Many of the stunts were shot at 150 frames per second, in quite super-slow motion. That meant that there was little for the cast members (stunt crew and others) to hide from the cameras. If a punch landed the wrong way or a fall looked awkward, it would have to be captured intact by Bekmambetov and DP Amundsen. Therefore, rehearsals would need to happen again and again…until each nuance was perfected.
One of Wanted’s signature sequences is a chase in which Fox scoops up Wesley in a red Viper and hurtles across the city to escape Cross’s pursuit via van. At the wheel of the Viper was Jolie as Fox. Stunt coordinator MIC RODGERS explains what was necessary to get the correct shots for his director (while Jolie hung on at 30 mph): “We rigged the viper for Angelina to hang off the side of it. She was in a harness, but we still spotted her. The camera was on the back of the Viper, where our camera platform is, and we chased it with the camera bike. Angelina as Fox did a head-on, near miss with an oncoming car, which throws her off to the driver’s side of the Viper. Then she shot the crap out of Cross’ truck.”
For some actors, however, it wasn’t so much the physicality of their roles that became a part of their characters, but their weapons. Supervising armorer RICHARD HOOPER had the task of introducing his guns to their new owners. He says, “We did some extensive training with the actors so they were all familiar with the weapons they used in the film. They were trained in two ways: the usual way in which anyone would use a weapon and in a specialist ‘Fraternity’ way that has evolved over the centuries, which enables the shooter to curve bullets around people and buildings so that they don’t kill anyone by mistake. Each member of the Fraternity has a unique way of firing specific to that character. All of the actors paid good attention to the instruction and safe use of the firearms.”
Thomas Kretschmann says, “The gun training was very tough for me. I was hired quite late in the game, so I was quite nervous about the fact that I didn’t have much time to train. I had no earthly idea how I was supposed to turn myself into the world’s greatest assassin in just one week. I felt like I needed at least six months to prepare. I want it to look good, and I’ll still be nervous about it at the time the movie opens.”
McAvoy was one of the first actors that Hooper had to train: “When we first meet Wesley, he knows nothing about guns, so we had to show a slightly clumsy, awkward and inexperienced character. In various stages of the training room, he starts to get better and better and eventually becomes the No. 1 top assassin.”
Portraying The Gunsmith, Common studied the arsenal of weaponry as part of his preparation. He explains, “I went through a process of learning different things about guns that I wasn’t familiar with. People always think of guns as something evil, but obviously, it’s what a person does with a gun that makes it either bad or good. The Gunsmith uses the gun as an art form and tool to perform the will of the Loom.”
The weaponry employed in Wanted is a combination of the very modern and very ancient—once again, echoing the overall design concept and grounding the story in a solid history. With it, the Fraternity carries centuries of customs, traditions, codes…and arms. There are approximately 200 various types of weaponry used in Wanted. As an ancient organization, the Fraternity has collected weapons throughout time, adopting a practice of adapting and modifying them, rather than replacing them. The process for developing these specialized props was a matter of design, redesign and then continuing with the evolution until they were finalized.
Hooper remarks, “Bekmambetov has a slightly curious view of this group of characters, and he likes to think outside the box. It was quite apparent from an early stage that he had a different take on what these guys could do, and he wanted the guns and knives to reflect that.”
Myhre adds, “Modern guns aren’t at all interesting to me, but Bekmambetov, with his fantastic way of thinking, started considering flintlocks [older gunlocks in which a flint strikes against steel to produce sparks that will ignite the priming on the piece], so we came up with the whole design concept of turning a flintlock into a semiautomatic weapon. We created a visual style and used it to adapt a lot of older weaponry—sort of like illuminating a manuscript. It was such an unusual style that we used it on the contemporary guns as well by carving into their barrels.”
Once the art department started developing these beautiful engravings on the guns, the suggestion was floated to continue the design of the firearm as a tattoo on a hand—so when a Fraternity member picks up his or her weapon, the engraving effectively continues as a tattoo. Hair and makeup designer Hannon says, “It was supposed to be a trademark of all of the Fraternity members, but at the end of the day, it was decided it would be best to keep this beautiful effect for one person…and that person was Fox.”
The paramount concern of any armorer is the safety of the actors and the crew. Not only do the performers have to learn how to use the guns and how to make their use look authentic—but also, they must be operated in a manner that ensures the safety of everyone involved. So it wasn’t just the principal actors who received firearm training, but also the crowd extras. Hooper comments, “We went to great lengths to make sure that every extra was trained for each sequence, each take, each piece of action. They were rehearsed and rehearsed so that everyone knew exactly what it was they had to do.”
So is there any possibility in modernizing ancient weapons or the physics of bending bullets around corners? Hooper laughs, “Oh, we’re just having fun. It’s pure fantasy, I’m afraid, but a bloody good one.”