Best Jobs Ever: Movie Stunt Coordinator

Dan Bradley drives the insurance costs up on flicks like the Bourne Ultimatum.

Manhattan’s a busy town: How do you get people to sign it over to you for millions of dollars in destruction?
It was tough. I have been dreaming for years to let loose on the streets of New York. We didn’t necessarily get our first choices—they said no a lot. We were fortunate to get some of our 10th and 11th choices.

How real is the Manhattan car chase? Could someone actually drive in reverse off the roof of a three-story parking garage and walk away?
It’s absolutely real. A friend of mine tested a similar stunt off an eight-story building. He landed on some cars, and came out without a bump on him. It’s  important to make sure a stunt walks the line between reality and fantasy. I usually aim for reality plus 10 percent.

How many of Matt Damon’s stunts did he perform?
There’s not a single frame of somebody else doing fights for Matt Damon. He did all the water work, too. We actually put him on a cable and dropped him a hundred feet into a tank. He doesn’t do all of his driving, but he does more of it than any other actor I’ve ever worked with. He’s an Academy Award–winning writer, and an incredibly talented actor who could make a living as a stuntman. He’s amazing.

What type of coaching do you have to put an A-list star through?
Matt actually wants a lot of training. He spent weeks rehearsing the fight scenes because they’re so long. For a guy who doesn’t do fights from movie to movie he deals well on the set with choreography changes.

Do you prefer speed and danger or hand-to-hand combat?
I had five brothers, so I grew up learning hand-to-hand combat. But my vacations are very often at racing schools.

What’s the ultimate stunt vehicle?
I’m very much looking forward to shredding an Aston Martin on Bond. And personally, I’m dying to get my hands on a Ford GT.

Any locations you’re eager to get your hands on?
I would love to do a hard-core chase through Hong Kong. I find myself drawn to dense, very textured cities that pose an amazing challenge. But the more people that move there, the less likely that’ll ever happen.

What’s the worst you’ve ever seen a stunt sequence go awry?
I was working on Boris and Natasha, a movie nobody ever saw back in the late ’80s, and mechanical effects malfunctioned. I wound up with third-degree burns and spent a month in a burn ward. It sucked from the moment it started.

Barring budget, plot, and reality, what would be your dream stunt sequence?
That’s the question producers offer me every time I start a movie and I don’t really have an answer. Occasionally I’ll see a really cool skateboard trick that I’d like to do with a car. I always go to the location and give myself a few days just to wander around and get a sense of the place. It just sort of comes to me. I let the script and the story pop ideas into my head.

Based on stunts, what is your favorite action movie?
The perfect action movie is Aliens. It’s the complete reality of that world—I believe every moment of it.

Can you tell us anything no one knows yet about Bond 22? Even if you spotted some rancid deli meat on the craft services table, that’s something.
Well, we haven’t started shooting yet. Call me back in January, and I’ll tell you all about the catering.