How Death Proof Pulled Off Its Dangerous Car Stunts

While writer and director Quentin Tarantino thinks it's his greatest failure of a film, "Death Proof" is a thrilling homage to car chases, stunt people, and all the folks who make movies happen. Tarantino even cast "Kill Bill" stuntwoman Zoë Bell as a version of herself in her first major speaking role. It was a huge risk that paid off in spades because the film's most thrilling sequence, a lengthy car chase where Bell rides on the hood of a 1971 Dodge Challenger, is about as real as a car chase can get. Bell spends most of the chase on the hood of the car with only a pair of belts strapped to the doors to hold on to. The camera whips around, showing the ground flying beneath her as she grips the radiator cover for dear life. It's one of the most stunning stunt sequences in all of cinema history, and a true testament to how great practical stunt work can be. 

'There's no double, there's no CGI, it's all practical.'

In an interview with, Zoë Bell explained why she felt the experience was so visceral for viewers:

"Quentin [Tarantino] would love to tie in the road and the wheel moving with me being on the car and then going wide so you could see it. And that's a perfect example of the reason people have such a visceral response to that sequence, because there is no bulls***. There's no double, there's no CGI, it's all practical, and you're seeing that the person crying is the same one falling off the car. I think, on some deep, subconscious level, it triggers as 'real' to the people watching."

There are two major car stunt sequences in "Death Proof." The first features Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) ramming his Chevy Nova directly into a Honda Civic owned by a group of women he followed after meeting them at a bar. The second involves a long, dragged-out chase between a second group of women (including Bell) out on a joyride in a Dodge Challenger that's for sale. Bell and her friend Kim (Tracie Thoms) are stuntwomen, and they want to do a stunt called "ship's mast," where Bell rides the front of the car. Unfortunately, Stuntman Mike shows up and starts ramming his 1969 Dodge Charger into the Challenger. 

It took six weeks to shoot the second chase, a sequence that ends up being around 20 minutes. The chases were done at high speeds, up to 80 and even 100 mph, which is insanely dangerous given Bell's placement. That Tarantino put together a team of some of the best stunt coordinators and performers in the industry to create the movie's climactic chase is a terrific tribute to the magic of cinema.