That Time William Friedkin Drove 90 MPH Through NYC Without Permits
We've all done crazy shit for the sake of art, but probably not as crazy as this.
I remember when I made my first couple of short films I did some unsavory things for the sake of a shot; I've towed a broken car near some train tracks, ran stop signs in a school zone and strapped myself to the roof of a moving car for a shot. These things were calculated, but still very dangerous and by many accounts very dumb. When I think about doing something like that now, after knowing so much more (and just getting older and, hopefully, smarter) I'm not as eager to take those kinds of risks. However, the things I've done don't really compare to what director William Friedkin (who urges you to quit film school) did for the chase sequence in The French Connection.
In this video, Friedkin talks about how they pulled off the shot and why'd he never do anything like it again:
Of course, there weren't zero safety parameters. There was cooperation between NYPD and the Assistant Directors of the film. However, IMDB states:
In many instances, they illegally continued the chase into sections with no traffic control, where they actually had to evade real traffic and pedestrians. Many of the (near) collisions in the movie were therefore real and not planned (with the exception of the near-miss of the lady with the baby carriage, which was carefully rehearsed).
Here's a look at the infamous scene (please only watch these if you've already seen the movie, you really want to experience this stuff clean — that is to say: with as few preconceptions as possible):
To add to the topic of the moral dilemma of being a filmmaker, director Sidney Lumet talks about this qualm in his great book Making Movies. How far should a director go to get what he needs for a shot?
I had learned my lesson many years earlier…I needed tears from an actor on a particular line. She couldn’t do it. Finally, I told her that no matter what I did during the next take, she should keep going and say the line. We rolled the camera. Just before she reached the line, I hauled off and slapped her. Her eyes widened. She looked stunned. Tears welled up, overflowed, she said the line, and we had a terrific take. When I called, “Cut, print!” She threw her arms around me, kissed me, and told me I was brilliant. But I was sick with self-loathing…and knew that I would never do anything like that again. If we can’t get it by craftsmanship, to hell with it. We’ll find something else that’ll work as well.
What do you think? What's the craziest thing you've ever done to get a shot?