Some of the most beloved films of all time feature over-the-top, absolutely insane action sequences. From the MCU to David Cronenberg crime epics, all of these action sequences have fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about how they came to be - stories that by themselves are more exciting than many lesser action films.
What these anecdotes demonstrate is the degree to which fight scenes have to be elaborately thought out and choreographed. Some behind-the-scenes stories show just how detailed the making of an action sequence can be, how real punches can cause real pain, and just how scary it is when something goes wrong on set.
If there's anything to learn from these behind-the-scenes stories about killer fight sequences, it's that no one should try any of this at home.
- 1Photo: 20th Century Fox
Fight Club is full of intense bare-knuckle brawling, but it's also stacked with super famous people who make a living on looking very good, so there's not a lot of real fighting in this movie. That being said, the first fight scene in the film has one very real, very painful punch.
As detailed by Edward Norton to Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, director David Fincher told him to actually smack Brad Pitt during their early parking lot fight. He didn't know where to hit Pitt so he just socked him in the ear:
It's the first punch in the movie and I hit him in the ear. Fincher came up to me and said, "Hit him, connect with him somewhere." I didn’t know what to do and I hit him in the ear. He says in the film, "Ow! Why the ear?" Yeah, that was real!588Cool detail?
- 2Photo: Focus Features
There are films with nudity. There are films with knives. There are films with fistfights. Eastern Promises has all three of those things in one scene. During this bathhouse battle, Viggo Mortensen fights two Chechen henchmen in hand-to-hand combat while completely in the buff.
Mortensen is stabbed, he's punched, and he absolutely mauls two huge mobsters, all while he's naked. It's an intense fight that wouldn't work if Mortensen had used a stunt double. In this scene, he's not just an actor - he's literally fighting for his life.
The scene took two full days to film, which means Mortensen was in his birthday suit pretty much the whole time - save for a towel that gets ripped off early in the fight. There was very little fight choreography in order to make sure the scene looked as real - and as messy - as possible. Mission accomplished.352Cool detail?
- 3Photo: Miramax FIlms
Both entries in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series contain fight scenes that are sick AF, but none of them hold a candle to the over-the-top fight with the Crazy 88 at the House of Blue Leaves. The limb-flinging, blood-splattering battle is so violent, it would have necessitated a rating of NC-17 had it gone to theaters without edits.
Rather than cut the scene down and make it lose its impact, Tarantino opted to make yet another homage to the kung fu films of the '70s by placing a black-and-white filter over portions of the fight, making the blood look like nothing more than dark water. This is the same thing vintage kung fu films did when they were aired on television to keep from being censored.388Cool detail?
- Photo: Warner Bros.
The surreal hallway fight that cements Inception as one of the most exciting action movies of the 2010s is replete with "how'd they do that" practical effects and jaw-dropping stunt performances. To bring the scene to life, Christopher Nolan and his team had to do more than set up a rotating hallway and call it a day.
To get this scene on film, Nolan constructed a centrifuge like the one used by Jamiroquai in the "Virtual Insanity" video and outfitted it with fully functioning wall sconces that provided ambient light. To move around the set with the grace of a gymnast in a dream, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had to train for weeks, memorize the layout of the hallway, and get used to being slammed around the set while wearing wires.
As good as Gordon-Levitt looks in his suit and tie during the scene, he's wearing knee and elbow pads beneath his outfit to keep him somewhat safe. Gordon-Levitt told Details that he worked on the scene for six days a week and that it left him in pain every night:
It was six-day weeks of just, like, coming home at night f*ckin' battered. Like you are after you play a hard game of football. The adrenaline was so nuts that I was like, "This normally would have hurt a lot, but let's go again, let's go, let's go, let's go."348Cool detail?