Metro’s Seeing Double series features conversations with prominent Hollywood stunt doubles. And the June 3, 2020 edition saw stunt driver Jeremy Fry talk about working on the John Wick movies with Keanu Reeves. You see, Fry doubled as Reeves in the first film and performed hair-raising car stunts on all three flicks. But most of all, his comments about Reeves’ personality may surprise you.
Now, Fry got his start in the industry by working at the Motion Picture Driving Clinic, a prestigious stunt driving school in California. And he rose through the ranks to become their head instructor during his 12 year tenure. Aside from teaching, he also competed in rally car racing and learned how to drift in a Ford Mustang. For those who don’t know, drifting is essentially sliding a car sideways.
And Fry’s first stunt credit came in Swordfish, a 2001 tech-thriller starring Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and John Travolta. Then he quickly began picking up more stunt gigs on films and television shows in the early 2000s. These included The O.C., Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Spider-Man 2 and National Treasure.
Actually, it was 2005 when Fry first crossed paths with Reeves as he performed stunts on supernatural thriller Constantine. But in 2018 Fry told Street Muscle magazine that he considered his work on The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007 to be his first big job. He then drifted a truck in the 2009 Gerard Butler action movie Gamer.
Fast forward to today, and Fry’s career is thriving. Yes, his driving prowess will be seen in upcoming blockbusters such as Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Ryan Reynolds action-comedy Free Guy. And he also drove on female-centric superhero romp Birds Of Prey. In a practical stunt capacity, he worked on Ford V Ferrari and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, both released in 2019.
However, arguably Fry’s most fun job came in 2017 when he was hired as a stunt driver on Edgar Wright’s action-comedy Baby Driver. You see, Fry knew the movie, which focused on Ansel Elgort’s music-loving getaway driver, was ideal for his talents. He told Which Car’s Street Machine that, “When I saw the script, I knew I’d hit the jackpot.”
Fry continued, “What stunt performer in LA doesn’t want to double the lead actor in a movie where the character is a getaway driver and there’s car stuff the whole way through? It doesn’t get any better than that!” And the stuntman enjoyed his experience on the movie because he was heavily involved in developing the action sequences.
Furthermore, Fry was complimentary about Elgort and co-star Jon Hamm’s proficiency with the stunt driving they took on. Indeed, Fry spent time training the actors at the Motion Picture Driving Clinic and felt Elgort, in particular, exceeded expectations. He said, “Ansel and Jon Hamm both picked it up really fast and we were able to use them for a lot of stuff.”
Like Elgort, Reeves is an actor known for exceeding expectations when it comes to working hand-in-hand with his stunt team. The star, who first rose to fame playing metalhead Ted “Theodore” Logan in 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has starred in several iconic action movies over the course of his career. In fact, Point Break and Speed were early 1990s hits, before 1999 sci-fi classic The Matrix changed everything.
And Chad Stahelski, Reeves’ stunt double on the movie, told Vulture in 2019 that, “The Matrix literally transformed the industry.” Stahelski would go on to become a director, re-teaming with Reeves on the John Wick franchise, but their close relationship began on The Matrix. Indeed, the fight choreography was revolutionary, and Reeves performed as much of the martial arts and wirework as he could himself.
As Stahelski went on to explain, “Back in the day, fight scenes were secondary to car chases and horse chases and helicopter chases.” However The Matrix showed that fight scenes could actually be part of the story telling, FX, and not just about watching a character getting duffed up. For example, Reeves’ Jiu Jitsu scene with Laurence Fishburne or where he fought agents were really about Neo’s journey of self-discovery.
From Reeves’ perspective, he feels that if an audience knows an actor is performing the stunts themselves, it prevents them from disconnecting. “I do all of the action,” he told Willie Geist of Today in 2019. “I’m 90 percent of what’s happening there. I’m maintaining the connection to the audience, and with the story.”
