Need For Speed: Real Stunts for Real Car Guys

The Need For Speed Mustang displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum
The Need For Speed Mustang displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum

Photos: Courtesy of Dreamworks

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, CA is the perfect venue to screen a car movie. It’s the receptacle for some of the most iconic automobiles in history, and its smack in the middle of Hollywood, which means that every film seen there feels a little more real, a little more worthwhile, in such storied company.

The recent screening of  Need For Speed, in advance of the DVD Blu-ray release available August 5, 2014, was the perfect time to appreciate an imperfect film while also learning some of the behind the scenes secrets of the admittedly awesome car stunts thanks to a pre-movie Q&A with Director Scott Waugh and stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert.

Every motorhead has a favorite car movie, appreciated as much for the vehicles as the story line, and Need For Speed hopes to be included among those favorites.The movie may barely have any discernable plot but the stunts and the cars are the real magic here. The filmmakers hit all the bases with the cars — from classic muscle like the ’69 Gran Torino (so beloved that the director kept it) to a modern Shelby-styled Mustang to super exotics. Granted most of the cars are actually replicas because no one wants to be responsible for destroying a $1.5 million  Koenigsegg Agera R or one of the 20 Lamborghini Sesto Elementos, but seeing them in motion, even as replicas, is still bad-ass. Even the production cars were special;  the crew needed to build their own camera cars based on Ford Mustangs so they could keep up with the actual movie cars.

The Need For Speed Mustang displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum
The Need For Speed Mustang displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum

In this day and age of CGI it’s refreshing to see real stunts performed  by real drivers rather computer generated effects, and this helps to set Need for Speed apart, lending an authenticity to the action. When the viewer sees the Koenigsegg pinwheeling overhead, the car is literally spinning through the air. When the Mustang is airborne for the “grasshopper jump”, the car is really flying through the air. The production crew worked out elaborately choreographed stunts, sometimes with toy cars, that were then shot on location. Star Aaron Paul went through extensive driver training so he could handle some of the stunts himself. Obviously he is no joke as a driver, he topped the leaderboard on Top Gear’s “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car challenge” with a 1:44.7.

Director Scott Waugh wanted to pay homage to some of his favorite car scenes of the past. The movie is filled with little tributes to some of the greatest automotive scenes of all time. He placed a camera behind the police gumball lights as a call out to the Blues Brothers.The drive-in theater from an early scene is showing Bullitt and the Need For Speed Mustang crashed at the same intersection that Steve McQueen jumped in the Bullitt Mustang. We even see the Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am cruising down the street. The movie is worth a look for the car sequences alone.

Want to learn more about the vehicles and stunts? The new Blu-Ray has some special features that will feed that need, like Capturing Speed: Making An Authentic Car Movie and “B-Camera” – Crash Compilation with introduction by Director Scott Waugh.

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