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Meet Lance Gilbert: Creating the Stunts of ‘Need For Speed’

George Kennedy
March 9, 2014

We’ve seen the upcoming Need For Speed film, and though we can’t say much (yet), we can tell you that it will make you enjoy car movies again. Sure, there was a plot, but the real meat of the film was in the racing sequences and police chases. Two things made this great– an epic collection of cars, featuring the NFS Ford Mustang, and the live action sequences conceived and executed by the production team. It will reset your expectations of what a car movie can be in the year 2014.

Director Scott Waugh (below, right) and stunt coordinator Lance Gilbert (below, left) grew up in the industry. They come from a line of Hollywood stunt men and stunt coordinators, so it should come as no surprise that Scott would tap Gilbert for the stunts in NFS.


“I was raised around all practical stunts.” Explained Gilbert, “From a young age, going to daily’s and seeing what you filmed that day, it was always fascinating and bred into me, so when Scott approached me about this film, it was a total ‘why not?’!”

PHOTOS: See More of the 2013 Need For Speed Ford Mustang GT

Scott and Lance grew up together, to when the former tapped the latter to head up stunts for the film– the two were on the same page from the word “go.”

“When Scott approached me, our goals were to embrace the films from the 60s and 70s,” explained Gilbrert, “really be inside the action with the action around us, not utilize computer graphics to accomplish things.”

From our interview with Aaron Paul and from talking to Lance, it was apparent that the crew for NFS had a high respect for the car movies of the past, and wanted to do right by those films.

VIDEO: Aaron Paul Flexes Some Muscle in Latest ‘Need For Speed’ Clip

“As we started to talk about all of these differently scenes,” said lance, “we would find locations that would suit the style we wanted so we could drive as fast as we could in real life with chase cars and cameras rigged up. We wanted some narrow roads to accentuate the speed as well.”


Part of that execution was finding large stretches of road several miles long for the chase scenes. Shorter stretches of road would not have allowed the cars to get up to full speed and the longer roads meant that full scenes could be shot, rather than cutting several chase sequences together.  “You’d be surprised how fast five miles disappears at full speed.” said Lance.

PHOTOS: See More of the 2013 Koenigsegg Agera R

The Mustang was the hero car for a big chunk of the film, but like the game itself, the drivers worked their way up to increasingly rare and powerful vehicles. Cars like the Mustang can be built and prepped for movie scenes, but the supercars and hypercars (like the McLaren P1, Bugatti Veyron and Koeingsegg Agera R) are far to rare to risk crashing. To that end, Lance and the NFS production team went to great lengths to ensure that stunt vehicles could live up to the real thing, both in appearance and in performance.

“These supercars are works of art– and we couldn’t wreck the art piece,” said Lance, “so we had to design vehicles that could actually go fast and protect the drivers behind the wheels.” Stunt cars are not the real thing, but if anyone is expected to buy the action sequences in Need For Speed, the team would have to make sure the stunt vehicles looked, sounded, and drove like the real thing.

PHOTOS: See More of the 2005 Saleen S7 Twin-Turbo

“The cars we were crashing came from a company called RCR- Racing Chassis Replicas, and we were building the body around it.” Explained Lance, “The chassis was really only built for the Saleen, but we were building the new motors and making chassis changes to fit the body for all the new cars– as well as all the mechanisms to make the cars flip and crash for our scenes.”

01-NFS Chase
01-NFS Chase

There was an impressive commitment to getting the cars right, and making sure the starts were behind the wheel as much as possible. As Aaron Paul said in a recent interview with us, “The audience knows when its being lied to.” We agree more.

INTERVIEW: Aaron Paul Talks Upcoming ‘Need For Speed’ Film, Proves He’s a Legit Car Guy

Lance and Scott made sure all the stars that would be driving were trained so that the audience could see their faces in as many performance driving scenes as possible. “We tried to have the heroes in the cars as much as possible.” Said Lance, “The viewer wants to see the talent as much as possible, so they had to learn car control and went to driver school. Simply put– when the heroes were on set they were in the car.”

Car movies like the Fast and Furious franchise has shown that a car movie can be successful with more use of computer graphics than actual stunts (“practical stunts” as they are called in the industry). But Fast and Furious is no longer a car movie franchise. It is a movie that has cars in it, and the franchise jumped the shark when a CGI Vin Diesel jumped out of a car to catch a CGI Michelle Rodriguez in a scene that made this author want to walk out of the theater. Remember- the audience knows when its being lied it.

Despite Fast and Furious’ recent success, the folks behind Need For Speed favored a much more realistic approach to the stunts and chase scenes. “I hope [Need for Speed] brings back realism to the racing genre.” said Lance, “We want to show the audience what happens when you create real car racing sequences without having to depend on computers. There is a difference, you can see and feel the difference.”

We think that difference is enough to reignite a film genre that could use a real boost.

Image Source: Dreamworks