'Final Destination' director James Wong reveals 6 things you didn't know about the film

From shooting the plane sequence, to how they filmed the most gruesome scene of the entire franchise, Final Destination director James Wong reveals 6 things you didn't know about the film.

Video Transcript

JAMES WONG: If you think of death as sort of this sadistic force, what can he do to sort of mess with you so that you think it's one thing but then it's something totally-- and maybe there's a chance for you to escape it. But probably not.

- Like, I don't know. I saw it. I saw it on the runway. I saw it take off. I saw-- out my window I saw the ground. And-- and--

- Carter--

- The cabin, it starts to shake. Right? And the left side blows up. And then the whole plane just explodes.

ETHAN ALTER: Starting with the plane crash, obviously, that's sort of like the opening of the first movie. It's a really intense scene. What was your sort of approach to that? How did you want to make that visceral for the audience?

JAMES WONG: One thing we really felt like you can't fake physics. So we actually had this big giant gimbal with a plane on it-- with a body of the plane on it. And we lifted it as high as a plane would to crash. And we had stunt performers who would fly through the plane. I think the one shot that people really felt was when all the Milk Duds were rolling down the aisle. I think those are the kind of things that make people really believe in versus CGI.

ETHAN ALTER: I understand, at one point, the gimbal broke down-- I think Kerr Smith in an interview said the gimbal broke down at a certain point too, right?

JAMES WONG: After our first rehearsal. (LAUGHTER) It was incredible. We go, OK, that's great. And then the guy goes, well, we can't move this thing for 45 minutes because we have to reset everything. So it was not an auspicious start. We rehearsed it, the thing went up, and then it stayed that way. So we had to get the-- we had to have giant ladders put up on to the set and have the actors climb out of it. It was a mess.

ETHAN ALTER: I had forgotten this, but where Devon Sawa gets burned in his vision, it's very disturbing. You see is flesh sort of crackling and everything. How far did you want to go with that, that sort of the level of gore with it?

JAMES WONG: Well, we wanted to go as far as they'll let us. We actually had a Devon head made of a prosthetic head that we burned that we added all these skin stuff with CG-- that was CGI. We did not burn Devon.

ETHAN ALTER: Have you had anyone else ever complain about freaking them out with the plane sequence?

JAMES WONG: When we wrote the first draft, Richard Brener who's executive at New Line at the time, the movie is called "Flight 180", he gets the draft. He's going to New York. He's on flight 180. And he's reading-- and he's reading it and goes, oh my god. This is-- so, you know, he was really-- he was scared. He was going, oh my god. This is like some kind of karmic thing that's going to happen to me. And ultimately, obviously, he's fine.

- And if you want to waste your life beating the [BLEEP] out of Alex every time you see him then you can just drop the [BLEEP] dead.


- Oh!

- Oh!

ETHAN ALTER: The bus death, it's sort of like I feel like that's been ripped off countless times since just the girl standing in the street and then, bam, gets hit by the bus right away.

The timing of that is so careful. And I understand it was very carefully timed out. What are your memories of doing that sequence?

JAMES WONG: I remember doing it and thinking like, the bus isn't fast enough. It's not fast enough. But the bus can only go so fast because, basically, that sequence was created this way. We had Amanda step back into the spot on the take that we like. We froze everything. And we put her dummy, which was filled with blood and stuff in her place in the exact posture. And then we ran a bus through it. And then the dummy exploded. And then my editor, James Copeland's, put it together like the next day without any visual effects. And it was like-- we all jumped. It was so effective.

I remember going to the theaters afterwards when the movie has already been out. And we're watching-- we're sitting in a theater watching a movie, just watching for reactions to stuff. And suddenly we saw all the ushers start walking down the hall-- I mean, down the theater to the front. And we go, what the-- why are these ushers coming down that way? And they were waiting because they're waiting to see the audience reaction to the bus set because people like-- popcorn is flying. Everybody was-- it was a great reaction.

- He goes, young man, you're going to die a very young age. (NERVOUS CHUCKLE) Yeah. Is that true?

ETHAN ALTER: And at this point the movie came out after "American Pie" so Sean William Scott just had that role. But did it film before that? Did you know that you were catching him at that moment?

JAMES WONG: Craig Perry was the producer of "American Pie". So he actually pushed us to get Sean William Scott on screen. Because at first, Billy, kind of this dorky guy, he's not written as handsome as Sean William Scott. So it took a little bit convincing. But then we met with him and talked with him. And yes, he does have a goofy quality to him even though he has these leading man looks. So we went with him. And it worked out really great because he was so popular from "American Pie".

