There's Actually A Practical Stunt Involving Vin Diesel's Helicopter-Suspended Car In Fast X

It is astonishing to think of how much the "Fast & Furious" franchise has changed since the first film came out over 20 years ago. What started as a simple and straightforward movie about illegal street racing and DVD player theft is now one of the biggest franchises in cinema, trading DVDs for international espionage and massive heists with world-ending stakes and massive stunts that rival those of any Tom Cruise movie. 

The escalation of the plots and stakes in this franchise is shocking, with each film becoming more ludicrous and over the top than the previous one, and its lore somehow more complex and convoluted, yet also more earnest at the same time. Nowhere, however, is this more evident than in the escalation of the stunts.

More than the memorable characters, more than the franchise stealthily becoming the biggest Latinx franchise in Hollywood, it is the stunts that truly makes "Fast & Furious" what it is. From racing under trucks and jumping out of planes, to outracing submarines and literally going into space, there are few blockbusters as adept at creating thrilling stunts as this one.

What may surprise audiences, however, is that many of the big stunts are actually rather practical, including Vin Diesel's helicopter-suspended car in the upcoming "Fast X."

'You don't get acting, you get reacting'

Speaking with Esquire, "Fast X" director Louis Leterrier talked about the film's grounded approach to action despite the over-the-top nature of the stunts — probably because the only place to go after you go to space ... is back to the ground.

This doesn't mean erasing CGI completely, though. "CGI does help though," Leterrier explained. "It's made things safer in the way that we no longer use any live rounds, but sometimes it becomes a little too easy, and the human eye is so aware of what's real and what's not." Instead, he looked at the way movies like "Avatar" have practical sets so the actors had real things to interact with, and did something similar in "Fast X:"

"Vin [Diesel] was not in the car suspended by helicopters, but he truly was in a gimbal 20 feet up in the air that was going up and down, and I was not pulling punches on that. That's the truth, because when you see them jumping and feeling the zero G, there was really a moment of zero G when we dropped this incredible gimbal."

According to Leterrier, they really did use a car with something bolted on top to shake it around like it was a real helicopter, and it made a lot of difference in the final result. "That's when you get the truth — you don't get acting, you get reacting," he added. "There's true acting needed, of course, because you have to imagine the reality of everything, but there's a lot of real reacting that happens, too."

Not the first 'real' stunt

Stunts having some practical element to them isn't really new to the "Fast & Furious" franchise, of course. In reality, it has always been part of why the stunts work so well.

Even as the films have turned more towards the fantastical and the impossible, some practical effects are always used. Take "F9," the one where they finally go to space. Though the rocket car is (sadly) not real, parts of the magnet-related stunts in the third act were shot with practical effects like massive cranes pulling the cars.

One of the all-time biggest stunts the franchise ever did — throwing cars out of a plane in mid-air in "Furious 7" — was actually done for real. Sure, the actors were not literally thrown out of a plane (probably a good thing since at least one of the cars was destroyed in the process), but the principle of it was real. That's what makes the stunts exciting and thrilling; even when they are ridiculously over-the-top, there is an essential element of them that is grounded in practical effects.

"Fast X" races into theaters on May 19, 2023.