411 Mania Interview: Hollywood Stunt Driver Robert Nagle
Posted by Tony Farinella on 03.08.2013
411s's Tony Farinella sits down with Hollywood stunt driver Robert Nagle (Collateral, Fast Five and Six, Drive) for an interview about his past projects, what made him want to do this in the first place, his injuries, and more!
Hollywood stunt driver Robert Nagle has worked on such films as The Dark Knight Rises, Collateral, Fast Five and Fast Six, and Miami Vice just to name a few. Even though it's an incredibly dangerous job, Robert informs me in our interview that they prepare vigilantly to make sure it all goes off without any serious harm. It's a career that is exciting and very rewarding for him, as he explains in our interview. Recently, I caught up with Robert to talk about his career as a stunt driver and all that it entails. There is also a You Tube link included in the interview which includes the full audio of the interview.
TONY: What inspired you to want to do this kind of work in the first place?
Robert Nagle: I come from a racing background and some of the guys I used to race with were in this industry already and I've always been drawn to it. Growing up as a kid and watching films like Bullit and Gone in 60 Seconds, great car chases. It's became something that's in the back of your mind that you want to do and having worked with some of these guys just kind of transitioned into it. It fed another part of my need to be able to be creative as well as competitive. It filled a lot of areas for me.
TONY: Doing something like this is outside the norm. Because of that, what was the reaction from people closest to you when you told them you were going to pursue this full time?
Robert Nagle: The people closest to me saw what I achieved in racing and believed in it, but there were others that you would get a little bit of an eye roll and go, ‘You're going to be a stunt driver. OK.' You get both ends of the spectrum.
TONY: Was there a moment in your life when you said, ‘You know what? I'm really going to do this and I'm going to pursue it one hundred percent?'
Robert Nagle: I don't know if there was a defining moment. Probably the closest I came is I developed a very close relationship with Michael Mann, the director, and it was then that I got to see film from a whole other perspective with him. It really opened my eyes to how detail-oriented and what goes into filmmaking.
TONY: Is there ever a sense from the actors that they want to do this themselves and that they don't need you?
Robert Nagle: I think there's a little bit of that until they're really faced with the task. What I've found, and I've trained a lot of actors with driving, and I've gotten amazing results. If all they have to do is driving, they do very well. I think it's the human condition. It takes a fair amount of focus. To be able to drive at that level and start acting, it doesn't work very well.
TONY: Is there certain competition for this job?
Robert Nagle: It's pretty competitive but it's also a pretty close circle. It's a pretty close knit group of guys that work together. While it is competitive, I'd say it can be a pretty small circle on who gets hired.
TONY: You're putting in all this work, your life at risk and at the end of the day when people go to see a Fast Five or a Fast Six, they're seeing the name of the marquee star and your name is not really shown. Does that ever bother you that you're putting in all this work and you don't really receive the glory?
Robert Nagle: No, it doesn't bother me at all. I enjoy what I do and I enjoy seeing the results. Within our group, if you will, we know who has done what and I don't have that big of an issue with it. I know one of the things we are trying as a stunt community is trying to push forward for recognition through the Academy Awards. I think there needs to be a spot for that.
TONY: Why do you think that is and what can be done to change that?
Robert Nagle: There's a move trying to get that changed. I don't know what's involved with that. Jack Gill, who I've worked with quite often, I know is heading up a pretty big campaign to try to get that changed.
TONY: Who have been some of your favorite actors to work with?
Robert Nagle: I've enjoyed working with a lot of them. Ryan Gosling on Drive was great to work with, working with Jamie Foxx on Collateral, Collin Farrell on Miami Vice. Most of the guys I've spent time with in training, I've had a really, really positive experience with them.
TONY: When you're out there, people talk about fear and how you can't have it, because the minute you have fear, something is going to wrong. Is there fear and what stunts have put fear into you?
Robert Nagle: There has to be fear, but it's a healthy fear, meaning that it gets you to think, focus, and think the whole problem through to figure out what can go wrong and try to compensate for that. It doesn't mean we can do everything. We at least try to think it through. To go out there haphazardly and have no fear that just doesn't exist in this business. The scariest, we did Fast Six and did a chase scene along the Cliff Road and it was a good thousand foot drop off into the ocean and we're running flat out through there and there was no margin for error. That was the one time I really thought that if something failed in the car, I could get in a lot of trouble.
TONY: Do you know right away how it's going to look and what kind of reaction it's going to get out of the audience?
Robert Nagle: You get a sense of what it's going to look like. Just from experience, you kind of know what the frame looks like and what's going to be dynamic. Ultimately when everything's added in and you see the final product, it's usually even better than you thought.
TONY: How do you collaborate to give him what he wants?
Robert Nagle: It' a conversation of really getting to understand what they want to see visually and how it is we can deliver that to them. Sometimes it's unrealistic and we try to get the best sense of what they're asking for and sometimes they don't really know how to convey what they want, so sometimes we have to present some things to them and different ideas and ways of doing it and make it a two-way street in trying to get the product that they want.
TONY: Has there ever been anything that you've been offered that you've turned down?
Robert Nagle: No, no.
TONY: Is there anything that you wouldn't do, that would be too dangerous?
Robert Nagle: Haven't come across it yet. We spend a lot of time planning. We really do.
TONY: What are some of your favorite films that you've participated in?
Robert Nagle: I like how Fast Five came together. I thought the action sequences were really beautifully edited. Our second unit director gave the film a great feel. Drive I thought came together really well. I think it was underrated, well received in some others but not in others. I thought that film came together really nicely.
TONY: What are some of the injuries you have sustained from doing this?
Robert Nagle: I've been very, very fortunate, Tony. I've broken my thumb on one stunt.
TONY: Which stunt was that?
Robert Nagle: Sprint NASCAR commercial we did and we were running around Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The title of the commercial was Beasts of NASCAR. I got a car up against the wall and I come off the wall and I slide the car at ninety degrees on the track and another car slams into the side of it at seventy miles an hour. The impact was so hard it ripped my hand off the steering wheel and broke my thumb. I'm very fortunate that that's all that's happened.
TONY: Is there a way to properly train for this?
Robert Nagle: I can only speak for myself in that I bring a really strong racing background, which I have a really good feel for cars and car control. Over time, you get the sense of what's doable, what's not doable and how to do it safely.
TONY: In terms of Fast Six, what can they expect from the film?
Robert Nagle: The chase scenes are going to be pretty spectacular. There's some pieces that I don't think have ever been done. I think it's going to be great. I really do.
TONY: Is there anything you haven't done yet that you would like to do?
Robert Nagle: There is, but I don't want to get into it at this time. As we get closer, it's something we can do as a follow.
TONY: What are you currently working on and what's next?
Robert Nagle: I'm prepping for a film called Need for Speed. They're turning the videogame into a movie. We're leaving for that at the end of the month, starting in Atlanta and then working our way to the West Coast.