If there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from David Leitch, former Brad Pitt stunt double, director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 and major contributor to John Wick, it’s impeccable on-screen action.
“I’m not gonna say that it was without its challenges,” Leitch tells Empire. “I think there’s an expectation with summer movies that you have a certain level of action and spectacle. How do you create that in this confined space? It just forces you to be creative.” Where the John Wick franchise has given us ‘gun fu’, ‘book fu’ and even ‘horse fu’, Bullet Train embraces the use of everyday objects in its fight scenes – expect variations on ‘kettle fu’, ‘laptop fu’, and even ‘water bottle fu’.
There was also room to mix things up in the carriages themselves: there are 16 in total, including one dedicated to a fictional anime character, ‘Momomon’, and, of course, the quiet carriage. “That adds a whole other flexibility to the choreography,” says Leach. Brian Tyree Henry, who plays English hitman and Thomas The Tank Engine lover Lemon, enjoyed shooting that one in particular. “The fact that I have a whole fight with Brad Pitt on a quiet car — that we are trying to be silent while bashing each other’s faces — that was so fun to play,” he says. “You’re like a kid in a candy store.”
That blend of intricate hand-to-hand combat with a more comedic tone brings one of cinema’s most prolific martial arts masters to mind: “It straddles a line of badass action, but with a humorous element infused in it,” Pitt explains. “Almost like Jackie Chan. I feel like it is in that slipstream.” Director Leitch agrees: “Jackie is always an inspiration.” Just as Chan is renowned for doing the majority of his own stunts, so did Pitt on Bullet Train, which undoubtedly led to some bruises. “You always get banged up a little bit,” Pitt says. “We’re padded pretty well. Some of the tougher guys go without pads. I am not that guy.”
Read more. This interview also involves Brad. Empire issue august is out now.