As the executive producer, co-creator, writer, director and star of “Barry,” Bill Hader wears a lot of hats. One hat he doesn’t wear, however, is motorcycle driver. So, during a pivotal chase scene where Barry drives a motorcycle across the freeway, he stuck a helmet on a stunt-double and dressed him up to look like
“I have a knack for putting masks or helmets on stuntman and making them look like me,” Hader told Variety. “I never sat on a motorcycle this entire sequence.”
On Variety’s “Making a Scene,” presented by HBO, Hader went into great detail about the creation of this action sequence. Joined by locations manager Jonathan Jansen, cinematographer Carl Herse, stunt coordinator Wade Allen and first AD Gavin Kleintop the crew broke down the creation of this motocross calamity in the sixth episode of “Barry” Season 3 and explains what makes a “Barry” action scene different from everything you’ve seen before.
According to Herse, the moment was a mere eight-word sentence in the original script: “There will be a great lane-splitting sequence.” Despite the vague descriptor, Hader’s vision was specific. The director took inspiration from living in Los Angeles and encountering motorcyclists in traffic who veer through the cars, and built the idea for the scene around that concept.
Shot on two highways near the city of Los Angeles (the 710 freeway in Alhambra and the 710 freeway in Pasadena) Jansen said Hader initially envisioned the scene as taking place on the stretch of freeway between downtown Los Angeles and the 405. But clearly, that wasn’t going to work and the crew had to troubleshoot ulterior streets. With months to get the shooting permits signed, sealed and delivered Jansen turned to Caltrans to finish “bucket list” item for Hader and eventually landed on shooting in a little more north of LA.
Hader wasn’t hellbent on keeping everything in the confines of Los Angeles proper, as long as it felt like the city and maintained the cleverly cultivated “Barry” aesthetic. It was important to every member of the crew that “Barry” felt different from the action scenes found in typical Hollywood productions. No music is ever used, and the stunts are kept to a minimal to give the scenes a weight. According to Herse, one of the primary goals of the motorcycle scene was to tell it from a single perspective, in order to ground it in what Barry is experiencing.
“Normally I think in an action sequence you do a lot with very quick cutting, you’re cutting between lots of different characters. And for the most part in this sequence we’re really just with Barry and we’re getting all the information as he’s putting it together,” Herse said. “It starts with him sitting at a stoplight or at a stop sign in his car and overhearing conversation around him and it’s all kind of told from within the car and seeing in the rearview mirror what he’s seeing and over the course of the sequence, it follows that line and a lot of the shots of our villains, are all taken from Bill’s character’s perspective. It’s these weird, wide shots where you see these two tiny figures in the distance and you hear the faraway sound of their motorcycles, but we don’t shoot them as these particularly like action movie villains that are you know stylized in a really normal way.”
Another challenge in keeping with the “Barry” vibes, was reeling in the extremely accomplished stunt crew. Herse joked a lot of the exceedingly gifted riders had to resist antics they would have been encouraged to pursue on sets for something like “The Avengers.” The stunt coordinator was surprised when only one wheelie made it into the actual edit, despite several on-set, wheels up moments. “The reality is [the stunt rider] was on one wheel, most of the time,” Allen said.
“Barry” Season 3 airs Sundays on HBO, and is currently streaming on HBO Max. Watch the full “Making a Scene” video above.