Everything Everywhere All At Once Stunt Coordinator On The Film's Wild Fight Sequences [Interview]

Timothy Eulich is a bit overwhelmed by the response to "Everything Everywhere All at Once." When the stunt coordinator was working on the film, he knew it was unique, but his immense gratification with the end result and the hugely positive response was palpable during a recent interview with him. "The Daniels really do an amazing job of tricking you into thinking that you're watching some candy popcorn movie, and then all of a sudden you're deeply, emotionally touched," he told us. "It's like, 'This is so exciting. I'm crying. What is happening? This is a yo-yo of emotions.'" 

Even in the action, those emotions are powerful. The array of fight sequences range from the dramatic to the hilarious to the surreal, sometimes simultaneously. The scale of these fight scenes, both emotionally and visually, is vast. Eulich's work on these unforgettable sequences, too, is graceful and helps create new all-timer moments for star Michelle Yeoh, who's a major influence for the stunt coordinator. Recently, Eulich talked to us about his dream experience of working with the legendary actress and reuniting with the Daniels following "Swiss Army Man."

"We wanted to use doubles as little as possible"

When you first met with the directors, how did they describe their vision for the action?

I don't know that they really had to describe their vision too much because it was written on the page. With all their work, they do this incredible thing where they juxtapose this absurd, sometimes adolescent humor with deeply resonating human connections and emotions. It's one of the things that I love about all of the work they do. I've been working with them for about 11 years now, and so have a lot of the crew that worked on this movie. We all have a shorthand communication and an understanding amongst each other.

When I read the scripts and got to the point where the fanny pack fight happened, I had the biggest smile on my face, and I could not have been more excited to work on a movie at that moment. I was just completely sold, and I could see exactly where this was going. They just painted this beautiful picture through all of the action sequences that they wrote, where it really gave me, as the stunt coordinator, an opportunity to design and build these action sequences that are characters in the story. They enrich the story and push the story forward. They develop the characters. You learn so much about these people in the action.

Where did you start with the fanny pack fight sequence?

Yeah, that was a really fun one. You have this seemingly goofy fanny pack that turns into a devastating weapon, and is just absolutely blasting people all over the place. For that fight, that's a big character development moment for the Waymond character and for Evelyn's character. With that fight and all the fights, we wanted to see the performers who were doing it, doing all of it. We wanted to use doubles as little as possible. To achieve that, first of all, we had Ke [Huy Quan] come in every single day. We had scheduled rehearsals with him every day. He would come in, he would work with us, and he would just dive in and work so hard. 

And then when our scheduled time was over, he would not leave. He would stay. He would go off on the side of our rehearsal hall where we were rehearsing our next bit. He would practice on his own until we had to shut down the rehearsal hall for the day. And then he would take his fanny pack home and he would practice at home, and he would come back the next day. You could tell he was practicing at home because he would be even better. It really shines through in the final piece where you can really see him manipulating this silly weapon in such a devastating way.

All of the other performers in that scene as well, we were looking for people who could perform these very high level fights. I wanted to have performers in there who could do these really, really disturbing reactions to sell the violence of this silly fanny pack. The directors did not want anybody who looked like your typical stunt person to be there. They wanted performers who looked like security guards, not mercenaries. We went into a really deep dive in our casting trying to find stunt people who were excellent fighters and can do these really violent reactions in a safe way, but also had great acting abilities.

I think Brian Le is a great example of that, when they're fighting to get to Deirdre's award.

Oh, the butt plug fight?


Yeah, you're very right. Brian and Andy [Le] both just shined magnificently in this movie, and they're such a pleasure to work with. They brought this raw talent and energy and their encyclopedic knowledge of Hong Kong martial arts cinema. They were really such a wonderful resource to have when we were building all these action scenes. And I'm so proud of them and what they were able to pull off in this.

The Daniels shoot the action with such speed and clarity, too. How did their plans for the camerawork and even what they had in mind for the edit influence your work?

The way that happens is a tremendous amount of preparation and openness to being flexible on the day. The location that we were shooting in definitely kind of dictated certain places and directions that we could shoot and Larkin Seiple, the DP, he really had to light everything all at once and make that work.

These sequences that you're watching on the screen, for a typical action movie, you would need days, if not weeks, to film them. You would go off and do a second unit to pick up anything you missed. But we were doing these sequences in one day, which is unheard of. In order to do that, we had to be super prepared. We just did a lot of previz and collaboration with the directors. We knew exactly the story that we were trying to tell, and that still offered a lot of flexibility on the day, but it gave us a really solid plan for what we were trying to achieve.

Didn't you only have three days to work with Michelle Yeoh?

Yeah, it was about three days.

Is that unconventional?

Unconventional would be an understatement. For a film of this scope and the amount of action that we had in there, I would typically want months of rehearsal time, and research and development to design all of it, and collaborate with all the creatives to put this all together to make sure the action tells the story. We did not have that kind of time. I don't think that we could have pulled it off without somebody like Michelle as our key figure here. We all are aware of her background, right? I mean, some of her past performances were influential in my decision to pursue a career as a stunt coordinator, an action director.

It was special to get to work with her, but her process was different. She would come in and she would mark. She would learn the choreography, learn the movements and mark through it all, film it on her phone, and then she'd be good, and she would go home. We maybe had a couple hours with her over those three days. Then she would come back on the days that we would film. We would mark through it for the camera, and as soon as we called action, she would just turn it on and absolutely send it in this just glorious ballet of violence. It was cool to watch. And look, as a person in charge of safety, and making sure that we are achieving these big kinetic symphonies of controlled chaos, I was incredibly grateful for her skill and preparedness in that area.

