GS INTERVIEW: Talking with ‘Gangster Squad’ Stunt Coordinator Doug Coleman

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Whilst you may not know the name, for sure you will have seen Doug Coleman in action.  A veteran of over 180 films & TV shows, stretching back to The Dukes Of Hazard back in the 70’s through to  Star Trek Into Darkness, Heat and next years Mad Max Fury Road.  He’s worked with the best in the business, from Katherine Bigelow, Paul Verhoven and Sam Rami to John Landis, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan.

Most recently Coleman was responsible for the stunt work on 40’s set Sean Penn starring Gangster Squad, a film that tells the story of a secret crew of police officers led by two determined sergeants work together in an effort to take down the ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen who runs the city. Cue car chases, shoot outs and punch up’s galore.  We caught up with Coleman to talk Gangsters, Guns and his who he’s enjoyed working with the most in his career to date:

Geek Syndicate: What was the biggest challenge you faced with the stunts on Gangster Squad?

Doug Coleman: I think the elevator fight, at the beginning of the film, it was tough because I wanted to have the claustrophobicness of the small elevator, so we built on set an elevator to scale, which is very very small.  And to out four guys in there that were going to a big battle, where 3 of them end up not walking out of there – was very very challenging. But after working on it and putting it all together, I am very pleased with the outcome.

It’s hard to pinpoint one challenge bigger than the other, it was just a great project to work on and I am really pleased to have been part of it.  I love the style of the film, I love the action, great characters.

GS: Tell me more about the work you did on Gangster Squad?

DC: Just making sure all the stunts look great.  Designing the fights, designing the chases, and making sure the actors where on film as much as possible, that was my job.

GS: How much work goes into getting the actors trained to handle the weapons so it looks correct on-screen?

DC: Well each actor may have had training before, so it depends on that particular actor.  Some requite more, some less.  But the bottom line is until they are ready, we don’t put them on-screen.  So it could be anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.

For example, Sean was great, I would go up to his house and we would train in his back yard.  He was dedicated at his craft and it was really interesting to get to know Sean Penn on a one on one.

GS: Do you ever have to persuade an actor that in fact doing a stunt wouldn’t be in their best interest?

DC: You know, I have a mutual respect with the actors, so if I tell them that they shouldn’t be doing stuff, they really listen to me and they understand.   They get it.  Again, my job is to put the actors on screen as much as possible, but if I think there is an issue and the outcome might not be perfect then I will place them with a stunt double.

GS: Have you ever worked with an actor who you thought ‘ Man you should be a stunt man’?

DC: Harrison Ford is my favourite as far as his physical abilities, he carries his own stunt bag, full pads, he is awesome.  I have done several stunts with him and he is great, so, Harrison Ford would be the guy.

GS: Who were your inspirations growing up/ Now?

DC: You know I have to say Robert DeNiro was a real inspiration in my career.  I worked with him on Cape Fear, it made me realise that when I am doubling an actor I need to become that actor, so your shoulders go a little bit forward, you might bring your feet in so they are pigeon toed to a degree, change the characteristics of your face.  So he really inspired me to move and act and all the physical abilities – it challenged me to become him physically.  I really took that with my career, whenever I was doubling actors, I made sure I studied them long enough that I could move like them.  That was important to me, so I would have to say Robert DeNiro was a big inspiration.

I think inspiring people now and the directors that I am working with.  I have worked with so many good ones from Scorsese to Spielberg, they all have something to offer and hopefully I inspire them to.

GS: I’ve interviewed many stunt guys over the years and every time we end up talking about how the academy still fails to recognise stunt design and performance in the Academy awards. What are your thoughts on this?

DC: I am a proud member of the academy, with the privilege of voting every year since 1997, so I am not on that bandwagon.  It may happen one day, we’ll see.   I hope it does, I think it would be a great category and I think an audience would enjoy seeing it.

GS: What’s your favourite stunt/action sequence you have ever worked on?

DC: For me, it’s always the next one coming up.

GS: What’s up next?

DC: It’s an untitled Michael Mann project – it’s about cyber terrorism.  Very exciting, so that’s what’s up next for me.

Thanks Doug for talking with us!  You can find out more about Doug on IMDB and Gangster Squad is available now on DVD & BluRay.

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Reporter: Phil Hobden

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