Going To The Movies Is Boring To Me Site Www.Reddit.Com The True Story Behind the Car Chase Sequence in "The French Connection"

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The True Story Behind the Car Chase Sequence in "The French Connection"

“The only thing we had permits for was to film on the elevated train,” explained William Friedkin, director of “The French Connection.” He and his producer met with the head of public relations for the New York City Transit Authority. They explained to him what they wanted to do and asked permission to do it. “You’re crazy,” the official warned, “I could never let you do something like what you just described. First of all: there’s never been an elevated train hijacked, there’s never been a train accident. The elevated system in New York, and we’ve never had a car chase After a train. It’s just going to be really hard.” The director and production manager got up to leave. Fortunately, the producer knew enough to anticipate the conditions to which the transit official in New York had alluded. “How hard?” asked the producer knowingly. The official’s reaction was the first step towards creating what is arguably the greatest car chase ever filmed in motion picture history; A sequence that was so daring in its execution that it could never be done again legally. “$40,000 and a one-way trip to Jamaica,” he responded. He was serious and that’s what supposedly paid him from the production. However, according to Friedkin, the film was not originally allocated $40,000 in compensation. The budget for the entire film was about $1.5 million and the film will exceed that by $300,000; Partly due to the payment of a bribe like the one just described. Friedkin convinced the studio that this was the way to do it. He asked the man why he especially needed a “one way ticket”. “Because,” confirmed the transit official, “if I let you do what you just told me on that train, I’ll be fired. I want to live the rest of my life in Jamaica.” And so he did; in happiness and richness.

“The French Connection” is based on a real drug case in New York City. Real-life detectives Sonny Grosso and his partner Eddie Egan (the inspiration for Gene Hackman’s character Popeye Doyle) dismantled an organized crime ring in 1961 and seized 112 pounds of heroin, a record amount at the time. The investigation was the subject of a book by Robin Moore and an Academy Award-winning motion picture. For legal reasons, Egan and Grosso’s names were changed to Doyle and Russo. However, despite the name changes, Sonny Grosso was quoted as saying that the film is a 95 percent accurate account of the events of the 10-month investigation. The only event that didn’t actually happen in the case was, in fact, the car chase scene in “THE FRENCH CONNECTION”.

William Friedkin felt he needed the car chase, otherwise he would have nothing but a “police surveillance photo.” Friedkin goes on to say that “police surveillance is like watching paint dry. It’s so boring.” He knew the film needed the scene, but he didn’t know until a few weeks before principal photography began what the car chase scene in THE FRENCH CONNECTION would include. One day, he and his producer decided to take a walk starting at 86th Street on the East Side of Manhattan. They walked 55 blocks south. “We’re not going to stop, we’re not going to go back until we can think of a chase scene,” Friedkin recalled the two deciding. They heard the rumbling subway under their feet, they saw the smoke rising from the streets. They saw the traffic and the multitudes of people that make up New York. “We started improvising the chase.” This became the beginning of the scene that would of course become the film’s signature sequence.

Gene Hickman’s stunt driver was named Bill Hickman. He was also the driver in Bullitt starring Steve McQueen. Steve McQueen is said to have been one of the original choices for the role in The French Connection that Gene Hackman would inevitably play. Both “Bolit” and “The French Connection” were produced by Philippe D’Antoni. It was the car chase in “Bulit” (which only preceded “The French Connection” by 3 years and was still very much in the memory) that set the bar for how exciting the car chase scene in “The French Connection” should be filmed. . Eventually it would be decided that they would top Steve McQueen’s car-chasing-car with Gene Hackman’s car-chasing-elevated-train.

According to the director, he did not arrange the chase. “I didn’t write it down,” Friedkin insists. “It wasn’t scripted. But we went to different places. There’s a guy named Fat Thomas who gets credit as a location manager. Fat Thomas was a 425-pound bookie in New York who was arrested 52 times for gambling. With one conviction. But he knew New York Like the palm of his hand. He took me and showed me the area where I got permission to film the chase.” This neighborhood was Stilwell Avenue line at 50 Bay Street near Coney Island. Friedkin would take the crew to all of these locations about a week before they started principal photography and they discussed what might happen as they jotted down some notes. “We didn’t have permits to shoot in pursuit. None. We didn’t have permits from the municipality to be on the streets at all. But I had these free policemen with me, so if something went sour, they would just show a badge and the problems would disappear.”

When they finished shooting everything they planned, the director looked at the mess and he decided he wasn’t happy with the results. “I thought it was pretty lame,” Friedkin admitted. One day, when they were supposedly finished, Bill Hickman, the stunt driver, accompanied the director to a downtown bar for a drink. The stunt driver turned to Friedkin and asked: “Well boss, what do you think about the chase we shot?” The director had to admit that he felt it wasn’t that good and that it wasn’t as exciting as he would have hoped. Hickman got a little red in the face and responded with a challenge. He requested that the car be placed under the elevated tracks the next morning at 8 am. “You get in the car with me,” he promised Friedkin, “and I’ll show you some driving.”

They had planned to shoot elsewhere that day but the director approached the production manager and arranged for the car to be mounted with one camera on the bumper. He decided he would run the second camera over Bill Hickman’s shoulder because he “was young and single, and the photographers both had families.” Bill Hickman then drove 26 blocks through city traffic at 90 miles per hour without paid tolls and without a permit. As a warning to pedestrians, they installed a police siren on top of the vehicle that was never photographed. The only thing missing was the shot of the woman with the baby carriage.

Actor Randy Jorgensen describes what it was like: “The car was completely stripped… and I was sitting on the passenger side. I was wrapped in a mattress and Billy Friedkin was in the back and he was on camera.” Jorgensen goes on to describe the conversation that took place just before the cameras rolled: “Before getting into the car, Billy [Friedkin] spoke to Bill Hickman this way: “We only get to do this one time, we’re not protected, we’re lucky if we get out of this thing without getting arrested, we’re going to steal that shot, so you gotta give it to me. You really gotta give it to me It.’ He weaves, once we walked on the sidewalk, once we stood in front of the oncoming traffic.” The car even easily swept a city bus in a way that prevented the doors of the stunt car from opening.

The stunt driver kept on the gas until he had to break and the director kept encouraging him to do more. During the second unit, they had to shoot some footage of Gene Hackman driving a car. What they didn’t expect was for someone to come out of their house, jump into their car and drive into the shooting. “Suddenly, I see this blur,” Hakman said years later, “and this guy pulls right in front of me.” Hekman hit the other driver, and the collision sent Hekman straight into a pole. The photographer was thrown to the floor of the trunk from the force of the impact. Fortunately, Hackman and the photographer were not seriously injured.

Gerald Greenberg, the film’s editor, remembered: “Billy always wanted more of that stuff in there and certainly played against Gene Hackman’s face and all the frustration that Hackman managed to evoke. Many years after he shot the car chase scene in The French Connection, William Friedkin admitted: “It was a terrible thing to do, it was very dangerous, and it was life-threatening. I have to tell you, I will never do anything like that again.”

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