When you sit down to watch any of the Marvel movies you are immediately immersed in the universe, with the action and stunts happening right before your eyes. The stunts seamlessly unfold on the screen, and the newest addition to the Marvel collection Ant-Man is no different. The main character jumps from full size to miniature in a flash, and as a viewer it’s hard to tell what is actually done live action and what is done with the computer animation. This on screen magic is done with the collaboration between the stunt coordination team as well as the Visual Effects team.
Throughout Ant-Man you’ll see Paul Rudd’s character get in fights, run from water at the bottom of the tub and even ride on top of ants. All of the stunts for the movie were coordinated by Father and Son Duo Jeff and Trevor Habberstad. I was able to talk with Trevor and find out a bit about what it means to be a stunt coordinator and stunt actor.
Trevor Habberstad has been a stunt actor since he was about five years old, and has around 50 movies he’s been involved in, either doing stunts or coordinating them. You wouldn’t recognize him on screen the majority of the time, but he was the inside suits in Iron Man 3 and according to him was one of the most interesting parts of his job so far “It was a lot of fun and very challenging. I had to bring the performance for the guy who had been Iron Man in the previous movies, and give my own element to it without taking away from who Iron Man is, plus make it who Robert wanted it to be.” Trevor has done stunts in different movies like Divergent, Identity Thief and The Dark Night Rises. But in the last couple of years, he’s been moving into role of stunt coordinator.
There are a lot of risks that can happen while being a stunt man, but according to Trevor that’s just part of the job. “There is always the chance of injury with stunt acting. We’re trying to make it look as look as fun or as dangerous as possible, but not get injured. We tell the director if we can’t do it safely, part of the nature of the job is you get bumps and bruises. You jump through glass and you get a cut, or might end up with stitches. Then you get up and do it again the next day. Things like getting hit by a car – there’s no good way to make that feel good. Throw on a bunch of pads, and go for it.”
We really enjoyed Ant-Man, and it quickly swaps from right life to computer animated convincingly so much so the viewers may not notice the transition. This was all due to the Jeff, Trevor and their team. “I think we did a good job, because the viewers can’t tell. All of the stunts were done with real performer based movement and the same stunt double. They just used his performance and miniaturized it. In the scenes when he’s riding an ant, our special effects department made a mechanical bull that went forward, backwards and the spinning. We did a scene inside one of the vertical wind tunnels, with motion capture dots on all of them. We did a lot inside the wind tunnel for movement.” With the motion of the stunt actors and the Visual Effects team – the viewer is treated taken on an adventure on the smallest and largest scale.
The train set scene was shot in a similar fashion. “It was filmed on a giant sound stage that we converted into a volume stage. We had an entire stunt rigging team that was motivating our team up, down sideways. They were on winches moving them faster than we could physically. We went scene by scene, and built up shapes. We really play pretend on a grand scale, we essentially recreated it in a sound stage and they just miniaturized it.”
The hardest part of the stunt coordination for Ant Man? “Getting creative and making it look like a guy was flying on an ant and that it was real and not animated and create a fight in zero gravity. It’s when the briefcase falls out of the helicopter. We went inside the wind tunnel and had two performers fight inside. We had actors that specialize in being the wind tunnel and we challenged them to make it look like they were floating instead of fighting and falling. It was challenging.”
But all challenges have their benefits, and at the end the Marvel Universe gained a new epic hero movie in Ant-Man. According to Trevor “We had a really, really good team for Ant-Man. Our team was fantastic. It was the most enjoyable time I’ve had on a feature. It went smooth, everyone had fun.” We’re looking forward to seeing more from Trevor and the other stunt actors in the near future.