Aaron Paul knows how to drive. If there’s anything to be gleamed from the trailer above it’s that Aaron Paul can drive like a madman. This is an important skill for Paul, who did a majority of his own stunt driving in the movie, because director Scott Waugh’s first mandate for taking the Need For Speed gig was that all the driving stunts would be done practically. This might seem like a mental move, until you consider Waugh’s history: his father, Fred Waugh, was one of Hollywood’s most accomplished stuntmen. You may have seen Fred’s stunts in any number of impressive and beloved movies, but my personal favorite job of his was as the original 70’s Spider-Man.
With his pedigree in stunts, you can see why it was important to Waugh to make sure the driving stunts felt real and respected the art his father helped to perfect. It’s clear when talking to him how much he idolized the stuntmen of the previous generation. “They were men that always tried to do stunts practically and put cameras in places no one had ever seen before,” said Waugh when we sat down with him to discuss the film.
“I feel like we’ve gotten away from (practical stunt work),” Waugh continued, “I personally feel like, as an audience member – because I’m very character driven. I feel like if you break the rules of physics in stunt work you break the rules of a characters jeopardy. Because if a car can jump off a movie train that’s forty feet high and land and still keep going, then a person can take a bullet and keep going too. You’re breaking the rules.”
His feelings are so strong that the crew had to search for weeks to find the exact right location to do a particularly impressive stunt that sees a Mustang jump over three lanes of traffic, land and drive off. “How do we find something that has the right angles? If you find a natural downramp you can sustain that kind of height. We were driving around Detroit, looking and looking,” an animated Waugh retells the story of the moment they found their location, “Suddenly I go STOP! I think I got it. I walk around and I go if you came over here and jump across these three lanes and landed between these trees…” His crew was dubious of the possibilities but, Waugh says he saw it all in his mindseye and that years of motocross racing had perfected his ability to “see” jumps. “I was like we can totally do that, you guys. The crew was like you’re outta your freakin’ mind. And I’m like, ‘no, we can do this.’ Then I looked over at my coordinator Lance Gilbert, and it was his brother who would be doing the stunt, and I go, ‘Can we do that?'”
Aaron Paul’s newfound driving abilities were a foregone conclusion according to Waugh, “I’m a big fan of Bullet, because Steve (McQueen) drove. I personally take pride in that, and I made sure that Aaron drove as much as I possibly could.” Not that Paul had any reservations, according to Waugh, “I said to Aaron, ‘if you’re cool with this and willing to do it, then I need to send you to stunt school so you can learn how to drive. Are you cool with that?’ And he goes, ‘YEAH!!”