We were using the frankentrike Kathy’s 84 year old dad Howard had built a few years ago from a 1976 Yamaha 500 and a Chevy rear end as a key prop for the scene. It was one mean machine. We’d used it in a couple other scenes (where it didn’t have to be driven come to think of it) and really didn’t think twice about using it again for this scene. In setting up the shot we asked second team* to drive down the road, turn around and drive toward us. Easy enough, right? Nope. No one could drive it. Everyone tried but no one could master the subtle coordination of clutch and forty year old sticky transmission. We couldn’t drive it a foot and no amount of movie magic was going to work.
Barry Corbin as Hap Anderson
Barry’s stunt double, Howard Swanson
Kathy: “Hi Dad, what are you doing?”
Kathy’s dad Howard: “Oh, watching 60 Minutes”
(Crap. I figured he’d be watching 60 Minutes since I know he arranges his week around it. I hated to ask-but I had to.)
Kathy: “Can you come out to the farm and ride your trike for us?”
(I held my breath for the short pause that seemed like a long pause.)
Kathy’s dad Howard: “OK but it will be a little while.”
Kathy: “How long?” (as I watched the sun moving toward the horizon)
Kathy’s dad Howard: “Oh, about 5 minutes.”
All hands were on deck as Howard pulled into the driveway. We whisked him off to the hair and makeup trailer where Kate, our wardrobe coordinator, was waiting for him with the wardrobe Barry had been wearing. Kaci, our key makeup artist, brushed a little color onto his cheeks and two minutes later he emerged as Hap Anderson’s stunt double. We directed him to hop on his mean machine and drive toward us down the gravel road, turn into the driveway and park under the maple tree. Action. Here he comes. Getting closer. Closer. Into the driveway. Under the tree. PERFECT. One take.**
Unphased, Dad (Howard) got in his car, drove away and was back home in time to watch the end of 60 Minutes.
*Second team ( stand-ins) allow the director of photography to light the set and the camera department to light and focus scenes while the actors are absent. The director will often ask stand-ins to deliver the scene dialogue (“lines”) and walk through (“blocking”) the scenes to be filmed.
**Rob’s ( our director of photography) camera work was perfect too!