In 2020 Reeves is worth a staggering $360 million, according to the Celebrity Net Worth website. And a decent-sized chunk of that wealth comes off the back of the John Wick franchise, which was a comeback vehicle for him. Prior to his first outing as the titular assassin in 2014, Reeves had experienced a series of commercial failures such as 2008’s The Day The Earth Stood Still.
But John Wick grossed over four times its budget at the worldwide box-office and was hailed as an action classic. Then Reeves starred in two sequels, John Wick: Chapter 2 in 2017 and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum in 2019. Each sequel upped the ante in terms of the scale and quantity of action on-screen, and the box-office figures also grew accordingly.
Interestingly, when the Metro website interviewed Fry, they asked about the most challenging stunt he performed on any of the Wick movies. And he chose one that came during a pivotal scene in John Wick: Chapter 2. Yes, Fry said, “The second one when he finds his Mustang,” and went on to explain what made the scene so tough to accomplish.
“That whole sequence we tried to make it look like it was happening in a larger area than it was,” said Fry. “The floor of this warehouse was about 3 feet lower than the parking lot outside. So, they had this ramp that was already part of the building.” Within these limitations, Fry had a brainwave.
Yes, the stuntman wanted to try a live-action version of a stunt he saw in the animated hit Big Hero 6, in which a car was jolted sideways. The stunt team agreed to try it, despite space being limited. “The door was 20 feet wide, and the car was about 18 feet long,” Fry told Metro, only slightly exaggerating the length of the famously long Mustang.
Anyway, the team knew there was almost no margin for error on the stunt. “So, if I was coming out if I happen to be sideways, I only had a foot on either end at speed to get the car out the door,” explained Fry. “So, it was tricky.” In fact, the car did sustain some damage on the first attempt at the stunt.
Much to his dismay, Fry clipped the Mustang’s front bumper on the doorway on his first pass at the stunt, and it tore off. As a fan of muscle cars, Fry was upset at causing damage to a Mustang in pristine condition. He told Metro, “Physically I was fine. Emotionally I was destroyed.”
In the end, it took five takes to nail the stunt. After the director yelled “Cut!” on the fifth take, Fry said the atmosphere on-set was electric. “They played it back and it was so cool. For whatever reason on that shot, everything had kind of come together. It’s one of the coolest shots that I’ve been a part of.”
Then Metro asked Fry whether he believes it is more dangerous to be a stunt driver or a practical stunt performer. And he started his answer by acknowledging the hazards of practical stunt work, which can certainly lead to injuries. “I think people get more injured during fights, a lot of practical stunts, getting thrown down a hillside or getting tossed into a wall,” he said.
However, Fry does believe that the overall risk factor is higher for stunt drivers. And his reasoning is that a mistake can more-than-likely lead to extremely serious injury, or worse. Fry stated, “That being said, when the big gags happen, the chances of getting hurt, seriously hurt, are probably higher with what we’re doing.”
Furthermore, Fry illustrated his point by noting the difference between making a mistake during a fight scene and making a mistake while performing an automobile stunt. He said, “Just because having an actor accidentally hit you in the face, which has happened to me, I mean, it hurts. But when you are hitting a ramp and are [going] at 60 miles an hour, the chances of getting seriously hurt, probably a lot higher.”
Also, the various logistical issues that a car stunt can present to a movie production add to the level of difficulty. You see, it’s not simply a matter of trying things out on a whim. “In a car, [if] you want to do a rehearsal, you’ve got to have a location, you got to have everyone locking it up, locking up all the different entrances to our area,” Fry told Metro.
Fry continued, “We might have the cops that have to close traffic. We got the AD on the walkies making sure that everyone’s safe. And it’s a production that’s just for one rehearsal.” All things considered, with the organization and planning that a car stunt entails plus the extra risk factor, Fry has concluded that stunt driving is more nerve-racking than practical stunt work.
“Other [stunts] can be stressful,” said Fry. “But cars tend to present challenges and obstacles that other elements of stunt performing do not.” However, he was quick to clarify that his intention was not to downplay the dangers of other stunt work. He noted, “But that being said, every facet of our industry of stunts has their own individual and unique challenges.”
