the wires is super easy. So they’re like, yeah, well put wires on. We’re fine. So in that respect, it made stunts safer because high falls, although they’re calculated, there also have been a lot of injuries and stuff that have happened from them in the past. So putting somebody on a wire just makes it a way safer and if visual effects can take it out without a problem, why wouldn’t you do the same? Why wouldn’t you make the fall super huge, and you can actually put actors in the falls, where it’s basically a controlled fall with an actor in it. They paint out the wire and you can allow the actor to be in the action in a safe manner. So I think that collaboration between visual effects and stunts has definitely pushed our game as far as stuntmen and the stunt industry even further.