Hollywood stunts are complicated, expensive procedures. Even the slightest mistake can cause a serious injury, so stunts require not risk-takers, as one might expect, but meticulous, detail-oriented athletes and technicians.
The following budget shows the cost of creating one stunt: a car crash in the 2007 film The Bourne Ultimatum. In this scene, an assassin, driving a Volkswagen Touareg 2, pursues Jason Bourne, who is driving a stolen police car. The assassin forces Bourne’s car onto the K-rail, the highway’s concrete center median. He pushes Bourne’s car along until it clips an oncoming panel truck and spins off the rail, crashing.
Setting up this stunt was labor intensive. First, the crew prepped the K-rail with a track for Bourne’s (empty) car to slide along. They prepared a massive ratchet—a stunt tool used to yank objects—to jerk the car down the track. They rebuilt the assassin’s car so that the driver could drive from the safety of the backseat. They then designed and built a trolley mount strong enough to hold Bourne’s car on the track as it accelerated from zero to fifty-five miles per hour in just eighty-five feet, exerting a massive g-load.
A normal film budget might disperse the components of stunts across the budget, but we asked for a breakdown. Some numbers, like the price of the cars, are necessarily approximate—the film used a lot of cars. To build and design aspects of the stunt took six men four weeks of work. (They had no reason to divide the exact number of hours worked per task, so those subtotals have been left blank.) Because this stunt did not impact structures, buildings, or bridges, it fell under the film’s umbrella insurance policy.
This is an installment of Creative Accounting, an ongoing series that explains where the money goes for projects in the major creative industries. Very soon the series will be collected into a single, indispensable volume, published by Believer Books.
Bourne Stunt Double $11,396.88
One week at $2,634 per week
Stunt Adjustment $6,000
A bonus for a specific stunt. The stunt adjustment increases according to danger and difficulty. SAG does not specify fees for these tasks.
Fringes 32% $2,762.88
Various benefits, pensions, and taxes
Assassin Stunt Double $23,276.88
One week at $2,634 per week
Stunt Adjustment $15,000
For enduring a car crash
Fringes 32% $5,642.88
Stunt Drivers (15) $78,553.20
Fifteen drivers, each at $2,634 per week, for one week
Various Stunt Adjustments $20,000
Fringes 32% $19,043.20
SPECIAL EFFECTS $131,552
Special Equipment Rental $8,000
Large Nitrogen Ratchet $8,000
This stunt tool is used to yank objects or people, pulling them rapidly to a padded landing point.
Six men for four weeks at $3,900 per week
Fringes 32% $29,952
Stunt Car Prep n/a
The Touareg’s driving position was moved into the backseat to protect the driver.
Full Roll Cages (x3) n/a
Installed to protect the drivers in Bourne’s car, the assassin’s Touareg, and the panel truck that Bourne’s car impacts
Install Track on K-rail n/a
Design and Build Trolley Mount n/a
PICTURE CARS $75,000
Customized Cars $75,000
Police cars (x3) and ND cars $75,000
Three police cars and multiple nondescript (or “ND”) cars were needed for the scene. This amount is an estimate, as a large number of cars were used in the film and there was no reason to break them down in the original budget.
Volkswagen Touareg 2 (x3) $0
Three Touareg 2s, worth $50,000 each, were donated as part of a product-placement deal within a global, three-year, cross-promotional accord between VW and Universal.
Special effects $131,552
Picture cars $75,000