Given that he works in an industry where he faces potential harm every day, Metro asked Fry if he had ever been too frightened to perform a particular stunt. And while he did admit to being fearful at times, he said he would never attempt a stunt that wasn’t 100 percent safe. “I will never get to a situation where I feel like I’m rolling the dice,” he told Metro.
As the stuntman continued to explain, “I might have the initial feeling like, ‘Oh man, this could be really bad.’ But then when you really think about it, and I really process and evaluate it, I go, ‘Okay, this gag has been done before many times. I have all the safeties in place. There’s plenty of people far smarter and more intelligent than I that have signed off on this.’”
Looking at his career as a whole, Fry was adamant he has never been in a situation where all the angles hadn’t been covered by the stunt crew. In fact, he believes he has never been involved in a stunt that could truly endanger his life or the life of an actor. He declared, “I would say that I never have, and I never would do anything where I felt like I was risking my life or anyone else’s.”
Amusingly, however, Fry did admit there have been occasions where he pondered why he didn’t choose a different profession. This usually happened when waiting to perform a stunt, before his adrenaline kicked in. He laughed, “Over the course of my job I’ve definitely been sitting in the car going, ‘Oh man, I can’t wait until this is over, why didn’t I become an accountant like my mum always suggested?’”
Regarding Reeves, who has somewhat of a reputation in the industry, Fry didn’t disappoint in his assessment. He revealed that Reeves is every bit as amazing as anyone could hope. “He is a giver, he is selfless, he works tirelessly,” confirmed Fry. “Every good thing you’ve ever heard about him is 110 percent true.”
And Fry told Metro about the incredible generosity shown by Reeves. For example, on the set of John Wick: Chapter 2, Fry had bonded with the star over their shared interest in motorcycles. So, when Reeves approached Fry with an offer, he knew it was something he had to take up.
“He goes, ‘Hey, how would you like to go to Laguna Seca?’, and when Keanu Reeves asks you if you wanna go pretty much anywhere, you say yes,” Fry told Metro. “Turns out he had rented Laguna Seca, which is a very well-known popular racetrack in California, and he rented it out for two days, private rental.”
So Fry traveled to the racetrack and was taken aback by how many VIPs were there. Strikingly, he said all expenses were paid for by Reeves. “There were about 80 of his friends and people he knew,” remarked Fry. “There were celebrities there, people from different industries there, a huge cross-section of people. He put us up in local hotels, he catered breakfast, lunch, dinners.”
All in all, the weekend was an extraordinary experience for Fry, who relished being able to introduce his brother to his colleague: world famous movie star and all-round nice guy Keanu Reeves. Then they proceeded to race motorcycles all weekend long. Fry said, “That was a very special time for me for many different reasons.”
Mind you, Fry was full of praise for Reeves’ dedication to stunt work, and his aptitude for learning complicated fight choreography. Interestingly, however, he didn’t say Reeves always insists on doing everything himself. Instead, he said Reeves knows what he is capable of accomplishing but also knows when to leave it to the professionals.
“It’s always interesting to me when actors want to do their own stunts,” Fry told Metro. “When you have people who you can use, and you won’t know that it’s not them. But Keanu, he completely gets that. He has never said, ‘I want to do that. I want to do it.’”
And Fry appreciates how Reeves doesn’t put himself in unnecessary danger. Rather, he puts his faith in stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott and director Stahelski. “He trusts Darrin and [Stahelski] to make the best decision that they can, and he knows that they will use him whenever they feel it’s appropriate and safe,” the stuntman said.
In fact, there was one particular stunt in John Wick that required Reeves to do it himself, just as the director envisioned. Not only was it deemed safe enough for Reeves, but the actor did the stunt perfectly. Fry explained, “There was a shot where we wanted Keanu to slide up to the camera and we wanted to have the camera come right up to him.”
So the stunt team worked extensively with Reeves to plan the stunt’s execution as well as to specifically design it to utilise his abilities. “And we worked with him for a while on that one, and it’s a tricky one [but] he nailed it. He did such a good job on that,” Fry told Metro.