"She wanted to do the jump over the railing down the stairwell herself"

So you came full circle working with Michelle Yeoh. How did reality compare to your expectations?

Honestly, it was surreal. It was surreal because, I mean, you can read everything you want and you hear all the stories, but she was just such a lovely person to work with. She genuinely cared about everybody there in the cast and the crew. Easy to just have a conversation with in between takes. At one point, she found out that I had a young son. He was about one year old when we were filming the movie. She showed up to work a day or two later and had bought him a Ferrari.


It was made of plastic and only a toddler could fit inside of it. But nevertheless, she bought my son a Ferrari and I was like, "Who does this?" It was just such a touching gesture, and he's still driving it around today.

That's wonderful. It's funny, watching her in those early scenes when Evelyn is not at all ready or equipped to fight.

She's so good at making it look good at this point in her career. She's very physical, a very physical person now. Her physicality and exercise seemed to be very important to her. You could tell just in the way that she would warm up for rehearsals, or warm up for performing one of these fight scenes, you can just tell as somebody who is physical themself and works with physical people all the time, she's very in tune with her physical instrument. She really did it on her own. Just kind of like putting an awkward bend in the wrist and not really chamber those hits. And yeah, I mean, that was her acting ability there.

I hope you got the chance to tell her how much her work means to you.

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely I did. I did with her and also with Jamie [Lee Curtis]. She's an icon in her own right. I had a big conversation with her about her performance in "True Lies," and the sequence down the bridge where she's hanging out transferring from the limousine into the helicopter. She was so excited to share stories about that. I mean, she did a lot of that herself, too.

Let's talk about her work, too, especially her first big action sequence. For the action, how was the physicality for Deirdre decided?

She really brought the physicality of that character to our rehearsals. We did a lot of wire rehearsals with her. She wanted to do the jump over the railing down the stairwell herself. The directors wanted to see her doing it as well. It was a challenging stunt to set up because we were doing it in a practical location, in an actual office building. There was no overhead space to rig our lines up to, so we had to be very creative in how we did that. But she came and worked with us and was, I mean, a diligent student in figuring out how to do these movements.

And then also with a professional wrestling sequence that she does with Ke's character, with Waymond, picking him up and spinning him over her head and then dropping him down into the back breaker. She brought a great energy and open excitement to doing that. It was definitely not something that anybody was forcing her to do. She wanted to do it. Also, you've got Michelle doing all these huge action sequences front and center. I think that really brought everyone and the cast's willingness to put in the work, up an extra level. It really resonates in the final film.

"You actually see the head making impact with the ground"

When we first witness Jobu in action during the hallway fight, how did you want to help the Daniels and Stephanie express the power she has in that sequence? 

Again, I loved working with her as well. For that scene, we really wanted it to be one of the more violent action sequences in the film, and something more along the lines that you would see in an action movie, right? So, we have the police officer who gets shot, and you see the blood splattering out of him. One moment that I'm really proud of as a stunt coordinator in that sequence is where Jobu jumps onto the police officer and he turns into a luchador and inverts upside down, and then she pile drives him head first into the ground. You actually see the head making impact with the ground.

Every time I've watched that with an audience, you get a very resonant, audible, "Ooh," from everyone because it's so disturbingly violent. But that was one thing we really wanted to make that was super violent, but doing something like that is potentially so dangerous. As a stunt coordinator, I deeply and genuinely care about everybody who is coming to work for me. I want to make sure that they all go home in the same piece that they showed up in, all put together and not hurt.

We put a lot of thought and research and development into how we were going to slam that guy's head into the ground, and not send him to the hospital afterwards. There's a lot of figuring out the right angle to sell it, and how we were going to do it. I'm really excited about how that one turned out.

It was also a place, too, where we wanted to use actual stunt people as the actors in that sequence. But that was a case where the directors, their directive was to look for people who look like badass stunt men and then, you have Joy coming in there and absolutely annihilating these tough looking guys. It tells the story all the more.

For the stairway fight at the end sequence, what were your safety concerns?

The Daniels, they had a very specific vision for that sequence. We were calling it the empathy fight when we were developing it, because she's learning to fight like Waymond, and using empathy to fight all these alpha jumpers who are trying to kill her. There's a lot of set pieces within that fight. That one place that was particularly stunty, that is one of my favorite visuals in the film, is when we meet Harry Shum on the stairwell and Michelle or Evelyn grabs his hair and starts to puppeteer him like the raccoon.

We wanted to get Michelle up on his shoulders on the top of this, in the middle of this stairwell, in a real office building. We wanted to see her puppeteering him to fight, and we were trying to figure out how we were going to do this. I talked to the directors about how they envisioned it, and they're like, "We're just going to shoot it in pieces. Don't worry too much about it." I went back to my team and was like, "All right, we're going to do this practically, and we're going to make this work."

We set up a wire system that would support Michelle on top of Harry's shoulders, so he would not be stealing any of her weight, or just enough to perform it, but give him the freedom to move and do these balletic kung fu movements with Michelle on his shoulders. And then, actually see her on top of him fighting off a hoard of alpha jumpers — I just absolutely love that visual.

Everybody kept everybody safe, and it really was a cool way to tell the story from a wider perspective, rather than doing it in pieces. I'm really excited with how the directors and Larkin chose to film that, and that, as a stunt coordinator, we could give them that big picture of that action.

It's a very moving action sequence. 

Oh, thank you. I mean these guys, they do such a beautiful job. It's like a smoothie. You're drinking something that's sweet and tasty, and there's all these vegetables just packed in there. All of a sudden, you're stronger and better for it.

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" opens in wide release on April 8, 2022.