Night\Exterior on the streets of Manhattan… How do we run Chris Rock over with a garbage truck without harming a hair on his head?
Spoiler alert: It was all done in the cutting. Of course, an editor can only work with what they’re given, so shot selection was of supreme importance. I recall spending an appreciable amount of time with directors Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz in figuring out what to do. Ultimately, I was pleased that the choices were simple and unadorned. That’s always the best approach, even when you have to execute complex measures to make them seem that way.
Even though this film was a comedy, we didn’t want to over-light the scene or give it too much of a glossy photographic sheen. Instead, we went for a more natural look that helped sell the effect of someone being hit by a speeding truck.
For the close ups of Chris Rock, a bicycle was mounted on a specially-built tow rig. This eliminated any danger posed by having him free-ride in the street and allowed him to keep his mind on the more important issue – his acting. At the instant Chris’s character of Lance Barton realizes he’s about to get creamed, I used a Mole Richardson 5K fresnel to mimic the effect of the approaching headlights. The lamp was placed on a dimmer and carried no diffusion so as to maintain the harsh texture. On cue with Chris’s head turn toward screen left, the lamp was quickly brought up to two stops over key exposure…and the rest, as we say, was history.
This scene was exposed on a tungsten standard; the cool tone was introduced by firing each light through a sheet of Full CTB (color temperature blue). The city streetlights within view were also disabled so as not to pollute the negative with unwanted, ugly color.
Note how the cutting pace picks up in anticipation of the truck hitting the bike. Chris’s POV shots of female lead Regina King as she crosses the street were excised from a single take and timed in a very precise fashion. I’m pleased to say that this scene – along with the rest of the film – was superbly edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly, who also cut American Pie.