Interviews

The Beekeeper Stunt Coordinator Eddie Fernandez On Those Intense Fight Scenes

Bees are timeless.

Mankind’s relationship with bees started before the birth of civilization and be iconography goes back thousands of years and exists in every part of the world. There are rock paintings in Spain over 8000 years old of a woman harvesting honey and vials of edible honey were discovered in the pyramids of Egypt. Equally timeless is the cruel exploitation of the weak and vulnerable by the ruthless and indifferent and just as timeless is the need for a white knight, a warrior for justice, a hero to protect society, the way a beekeeper protects his hive. The rise of beekeeping over 10,000 years ago parallels the rise of civilization. It’s simple. No bees, no agriculture. No agriculture, no civilization. Bees are essential to life and beekeepers are essential to bees. In the way that a queen, drone or worker bee co-exist and thrive in a well-maintained hive, so do people thrive in a lawful and just society. But when a system is thrown out of order by corruption and greed, you need The Beekeeper.

Adam Clay is a retired professional beekeeper, strong and deliberate, a solitary man, a man of few words. But when his beloved Eloise, the person who showed him kindness, is scammed out of their retirement savings, The Beekeeper is the loudest in the loudest in the room to restore order.

In celebration of The Beekeeper’s release, The Koalition spoke to Stunt Coordinator Eddie Fernandez to learn more about his experience on the movie, what was it like to choregraph fights scenes with Jason Statham who has an established style of action that he brings to films, training actors, how wardrobe impacts fight scenes and more.

Just like a lot of his movies Jason Statham does a lot of stunts by himself. He rarely uses the stunt double, wanting each moment to be authentic — he’ll run, he’ll do the slide, he’ll do the jumping. He’s just a stickler for
detail and since there are big action scenes that feature a 360 view of the set, The Beekeeper is not just a normal film. One unique feature of Adam Clay is that he isn’t a gun guy, per se. He’s not running around with a weapon all the time. In the story, Clay takes down almost all his adversaries without firing a single shot. It’s just one tool of many that he uses. He may get a gun and take it apart and turn it into a stabbing weapon or a club. It was almost the idea that a beekeeper has hands like a magician.

Since Clay can do anything, the film had to have a natural progression that syncs the plot to the action set pieces. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer structured The Beekeeper like a ladder. Each rung takes the audience deeper into the criminal network, higher up into the echelons of power, reveals a little more of the world of The Beekeepers and ratchets up the intensity of the action to match the stakes in the story. When Clay starts out looking for whoever hurt Eloise, he creates noise in the system so they will come after him, which is a pretty smart tactic.

“[When you have a] physical athlete like Jason Statham, it makes our life a little easier with how we perform. We read the script to see what the storyline is all about. A lot of it is like, ‘Hey you hurt our loved ones. What happens when you hurt our loved ones? We get angry, we want revenge, and so Jason’s character does it all and it makes us feel happy we have a superhero like that. But also tells us a story about what’s going on in the world with these scammers, [what it’s like to] be victimized [so you] understand it even more. We break down each fight, we collaborate with the director and the Fight Coordinator. We put things together, we shoot Pre-Vis and from there we get Jason’s opinion, we get David the director’s opinion, and we just make it all happen for that fight sequence.”

One of the exciting things about plotting and developing the action is how clever the Beekeeper is when someone confronts him on his own turf and how he uses what’s available in the environment to take out these guys in clever ways. “When we create a fight, we decide what is the location, where all this action is happening. [Look at the] barn fight. [We ask], ‘what would be in the barn?’ A shovel, a pick, whatever these [are] goons coming in with, they are coming in with. [We ask], ‘What big weapons? Small weapons?’ We try to figure out a fight sequence and figure out what weapons are we could use to make these fights happen and so we wind up talking to props and armor. [They] make us some rubbers guns, rubber weapons and we rehearse with those. We have to at least know the dance steps and the choreography of all the fights and once you know it all, then you get the real weapon. A lot of [the fights] depends on the environment and location of each action. If you see the film, there’s a lot of action happening in different locations, so we have to incorporate all that make it what it is now.”

As Clay uncovers more of the network, he faces better fighters. For the next fight, in the barn, Clay is a silent assassin. That scene took two days and Jason recreated the choreography for that fight because every individual had to have a special kind of way of getting taken out. It is a cathartic scene for the audience because you loved the moment of taking out those 4 guys because of what they did to Phylicia’s character.

[My] partner Jeremy Marinas [and I], who’s a hell heck of a fight guy, know that we want [a] last heroic fight. Now start thinking about the atmosphere itself, what can we use. [For] the last fight we used a lot of mirrors, so we were able to see a lot of movements. With the camera work and everything else [we’re] choreographing. [There’s a scene where we use an] amputee leg, [we work with the mechanistic of] yanking a fake leg. These are things ideas we come up with and we just choreograph it, trying to make it [fit] in the right spots. Once we see it all together, [it’s a] job well accomplished.”

One of David Ayer’s favorite scene is the Beekeeper vs. Beekeeper at the truck stop. The set was built from scratch in an abandoned airport that was used for the British car series, Top Gear. Production shot for three nights with rain machines and then it rained for real, and temperatures bottomed out at 40 degrees. It was an enormous undertaking because one, you have to make it look like it’s in Massachusetts and be as authentic as possible and two, David wanted to block the scenes in a place where if you were Jason, this would be his POV of it happening. When Anisette gets out of the car, it’s just David’s way of putting a little color and pizzazz into something that could have been very simple and unfulfilling and then she comes out and just absolutely guns blazing.

The gatling gun that Anisette unleashes was also a challenge for the team. Since it’s a real Gatling gun. It’s not light. The entire thing had to have blanks in it so you could shoot it. It was an amazing piece of equipment, and it was loud. It was a lot of fun for the team to choreograph that fight, which required several rope poles and special stunts. The team also blew up a building on their last shot of the night, which gave them a nice fireball about 5:00 AM before the sun came up and we went home.

To learn more about The Beekeeper, how Fernandez staged complicated stunts, how Fernandez works with actor with no pervious stunt training how wardrobe effects fight scene, check out the full interview in the video above.

The Beekeeper releases in theaters on January 12th.

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