ETHAN ALTER: The Sean William Scott decapitation scene is also a lot of fun with the train. That's another one where you're sort of misdirected. You think one thing is going to happen. And then that piece of metal flies off and cuts his head off. What was the sort of thought about sending him out?

JAMES WONG: Well, again we had a fake Sean William's head. The thing I loved about that was when we're talking about-- discussing how we would do it I wanted the decapitation to be not this straight across the neck, full head thing. I wanted it to be this kind of crazy, a skewed cut. It was just another thing where we wanted them to think, oh, he didn't get hit by the train in the car. And then it was something else altogether.

- Max!


- I told you you were next.

- It just skipped me.

- So who's next?

ETHAN ALTER: The ending of the movie, I understand that the ending was reshot so after release there was originally a different ending where the Ali Larter character is pregnant and things like that. How did it change? What were sort of your ideas about, once you decided to redo it, what you wanted the ending to be?

JAMES WONG: The original ending is much more kind of philosophical. You know, like, death will come for you. But the only way to beat death is this new life. It was too soft, basically. We went to previews, everybody loved the movie. And then at the end it kind of just went like that. So once that was drilled in my head, like, the whole philosophical ending doesn't work.

Then I thought, the most action packed thing that happens is in the very first scene. So we had to go, well, then let me put something together that allowed us to sort of explain some of the rules. Like, if you skip one person the next person gets it. And then do something kind of big that the audience-- so the audience has a cathartic moment.

ETHAN ALTER: And as I understand it, according to Kerr Smith, audiences wanted to see his character die too. Because he was sort of the bully. So that was the other thing.

JAMES WONG: He was like the dick that people didn't want to-- yeah, so people wanted to see him die.

ETHAN ALTER: And just so I'm clear, in the original ending did Devon Sawa die?

JAMES WONG: He was not. I think we wanted to keep some of the guys alive in order for there to be a possibility of a sequel. And then I don't know what happened in the second one where he was killed off screen. But that's why Ali stayed alive and all that.



ETHAN ALTER: Jumping ahead to number three, you get to come back at that point. And what I like about three So much is I can get the sense that you're having a little fun being a little gnarlier. Like it's a little more bloody, getting a little more R-rated. And starting with the roller coaster season, which is a great sequence. And reminded me of the '70s disaster movie "Rollercoaster" which I love as well. How early did that idea come to you?

JAMES WONG: The rollercoaster actually came from Richard Brener. He came to us and said, OK, the third one, rollercoaster. And we go, oh, that's great. That's great. That's a great idea. We went throughout the United States asking rollercoaster-- amusement parks to let us use their rollercoasters. And not one person would let us use their rollercoaster because nobody wanted to be associated around the nation.

So we had to go to Vancouver. They had a small rollercoaster. And they would let us use that. And we said, well, this is too small. So we basically built a rollercoaster in the computer and shot pieces of it in that coaster in Vancouver. And then we had a lot of green screen stuff that we did. We built a big giant track, for the beginning and ending of the coaster, we built tracks to put in green screen for all the crazy stuff to happen when people were about to fall off the coasters. It was really elaborate because basically no one would let us use-- no one would let us use a rollercoaster.



ETHAN ALTER: You mentioned the tanning bed. And I think that's also a top "Final Destination" death. That's such a great sequence and pretty grisly. What was the idea behind that? How did you sort of pull that one off?

JAMES WONG: For me, vulnerability is very important. I feel like when you're naked that is the moment when you feel the most vulnerable in every way. And how do we put-- how do we get our characters in a place where it's not gratuitously naked? But get them vulnerable, have the audience really feel like, oh my God. How would you feel if your skin was burning and you can't do anything to protect yourself. So that was the impetus for that scene.

It was kind of creepy shooting it to be honest with you because it was so-- it was scary, actually, because you just feel that-- you can feel how your skin would feel, you know? So we had burn boxes and stuff like that to replicate the actor's skin sizzling and burning. It was kind of creepy.

ETHAN ALTER: How did the actresses feel doing that? Because as you said, they are very exposed--


ETHAN ALTER: --in so many ways.

JAMES WONG: You know, we had a closed set. We had a lot of protocols for that. So that it was nothing untoward. I think Dave felt the same way that they-- obviously, they were not hot. But they felt-- just acting that way. And then we put the makeup on the skin and all that. It is-- it was creepy.