In the business since 1980, veteran stuntman and stunt coordinator Steven M. Davison has a
list of credits 166 titles long, from Smoky and the Bandit II and Scarface to
Predators and Sons of Anarchy. His latest project was as stunt coordinator for
A Good Day to Die Hard, overseeing the many action set-pieces of John McClane's
explosion-filled, bullet-riddled trip to Moscow. In advance of the film's Blu-ray release next week—and we'll have our review up soon—I got a
chance to talk with Steven about the insane logistics involved with his line of work:
Hello, Mr. Davison, how are you?
I'm great, and you?
Good. Before we talk about the movie, I wanted to ask about you and stunt work in
general. I was looking over your page on IMDB.com and you've got a really long, really
impressive—and really varied—list of credits.
What got you into stunt work to begin with?
Motorcycles. I was racing motocross, and my shifter's husband—then boyfriend—was a
stuntman. I learned everything from those guys. Then, I got the opportunity to become a
stuntman, at the age of 21, and it went up from there.
How has your profession changed since you first got involved 35 years ago?
That's a long story. In some ways, it's still the same. When the computer generated stuff
started coming in in the '90s, it did change a lot of our approaches to things, but now I think it's swung back. It still can be a very dangerous occupation, but our goal as
coordinators and stunt people is to make things as safe as possible. There are still big challenges
and dangers, but we try to minimize and control them.
Do you do your job any differently or have any new tools at your disposal?
Oh yes. In stunt work—as with any occupation—the machines that we use, the cars that we
use, everything has evolved and gotten better and easier. Although, some of the cars have
actually gotten harder to work with since we can't use the brake systems the way they are now. They're so smart, and they don't want to lock up, so we have to bypass a lot of that. We have to
put on our own brake systems to do some of the gags. And then the mechanics, the
engineering, it's all improved greatly. A lot of the cable rigs we use to drag people and fly people
and shoot people, they've gotten very computerized and safe, and you can go from one extreme
to the other.
Speaking of cars, A Good Day to Die Hard really wastes no time getting right to the
action. You have this intense, multi-car chase scene through the streets of Moscow just a few
minutes into the film. What are the logistics like of planning some of these large-scale action
sequences? Where do you, in your role, even begin?
I really work closely with the producer and director, and we scout and scout and scout locations.
As we go through each sequence, we pick where we want each thing to happen. And we design
some of the things that happen because of the location—so, the narrow street, or this
turn, or this corner, this obstacle. Or we might create obstacles, or blow through some
obstacles. Each gag through that whole chase—which you've seen, is six or seven minutes long—takes months and a lot of phone calls and a lot of scouting by many people to plan, not only
the stunts, but special effects and locations and props and set dressing. It's a collaborative
I read somewhere that overall, the film destroyed 132 vehicles and damaged 518 others—including a Lamborghini and several BMWs—totaling $11 million in damage. Do you get a sort of
kid-playing-in-the-sandbox joy out of the mass destruction? What's it like working with that
kind of budget at your disposal?
(Laughs) You're right, it is very much like being a kid in the sandbox. The hard part is being
responsible for each gag and making sure it looks good on film. We had a lot of vehicles lined up,
but we also had the expectation that when we do wreak these vehicles, we want it to be on
film. That's the harder part for us—to make sure that when we do something, we plan it, we get
it right, and we get it on film.
You filmed that sequence in Budapest, right?
Was it easier working there than Moscow, and less expensive I'm guessing?
Well, I had scouted Moscow for about a week and, you know, it's like working in New York—there's so many people and so many cars. In Budapest it was a lot easier to close down a street
here and there and get our work done. Although, when we had a really busy spot, we had to do
it on the weekends.
Do you still do many stunts yourself, or are you mostly in an overseeing role now?
No, I still do stunts. That's what I'm doing now; I'm a stuntman on the next Captain
But I can't talk about that now. Can't divulge any details. (Laughs)
Sure. Understood. Back to Die Hard, I really liked the stunt where McClane and his
son jump out of the hotel window with the helicopter coming towards them. How did you go
about shooting that particular bit?
That was amazing. It was a lot of different sequences, a lot of different pieces. First, we had to
jump out of the hotel window that we built on set, and that was a fifty foot fall that the two
doubles did. Then, we had to do another sequence where we hung them in the air, and they
came through the bedding and fell through a couple layers of break-away board and into a cart
landing. Then, when they got out of that, we shot up all the wood as they're standing there,
and they jump down the tube. So, we had the tube piece, and then we had to shoot them
coming out of the tube, though a couple more layers—breaking through boards, hitting,
bouncing off—then going into the trash bin. It was quite a bit of planning and quite a few sets
we had to build. We did about everything on a six-story set where they put the background in
I also saw that the film has the largest green screen backdrop ever used.
Oh, yeah! (Laughs) If you get a snapshot of it, man, I don't know how long it was—I imagine it
was a quarter mile long or so, and it had to be forty or fifty feet high. That was our highway
where we did a lot of the gags when John McClane goes off the overpass and down onto the
freeway traffic in the G-Wagen. We did the turnovers on that one, the MRAP and the G-Wagen
turning over. We used it a lot.
And you actually built a stretch of highway to film a lot of that on, right?
Yeah, it's like having your own highway. It was great. (Laughs) You don't have to worry about
people getting in the way.
Last question, since I know you have to get back to work. What can fans expect from the
Blu-ray release, in terms of getting a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into your profession?
I think it'll really show how much time and planning, and how many people and departments
are involved in how the film is made and how the action is approached. I saw a lot of the
footage, and it really shows how complicated a lot of this stuff can be and how much time it
takes to get ready for a ten-second piece.
Looking forward to watching it. Thanks for your time, and good luck on Captain