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When it came to capturing real-life extreme sports, the upcoming Point Break remake really pushed things to the limit. Thanks to the assistance of some tremendously talented athletes, the movie features all kinds of daring and terrifying stunts – from riding giant waves to motocrossing along a mountain ridge. Perhaps the most breathtaking in the film, however, is a wingsuit sequence filmed in Walenstadt, Switzerland… and what you probably don’t know is that it was a hugely risky thing to shoot.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a special Point Break presentation in Los Angeles, and in addition to seeing extended footage from the film, there was also a panel discussion with star Edgar Ramirez, director Ericson Core, and base jumping advisor Jeb Corliss. During the event, the men went deep into detail about the making of the movie, and spent a considerable amount of time discussing the aforementioned wingsuit sequence. You can preview a bit of it in the featurette below:
Don’t think that looked too scary? Maybe something that you could do on the weekend with your buddies? Well, read on to fully understand why that would probably be a pretty bad idea without proper preparation.
Nobody Had Actually Ever Done It BeforeThe idea of jumping off a mountain and hoping that a special suit lets you glide like a flying squirrel is petrifying – but it would certainly be significantly less terrifying if paired with the knowledge that somebody actually previously survived it at a particular location. In the making of Point Break, the athletes didn’t have that luxury. Jeb Corliss revealed during the presentation that the wingsuit stunt being performed in Walenstadt, Switzerland had never actually been attempted before. As a result, there was about a year of training necessary. The reality is that the production went into the stunt not actually knowing whether or not the jump could actually be done and survived. They simply hoped that it would, prepared themselves for it, and executed it for the film.
They Were Going At Crazy SpeedsThe word "gliding" may summon images of these extreme sports athletes gently floating through the air, riding a soft breeze like a kite - but that couldn’t be a more inaccurate assessment. Do not forget that this particular adventure begins when people willingly jump off a cliff. According to Ericson Core and Jeb Corliss, those performing the flight in the movie reached speeds of up to 140 miles per hour as they zoomed across mountain sides and through narrow crevices. This speed, of course, means that accidentally hitting the ground almost definitely means death – and while Corliss is actually one of the few people on Earth to survive what he calls a "terminal bounce," that doesn’t mean that the stunt was any less life-threatening to those who were doing it.
A Large Group Is Much More Dangerous Than A Small GroupThis element was briefly touched upon in the video at the top of this article, and it really only takes common sense to understand why it is so dangerous. When one person is flying with a wingsuit, they’re obviously given a lot more freedom of movement, having only to worry about crashing into rock formations instead of other airborne objects. In the making of Point Break, however, solo missions were not on the table. In the movie it’s a group of four men that are flying together – and that doesn’t even include the cameraman who flew behind them and captured their aerial antics. Every person in the group statistically raised the threat level in the activity for everyone around him, and multiple lives were at risk as a result.
The Wake VortexThe idea of flying in formation with other wingsuit enthusiasts is a serious and possibly fatal challenge because of the risk of collision, but the truth is that the threat actually goes beyond that as well. During the presentation, Jeb Corliss gave us a little lesson in aerodynamics and introduced us to the concept of the Wake Vortex. When a person is flying in a wing suit, they’re not just gliding on top of the air, but also slicing right through it. This means that when you fly through a particular area of the sky, you disrupt the atmosphere in a way that would actually prevent other flyers from gliding through that same area. If one of the athletes in Point Break had flown too close to another’s Wake Vortex, there was the possibility that they could fall right out of the sky.
They Had To Do It A Ridiculous Number Of TimesAfter reading all of the previous points, you’re probably thinking to yourself that a person would have to be crazy to even try to attempt this wingsuit adventure even once. This is a Hollywood movie, though, and that means that the filmmakers needed a lot of coverage for the editing room and to make sure the sequence pops. As a result of this, director Ericson Core required his athletes to do the jump-and-glide multiple times… specifically around 60. Given the incredible amount of risk involved with the stunt, that number practically suggests that the crew was asking for some kind of major accident during the making of Point Break. Fortunately, however, everyone wound up surviving, and the result is simply an impressive bit of filmmaking.