Robert Nagle is that guy that makes it possible for stars like Vin Diesel, Christian Bale, Tom Cruise, Ryan Gosling and Armie Hammer look badass in the movies. You don’t know his name, but he’s widely respected in Hollywood as one of the top stuntmen in the industry.
Nagle has been the stunt man on many films you’ve watched and loved like “Fast Five’, ”Collateral,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Drive,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Jack Reacher,” “A Good Day to Die Hard,” plus many many more. Naturally, he was making Vin Diesel and Paul Walker’s driving skills look effortless. No matter what some actors say in interviews, the stunt driver is always at the wheel, and if you find it hard to believe that Diesel and Walker are doing their own driving, they’ve done their job.
With such a dangerous job, the worst injury he’s had in all these years is a broken thumb. Not many are that lucky, but they are n’t Robert Nagle.
I don’t think it was one defining moment but rather consistent performance on camera and creative problem solving to get the action needed for the directors. Along with developing the Biscuit Rig to safely put the actors in the middle of action.
What made you decide that being a stuntman was going to be your career?
I had met a few stuntmen while racing, became close friends with Steve Kelso. It’s something I have always had an interest in. Once I started getting into it I found it fulfilled a creative side of me that I wasn’t fully aware of yet.
What can we expect to see of your work in Fast & Furious 6?
I was brought in on the tail end of filming, the most memorable part I did was working on the opening sequence where they are racing on a mountain road that drops off into the ocean. I drove a high-speed camera car and chased Mark Higgins and Ben Collins, both very accomplished drivers. Needless to say, I had to bring my A game to run with these guys and get the camera in for some dynamic shots.
Having worked on both Fast Five and the upcoming one, are your stunts even more extreme this time around in your opinion?
I think we have to keep raising the bar to keep the audience wowed.
What stunt are you the most proud of?
While it doesn’t look all that difficult, the turnover I did for Public Enemies was pretty difficult. There were no special effect aids to flip the car and I had to land it just right at speed to get it to roll. I also really like how we put Ryan Gosling into the car chases on Drive with the Biscuit Rig. Darren Prescott, the Stunt Coordinator, did a great job of integrating the action with Ryan.
Are there any stunts that you just won’t attempt?
I’m a car guy, so anything with an engine I’m pretty much game for.
I’m assuming that since you’re the car chase guy, you have a real fondness for them. Which car do you prefer to drive?
I drive a BMW, it’s such a well-engineered car. I do have a bit of a crush on Ferrari after running the F430 flat out on Miami Vice.
What have been some of your biggest ‘closest calls’ during a stunt?
I had a wheel come loose on a Ferrari while filming a 140mph run through a canyon for the movie Faster. Fortunately I had enough seat time in these cars to know something was wrong before it became serious.
Nagle also mentioned another very close call on Fast & Furious 6:
While filming a chase scene in the Canary Islands with the 2nd unit (directed by Spiro Rozatos), Nagle drove a high-speed camera car on a harrowing road with “1000 foot drop off into the ocean,” Nagle said about the road that’s normally closed to the public, “And there’s not much between you and the edge of the road. There’s these blocks that would probably just slow the car down a little bit before it went over the edge.”
“I hadn’t driven the road yet, and I hadn’t driven this particular car yet,” said Nagle, “the corners and the road conditions, everything was pretty precarious.”
Nagle’s drove the filming car behind two cars chasing one another: one driven by Mark Higgins, a world champion rally-car driver, and the other by Ben Collins, the man who played The Stig on “Top Gear” for seven years. “Both are really accomplished drivers. Needless to say, I had to really bring my A-game to stay with these guys,” continued Nagle.
“We got it in one take, but at the end of the run, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m kinda glad that’s over,’” said Nagle, who didn’t find out just how precarious the stunt was until after the run, “I find out afterwards that there were divots in the road that you and I would call pot holes. And these pot holes came from rocks that were falling from the cliff onto the road!”
The stunt was one of the scariest Nagle’s ever done, and one of the few times he retrospectively wondered about his well-being. “I didn’t think about it ahead of time, cause I just focused on my task at hand before. Afterwards, I had time to reflect and think that if something failed mechanically it was not going to be a pretty end.”
You also worked on the upcoming Lone Ranger movie. What kinds of stunts can we expect in that film?
I only did a very small piece for that. Tom Harper the Stunt Coordinator put together some really great action pieces. I was there while Armie did a few stunts and did a great job.
What advice do you have for people wanting to become a stuntman?
It’s a tough business, I’ve been fortunate in that I bring some unique abilities to the table, with my racing background and education in mechanical engineering – specific to race car design. I think you need to be able to offer something unique to set you apart.