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Interview with 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' Veteran Stunt Coordinator Greg Powell

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is non-stop action from start to finish with mano-a-mano combat, gunplay, explosions, chases via cars, boats and motorcycles on the narrow streets in Amsterdam. Veteran stunt coordinator Greg Powell explains how they achieved the stunts via practical effects without the use of any CGI.

Greg Powell comes from a long line of stunt men. His uncle Danny Powell brought in his father Nosher Powell into the world of stunts, having worked on many of the James Bond films starting with FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, and ever since the family has worked with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Gary continued the legacy with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and continued on with future Bonds Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig. It was Greg who performed the barrel-roll in the speedboat in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH.

The award-winning stunt coordinator and 2nd unit director has over 40 years experience in the film industry, not counting the times he visited the set with his father as a child. He received a 2014 Taurus Stunt Award for Best Coordinator for his work on FAST & FURIOUS 6. His other credits include MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, SAFE HOUSE, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2, and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.

For THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD, Greg Powell had his hands full with action sequences involving elaborate set ups including a chase scene through the tiniest streets in Amsterdam. In one scene, Samuel L. Jackson’s hitman character Darius Kincaid is running from the bad guys in a speed boat through the Amsterdam canals while being chased by the bad guys in several cars, with Interpol agents right behind them as well as Ryan Reynold’s Michael Bryce intercepting the baddies on a motorcycle. “It was a lot of work,” said Greg of the demanding shoot.

Of course it helps working again with Ryan Reynolds after SAFE HOUSE. It’s easier when they’ve done it before.

“He can certainly drive a car and motorbike, no problem there which helps.”

Most of that action sequence was shot in Amsterdam in the narrow streets around the canal during the busiest time of the year, according to Greg. They also shot part of it on the streets of Bulgaria. The chase was shot in three to four weeks counting both the first and second unit. At first, the 2nd unit went in to shoot with doubles and then the crew returned for additional shooting Samuel and Ryan. The goal of the action sequence was to show it in real time.   

“We wanted to show the speed we were doing with the boat, the bike and the cars and trying to get them all in the same shot which was good… which was achieved as you see. The speed you see is the actual speed we were doing in the streets.”

There was no faking it for the cameras. Greg tells CineMovie he’s not fond of CG, and he’s glad to see a movement back to practical effects especially in action movies.

“When we’re in a time where there’s so much CG, I think people are relieved going to the cinema and watching a film like THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD where it’s no CG. It was all live action.”

The live action included knock-down, drag-out fights between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. We’ve heard of accidents on set like Harrison Ford accidentally punching Ryan Gosling in the face during the making of BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Luckily no one got clocked in the face on this film, according to the stunt coordinator.

The action in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is certainly very entertaining, but also very dangerous. Stuntmen are in a very hazardous profession, so Greg works with the same crew on every film. He brings in stuntmen according to their specialty whether it be car stunts or fight choreography.

Recently two significant accidents happened on big productions. A stuntwoman for the  DEADPOOL sequel lost her life during a motorcycle stunt while a stuntman fell off a building on the set of THE WALKING DEAD. CineMovie asked the veteran stuntman about the dangers of this line of work.  

“Unfortunately the business that we’re in is a dangerous business. We’re really very strong on safety especially in England. I’m not putting anyone else down but especially in England. We try to eliminate all the problems but it is a risky business and that’s why they call us stuntmen and stunt women.”

Stuntmen and stuntwomen are certainly daredevils, and the action in A HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is mind-blowing. Catch the film now on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD.

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