The Miami Vice Stunt Show from The Fall Guy Is Real, and It Was Spectacular

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Courtesy Everett Collection

This story contains major spoilers for The Fall Guy.

Recently, Ryan Gosling showed up on the stage at Universal Studios Hollywood usually reserved for the Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular stunt show. Now, you may have two questions: 1) Why is Oscar-nominated movie star Ryan Gosling doing a theme park attraction? And 2) is there really still a Waterworld stunt show at Universal Studios?

To answer those queries: Gosling was there to promote The Fall Guy, a movie about a stuntman that was directed by a former stuntman and stunt coordinator, David Leitch (who doubled for the likes of Brad Pitt before making this film about a movie star's double.) From now until May 19, there's a Fall Guy Stuntacular Pre-Show running before Waterworld, and Gosling participated in it playing— you guessed it— Ryan Gosling. And, yes, Waterworld has been running since 1995. (I've written about it at length.)

Among other things, The Fall Guy is a love letter to stunt performers of all stripes, but stunt shows are crucial to the plot. These shows, Leitch says, are "a training ground for the bigger industry. A lot of young performers cut their teeth and learn skills and meet people and make connections. Everybody who has been prolific in the business from my generation has worked at a stunt show, or tried to work at a stunt show."

Leitch should know: He auditioned for Waterworld during its first season, though he never actually performed in it. He did star in the Batman stunt show at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and broke his wrist in four places doing a backflip—it was "one of the biggest injuries" in his long career.

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas arriving at the opening of “Miami Vice Action Spectacular” at Universal Studios Hollywood, June 16, 1987

miami vice

Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas arriving at the opening of “Miami Vice Action Spectacular” at Universal Studios Hollywood, June 16, 1987
Ron Galella/Getty Images

On screen, Gosling's Colt Seavers is a proud veteran of a Miami Vice stunt show. This became part of the character's history when Gosling and his stylist Mark Avery came across a sick Miami Vice bomber jacket. And we all know how good Ryan Gosling looks in a bomber jacket. "The jacket kind of begat that backstory," says Kelly McCormick, Leitch's wife and professional partner, who produced The Fall Guy.

The actual Miami Vice stunt show—formally known as the Miami Vice Action Spectacular—opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in June of 1987, between Miami Vice's third and fourth seasons, and ran until 1995, when it was replaced by Waterworld. So, technically, assuming he's the same age as Gosling, Colt Seavers would probably have been too young to actually perform in it, even though Seavers announces on screen that he did "three shows a day, six days a week, for three years."

Leitch never saw the real life Miami Vice stunt show in person, but he has pals who were in it. "They were the Florida guys, they were the water guys, because they did the Miami Vice live show," he says.

The tools the fictional character supposedly learned on the job ultimately come in handy when Colt is kidnapped by goons working for movie star Tom Ryder (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tom has accidentally murdered another stunt performer and is planning on framing Colt for the killing. But Colt manages to fake his own death in Sydney Harbor by piloting a speedboat through an explosion with his hands tied behind his back—a trick he supposedly learned in the Miami Vice show.

Leitch explains he and McCormick like to keep the process of shooting "organic," so they can come up with set pieces as they are inspired to do so. The reference to the stunt show solved a narrative problem that Leitch had. "We didn't know how he was going to escape the boat or the dock, but we knew he had to," McCormick says. "Then it was like, Oh, if he did that and we made it a boat and it's Miami Vice— it all started coming together."

Then came the process of actually executing the stunt, which involved building a "blind drive" boat, with room under the bow for a hidden person to pilot it, because even a stunt person can't drive a boat backwards.

In context, there's something charmingly retro about the move. "It does feel a little old-school and then you can kind of be proud of him when he does it and not feel like it's dangerous or anything," McCormick says.

Leitch and McCormick applied their same can-do spirit to creating their pre-show for Universal. Originally, they had an idea to take over the entire Waterworld attraction with Fall Guy material. That didn't work out, but the park green-lighted their idea of a five-and-a-half-minute opening act, which now features jet skis, motorcycles and an actor playing a tyrannical director who gets his comeuppance at the hands of the stunt guys.

The sensation of a live stunt show is different from that of stunts in a movie. There's no suspension of disbelief, imagining that Ryan Gosling actually did a boat jump. It's just watching pure daredevil talent. And that's why it's so heartening to see the stunt show referenced in The Fall Guy. It further underlines just how much the movie is Leitch and McCormick's ode to stunts in all their permutations—whether live or on celluloid. "That's been the joy of directing this movie in a lot of ways, because all that minutiae and details comes from such authenticity because it's been lived for 25 years," Leitch says. Colt's obsession with his days in the world of Miami Vice also just made Leitch laugh. And that's good enough.

Originally Appeared on GQ