Before becoming a director of spectacles such as “Deadpool 2,” David Leitch performed stunts in dozens of films, often doubling for Brad Pitt in “Troy,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and “Fight Club.” In the action film “Bullet Train,” which is currently in theaters, Leitch reteams with Pitt as director, putting his stunt experience to good use. The action comedy is based on a Japanese novel and follows five assassins from around the world who find themselves on a fast-moving train. Alongside Sandra Bullock, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Bad Bunny, Brad Pitt portrays Ladybug. Instead of relying on CGI and green screen, Leitch intended to deliver a character-driven narrative that captures the action on camera. Greg Rementer, the film’s second-unit director and stunt coordinator, was responsible for executing the director’s vision.
In designing a fighting style for Pitt’s character, Rementer collaborated closely with Leitch to comprehend Ladybug’s backstory and motivations. The character frequently carries a briefcase, so Rementer incorporated the item into the fight choreography. “He wishes to avoid conflict at all costs,” explains Rementer. “He is there to achieve his goal and escape undetected. There was considerable defending, swift evasion, stealthy, and tactical movement. In the majority of Brad’s hand-to-hand choreography, we drew inspiration from Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton. Pitt was eager to perform his own fight sequences, and Rementer had no objections: “He’s a natural athlete, so there was no reason he couldn’t due to his background.” In addition, Pitt’s preferences were consistent with Rementer’s philosophy. “Whenever I design action, I always try to get the cast to perform their fight scenes instead of their stunts,” he says, explaining that he’d rather not see a star in scenes where their character is hit by a car or thrown through a window.
Rementer had over sixteen weeks to prepare. A few scenes were shot in Japan, but the majority of the work was completed on Sony’s soundstages in Culver City. “We would involve the stunt team, the wire team, and the camera team. “We used two-by-two boxes to simulate train seats, then filmed the scene,” Rementer explains. It was so that we could comprehend the space. He worked with the entire cast, teaching each member a unique set of skills. “We put the cast through combat training,” Rementer explains. He instructed actors on how to throw punches and kicks from both sides so that Leitch could freely move set pieces. “If David wants to put a chair over there and a left-handed punch would be more effective, then we’re in trouble if we’ve only taught them right-handed punching.”
Rementer collaborated with the film’s production designer, David Scheunemann, and costume designer, Sarah Evelyn Bram, during the weeks of preparation. “Sarah gave us more room in the pants so that, if necessary, we could install a wire harness,” Rementer explains. Once on set, Rementer was able to push the limits of the moves that Pitt and the rest of the cast had learned. “We would teach them to Brad, and he would practice maybe two of them. He was capable of working on two or three beats, or whatever was feasible.” The plan, he adds, was for Pitt to focus on acting rather than punching. Rementer, however, notes that Pitt was able to combine seven or eight moves and praises the actor for performing at least 95% of the action in his fight scenes. “Brad’s leadership inspired everyone to excel,” he explains. It was a wonderful union of trust and security.