Drive Angry 3D, the first car action movie shot in 3D, hits theaters nationwide on February 25. In it, Nicolas Cage plays a man who escapes from hell to seek revenge on a gang of murderers who killed his daughter and are after his granddaughter (Amber Heard). Along with intense shoot-outs, dramatic violence and a few humorous vignettes, this movie is full of stellar car scenes.
In an exclusive interview with AutoTrader.com, the movie’s stunt coordinator, Johnny Martin, shared details about the vehicles, the movie and how Cage and Heard reacted to driving the cars.
What was your role for Drive Angry?
I was the second unit director and stunt coordinator. My job was to design the action and to pick the cars–and pick the right cars for 3D. Finding hot rods to shoot in 3D is hard–hot rods do not like to stay still, which you need for 3D. I actually couldn’t have done it without AutoTrader–that’s how we found the cars.
What kind of cars did you use?
A Chevelle and a Charger were the main ones. We wanted to keep the other cars in the same age as the Charger. We went with cars from ‘79 and ‘80 to keep that vintage look. We used a lot of cars throughout the movie, including a Ford Fairlane.
Which was the most difficult to handle?
The Charger. There’s not a lot of weight in the back of the car and the engine is so powerful–that’s why it’s a great car. It looks mean on the starting line! We trained Amber Heard and Nicolas Cage to drive these hot rods that have so much power. You have to get their confidence level up; that takes time with a Charger.
Nic Cage and Amber Heard are both car people–how did they react to the cars?
We’d go to the track and train with both of them. Nic and I have been talking cars and racing for years–I worked with him on Gone in 60 Seconds. Amber loves her classics. She was serious about them, but she thought she was stronger than the car. I had to make her realize that the car will kick you in the butt when you least expect it. Nic feels for the car; he gets in and takes it nice and slow and he knows how it moves. It’s like going to a ballet with Nic–he learns the design of the car, whereas Amber says, ‘Johnny, where’s drive?’ She wants the car to move instantly.
What will car aficionados love about this movie?
We took the Charger, which a lot of people will remember from Dukes of Hazzard–but we wanted to show what these cars really were. We boosted up the exhaust for the sound. The last thing I want to hear in a movie is a Ford engine used for a Charger, so we kept the right sounds for the cars. It’s the real deal. It’s a 440. We kept the car raw and natural. The Chevelle has the same thing as the Charger: a light rear-end. We didn’t want to weigh it down; we wanted it like Bullitt, where the rear would swing around and the car would go off the road–because that’s what that car really did.
And what will non-car people take away?
They’ll still appreciate the cars. They’re so important and with the 3D aspect, we follow the lines of the car. When we go into the end, there’s a beautiful Camaro and Chevelle. They look so sexy. Even if you aren’t a car person, you can appreciate what these cars meant back in the day.
How did you get into cars? What’s your background?
When I was nine years old, I would hang out at the car wash and watch the cars because I loved hot rods. And once this man, H.B. Halicki, drove up in a Mustang and told me he was a stunt man and was promoting his film. Later, he helped me out.
[Halicki was killed on the set of Gone in 60 Seconds 2 in 1989]
What’s your dream car?
It used to be a ‘57 Chevy, but after Drive Angry, it’s the Charger. They are more than just a look–they have their own personality and attitude. I like that you have to become friends with those cars. I also love the old Fairlanes and tank cars–the cars that people like my grandma drove and didn’t realize there was a 400 cubic-inch engine in them. I like anything that my grandma would drive with power beneath it.
What do you think of the new Chargers?
They’re hot. To me, they have too much control; today’s cars with their braking systems, they have too much control. They’re beautiful cars and it’s a great way to bring this car back. But I like them a little dirty.