Tenet’s stunt performers and actors pulled off some of the most unique sequences in cinema history (Picture: Warner Bros)
Tenet stunt double Daniel Graham has opened up about working on the time-bending fight sequences in Tenet, after Christopher Nolan wanted to do everything for real.
It’s well known that the Batman director is keen on keeping things realistic – after all, he did crash an actual plane for the movie.
But while the fight sequences and action scenes looked completely seamless, it took gruelling work from the stunt performers, who actually had to learn the choreography forwards and in reverse, as well as perform terrifying high-falls.
‘It’s not like Marvel, Marvel does CG and even when it looks real, it’s still a little CG-ish. [Christopher] likes to do everything realistic,’ Daniel, who doubled John David Washington, explained to Metro.co.uk.
The inverted fight scenes
While John David performed his own fight sequences, one particularly impressive scene shows him battling a future version of himself – and that was where Daniel came in.
The stuntman said: ‘The first day I went to a rehearsal, the fight coordinator Jackson Spidell told me what was happening. We’re going through time and we’re going backwards, and when he was finished explaining the movie, my brain was hurting. I’m still confused today!
‘On that film I had to learn everything backwards – punching backwards, kicking backwards, doing reactions. Because when you go forwards, you get punched and then you do the reaction.
‘On that movie, I had to grab my nose, let my hand come off my nose, then do a reverse punch, so everything was backwards. That was a learning curve for me.
‘That was the toughest part, to learn a fight choreography going forwards and backwards.’
‘I had three weeks to learn it, to learn the choreography going forwards and backwards,’ Daniel added. ‘The forwards part was easy! The backwards part, I lost sleep [over].
‘I think that was the hardest part – to make it look effortless going backwards, and making it look realistic, too.’
The bungee jump scene
However, filmmaker Christopher didn’t just want to make the time inverted fight sequences look realistic.
At one point, The Protagonist (John David) and Neil (Robert Pattinson) scale a sky-scraper by bungee jumping up to the top floor, before jumping down again.
‘We did a high-fall on Tenet. I believe we were at 150 feet and my friend was up 200 feet. So we had to jump off a balcony and we also bungeed up also,’ Daniel said.
‘We shot up and we fell. That was pretty cool in my career, doing that – that was in Mumbai.’
However, safety came before absolutely everything, with two weeks worth of tests being carried out before Daniel was able to take to the skies.
Daniel Graham was one of the stunt doubles working tirelessly on the movie (Picture: Instagram/danielgraham85)
‘The [rigging coordinator] was Chris Daniels, he was there two weeks before us, testing out the gag.
‘They had a 100 pound sandbag and he sent the sandbag all the way up to see if the sandbag is in control on the same time, [to make sure] if the wind blows, the sandbag won’t wrap around the building, messing up the wire. There was a lot of safety first, then they put us on the line. They tested that out for like two weeks.’
While Daniel sounded pretty chill about the whole thing, when asked what the most terrifying moment of his stunt career has been, he laughed: ‘Probably that […] That was scary though, afterwards I called my wife to [reassure] her that I’m alive.’
John David Washington’s own stunts
It definitely can’t be said that the actors didn’t do any of their own stunts though.
Although Daniel pointed out that the stars would never have been allowed to do the full bungee jump sequence, they did swap in at the beginning and end of it, and performed their own fight sequences.
‘They did a lot. They did all their fights, the car sequence, transferring from the fire truck to the other car. John David did a lot, I’ve gotta give it up for him. He worked really hard on that movie,’ the stuntman said.
John David also opened up on his experience performing the stunts, explaining in a behind-the-scenes featurette: ‘I really pulled from and dug into my athletic experience more than ever.
‘The training was paramount. Nobody’s ever thrown an inverted punch before. So how do you make that real life?’
He added of the stunt team: ‘It was intense. That’s what was so exciting. These moves we’ve never seen before. I mean, these stunt guys who’ve been around a long time, they were learning, which was the fun challenge of it all.’