Robert Nagle, a veteran stunt coordinator and driver who has worked on the likes of Ford v Ferrari and Baby Driver, wanted Ferrari actors Gabriel Leone and Jack O’Connell, who were playing historical racers, to be as chill behind the wheel as possible. He admits he often developed their skills further than director Michael Mann required. “If I’ve trained them far beyond what they’re ever going to be expected to do on camera, they’re far more comfortable performing at that moment,” he says.
When he began working with the actors on tracks in Modena, Italy — where the drama about Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) was filmed — they weren’t initially behind the wheels of the cars they would be driving onscreen. They first handled a Mazda MX-5 (aka the Miata), and worked their way up to the vehicles used in the film. “Each car has its own little personality,” says the stunt coordinator.
Nagle hears the same refrain from everyone he has taught to drive. “The number one comment I get from pretty much everybody is they had no idea a car could do what we’re doing with it and what they thought was the limit of the car is not even close,” he says. “And the second comment is how physically and mentally exhausting it becomes.”
Chavo Guerrero Jr. • Professional wrestler
When Chavo Guerrero Jr. — a professional wrestler who has worked on Hollywood projects ranging from GLOW to this awards season’s The Iron Claw — starts training actors, he first teaches them how to “respect” the ring. “It can hurt you,” he says. “If you’re introducing someone to the ocean for the first time, [you might say] ‘Hey, the ocean’s great, but it can also kill you.’ You have to have a lot of respect for it, and it’s kind of the same thing I do with the ring.”
With A24’s The Iron Claw, the latest from director Sean Durkin, Guerrero also had a personal connection to the story he would be helping to tell. His own wrestling family was “entwined” with the Texas wrestling family known as the Von Erichs, whose tragedy is at the center of the film starring Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson and Stanley Simons as the Von Erich brothers.
While Guerrero did teach the actors portraying the Von Erichs moves specific to their characters — including the Von Erichs’ signature “iron claw,” from which the movie gains its title — he starts with the basics. “Sometimes the actors get a little apprehensive, to where they’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do that,’ ” says Guerrero. “I’m like, ‘Don’t worry about that.’ I can’t do every wrestling move, but you would never know because I don’t do the wrestling moves I can’t do.”
The Iron Claw was a rushed production, on which Guerrero worked with the actors individually in the time that he could. But he knows they were all dedicated to improving their skill. “Sometimes Zac would invite one of the other actors over on Sunday,” says Guerrero. “They would throw on some football and work through their moves.”
Yannick Nézet-Séguin • Conductor and pianist
When Bradley Cooper enlisted Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the music director of the Metropolitan Opera, to be the conducting consultant for Maestro, there was a very specific task at hand. The idea wasn’t just to teach Cooper how to conduct — it was to teach him how to conduct like Leonard Bernstein. “What we wanted to avoid at all counts was having anything that would feel like Bradley is conducting,” says Nézet-Séguin. “That is why I did not formally teach him, because that would have been dangerous — to become his own person, his own style. The commitment was to channel Bernstein’s way of conducting.”
By the time Cooper approached Nézet-Séguin, the actor-director had already done a ton of research into the world of conducting and classical music. The next task would be to break down Bernstein’s style in a very technical way. To do that, Nézet-Séguin would record voiceover on existing videos of Bernstein. In one, for example, Nézet-Séguin counted the beats as Bernstein conducted, so that Cooper could “really relate and learn the beats.”
For key scenes featuring Cooper conducting as Bernstein, Nézet-Séguin would speak to him through an earpiece. “It was more to help him feel secure with all the beats so he could concentrate and focus not on being really accurate,” Nézet-Séguin explains, “but more on being Lenny and acting emotionally.”
Rada Owen • Olympic swimmer
Coach Rada Owen, who prepared Annette Bening to play distance swimmer Diana Nyad for the Netflix biopic, admits that inaccurate depictions of the sport onscreen can be “embarrassing.” But since Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s film hit the streamer Nov. 3, Owen’s phone has been blowing up with messages from peers impressed with Bening’s technique. “It shows that she was trained to do it properly,” she says.
Owen and Bening began working together about a year before shooting, first by practicing the rhythm of her stroke before getting deeper into elevating her endurance, which is, according to Owen, “more swimming with less breath.”
Because Nyad is a marathon swimmer rather than an elite competitive swimmer like, say, Michael Phelps, Owens focused on swimming for a lengthy amount of time rather than detailed “technical prowess.” Still, Owen wanted Bening to look like she knew what she was doing: “Her stroke was actually a little different from Diana’s.”
Owen admits she was shocked at how much the actress was featured in the water. “I like to think that they saw her swim and were so impressed that they just added a lot more swimming shots,” she says.