In "The Place Beyond the Pines," Ryan Gosling steps into the Metallica shirts and bleach-blond hair of Luke, a stunt bike driver who turns to high-speed bank heists to support his family, and while the actor himself isn't able to drive a motocross bike in a steel globe of death with two other riders, the movie wouldn't give you that impression.
That's because of the impressive stunt work from professionals like Brian Smyj and Gosling's double, Rick Miller. MTV News spoke with Smyj, who's currently working on the set of "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," about what it took to turn Gosling into a professional stunt biker, or at least an onscreen one.
The training process for Gosling was a surprisingly labored and slow one, and not because of the actor's capabilities on two wheels, but because of the cost of insuring one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Given the modest budget of "The Place Beyond the Pines," the production and its insurers couldn't afford to take huge risks with a star of Gosling's stature, so the stunt training process happened in small steps.
"We had Ryan doing things at 3 miles an hour and videotape them and send it to the insurance company," Smyj explained. "They're like, 'OK, now you can have him do it at 6 miles an hour.' Then we'd have him do it at 6 miles an hour. It was little increments, tiny increments. Then when they felt comfortable, they went, 'OK, that's as fast as you can go.' That was our limitations on whatever we were able to do."
Once Gosling reached his maximum speeds, rehearsals for his most dangerous bike stunt began. After a poorly executed bank robbery, Luke flees on his bike through the streets of Schenectady, narrowly avoiding both police and civilian cars.
To perfect the sequence, director Derek Cianfrance and the crew rented out a local airport in which to rehearse the complex chase. The final shot would require Gosling to actually cross a crowded intersection between dozens of moving cars, as he's chased by Bradley Cooper's character.
"We did it first at slower speeds with Rick Miller. We got all of the cars exactly where they needed to be, and then we did it with Ryan at very slow speeds and worked up," Smyj said. "There were a lot of components to what went on. There were different beats within the chase that Ryan was part of. The big sequence was getting him through the intersection."
Both leading men performed a good portion of their own driving, something that was not lost on Smyj as a stunt professional. "Bradley was in a car. He was pretty safe. Ryan was not so safe," he said. "If Ryan made a mistake or one of the stunt guys made a mistake, we had issues."
"The Place Beyond the Pines" opens in theaters Friday (March 29).
Check out everything we've got on "The Place Beyond the Pines."