Debbie Evans is the most badass person in Hollywood you've probably never heard of.
As tough as "Fast And Furious" star Michelle Rodriguez is, she can't do every stunt she wants. She's the star of a major movie franchise, which means her well-being is worth more to certain studios than your entire life is to your parents.
So when stunts get too crazy she calls in Hollywood stunt legend Debbie Evans.
With "The Fate of The Furious" smashing through theaters this weekend, we got a chance to talk with Debbie and Michelle about the movie, what goes into stunting on a set like "TFOTF" and if there is ever a sequence too intense for Debbie to throw her hat into.
Congrats on the movie, it must have been fun getting back on set. Does it feel like a homecoming at this point when you do these movies?
Debbie: Yeah, for me, we have our team together that does the action and everything. It's like family. Whenever I get to see Michelle, it's just like a reunion because we worked on the first one together.
Michelle: And I'm always just in awe of the script and how they are going to manifest all of the insanity.
Debbie: It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. They keep upping the ante and what we hear on our unit is 'Hey, it's got to be bigger than the last one.' We try to do that, and I think we've accomplished it every time. Hopefully, this one hits it out of the ballpark.
Does the action stack up against the other seven films?
Michelle: I think it depends whether you consider it better because there is more destruction or if you like cars coming out of airplanes or cars being chased by submarines. I think it's relative.
Debbie: There is something new every time. That's what I think the main thing is. We're in Iceland, we're in Cuba, we're going all over the place… the settings that they're in are just spectacular.
The franchise has shifted from car-based action to more guns and explosion-based stuff. Are you excited about that change or is there a part of you that wants to go back to straight car movies?
Debbie: For me, we are doing all kinds of driving. I don't see that it's become a thing that gets away from cars. I know it's gotten away from car culture because the first one was the most true to car culture. Now we do all kinds of other things with cars that are amazing and I think it appeals to a very, very large audience.
Being in Iceland was amazing with all of the amazing stunts we did there. I am really fortunate to have been involved in a project with Castrol motor oil that brings in the ice just like what we did in Iceland. It's called Titanium Ice. It is an amazing project and we did virtual reality, mixed reality. We reenacted the sub coming up through the ice and all of this stuff, explosions and I'm just driving the car like crazy.
Michelle: You always have to push the envelope I think, especially when you're competing with superhero movies. At the end of the day, we can't go back to the small days. If we do go back to that raw, do it yourself, no special effects, she's going to have a lot more work than what's happening so far. At the end of the day, you're still going to have to go big or go home. It's the only way to survive in today's blockbuster film world.
Was there a stunt from this movie that you pitched that was too big? Or is it more collaborative where they say yes and figure it out later?
Debbie: You know, I think the deal is they say yes and then figure out how to do it. On 7, coming out of an aircraft carrier, flipping down to the ground, I actually did the landing for that. I wasn't in the part where it was flying out and landed in the desert.
Michelle: They got some Red Bull guys to do the sky stuff, so cool.
Debbie: But the landing, I was up on a slide for life inside of the car, leaning forward on an angle like this on my belt. They said 'action,' they let it go and it was like a slide for life. I had to pull a quick release and then the effects guys blew the cables and I had to have the motor revving when I hit the ground. Then I just took off and we went chasing. You would never think of a sequence like that, I don't know where they come up with it. It was amazing and the people just go crazy.
Do you have favorite stunt from this film?
Debbie: One of the things that I really liked was that I was up on the lake in Iceland with a Rally Fighter, a really cool car. I was so excited to be driving that. I had to slide sideways through fire and explosions, it was really, really cool. I just came in, kicked it sideways, got on the gas and then just pitched it sideways perfectly. That was pretty cool. Another thing we did was jumping through a wall with a ton of cars. Two charges had to be exactly side by side and we nailed it.
Michelle: I'm in the wrong line of work.
Debbie: Even on one she was saying 'I wanna do what you do!'
They don't let you do any of your own stunts?
Michelle: Dude! Come on! Only the fighting stuff and I'm like, 'Great! I get to bruise my face.'
Debbie: In the first one I got to drive underneath a semi truck. That was cool. The truck hits the car and then I flip it off the side of the road. It was an amazing fun thing.
Has there been a stunt pitched to you that was too crazy?
Michelle: Nah, Debbie is gung-ho. I can't imagine her saying no to something.
Debbie: What's 'no'? I might say 'Well, how can we do this a little bit different?' but no is not an option.
One last question for Debbie, you're part of the American Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Stuntman Hall of Fame. Personally, if I was part of both of those, I would bring it up all the time. How often are you shoving that into conversation?
Debbie: I'm just not that way but I'll tell you what -- what I grab when there is a fire and we have to evacuate tells who I am. I grab my AMA medal and I grab my Tourist World Stunt Award.