How Brad Pitt Trained to Give and Take a Beating in ‘Bullet Train’
Outside of the challenge of being in close quarters, we also had a prop in the middle of all the action, a heavy-duty Tumi suitcase that’s transporting a handsome ransom.
That was fun for us to work with. Brad’s character Ladybug is just trying to take the briefcase and leave, but there are a few enemies trying to take him out while he’s carrying it, so we had to build a library of movements or strikes he could do with it. The majority of the action with the briefcase is in the beginning, so you’re also getting to see Ladybug when he’s fresh and not so banged up.
The first idea of course is to use the briefcase as a defensive instrument, and he’s using it to block knives or punches. Eventually, he’s using it to strike as well, flipping it up and hitting people with it. That was another place where we could see how strong Brad is because it weighs over seven pounds, which means tossing it around with one arm multiple times starts to add up. We were having him do certain exercises before and during to build his familiarity with the weight for those moments. For the rehearsals, there were also soft and semi-soft versions where we could brainstorms ideas before Brad was doing it with the real thing. Those pieces took a beating, as did the people they were being used against.
The action in your and David’s movies hit a little harder than others. How do your stunt doubles and actors recover from a day of production?
Doing stunts is the science of making pain look beautiful. I hate to say that David and I laugh at pain, but we do, only because we know that it’s being done safely in the end. The goal was for us to have fun, be a little violent, and ground it in some sort of reality. That goes back to working with the suitcase, because it’s really rewarding to have the support from David and everyone to push the envelope. You research everything that’s ever been in a movie with a suitcase, physically, then you put that extra time in to find something that hasn’t been done. The actors all came to play and they put everything into these fights. Brad was in it, and there were scenes where we would try to give him a pad to hit or fall on, and he wouldn’t take it. I think the ability for our actors to get through this shoot was really the work that we put in before we showed up, building up that strength and putting in the training. We were ready. For the bumps and scrapes that happen, ice is always a good idea.