Furious 7 is making a serious impact in box office cash registers across the UAE, but it’s also had an impact on the region’s film industry. Benita Adesuyan meets some of the local people involved in bringing the film to life.
With a significant proportion of Furious 7 shot in Abu Dhabi, local companies that helped in the production have much to celebrate as the film continues to be a hit in cinemas. Time Out meets two UAE companies that provided the cars and the extras for the blockbuster.
PP-Performance, owned by Emirati national, Salah Almoudi, were responsible for bringing the hot wheels to the set. Ben Menzies, 21-year-old professional stunt driver, drove some of the world’s fastest cars and was Jason Statham’s stunt double.
How does it feel to have been part of this film?
I have been a fan of the Fast series since the very first one, and when I knew I had the possibility of being a stunt driver and the driving double for Jason Statham it was an overwhelming feeling.
You drove the 1001 BHP Bugatti Veyron, a Dodge Viper and a Lamborghini Aventador in Furious 7. What are they like to drive?
The Aventador took off like a rocket with every gear shift. The Bugatti drove like a top-end sports car, but when you dropped the hammer, all four turbos made it take off like nothing you could imagine. The Viper was my favourite. It’s a true boy racer car. The stick shift gearbox originally had a ridiculous 1400BHP and was dialled down to 800 for safety. I think my exact words as I got in it were, “I’m going to have fun in this one!”
What kinds of stunts did you do?
In the desert we did some high speed tailgating. The distance we were asked to maintain was under six feet, and when you’re at 200km/h, if I don’t hit the breaks in the same millisecond as the team in front of me, I have a two million dollar supercar to fix.
There must have been some funny moments you can share?
The first day of shooting for the first scene of the supercar shoot in the desert was seriously hot. Unfortunately, my Bugatti got a bit hot and as the runs were short and fast, I unfortunately “broke” the Bugatti as it overheated and shut down. It was the scariest moment of my life, as I was sat in a million dollar supercar that had just decided it was no longer operational going to work for me.
How many cars were on set?
We only had one of each car on set so it was scary knowing if we messed up we were done. Luckily, when I broke the Bugatti the trained team of mechanics from PP-Performance jumped in and set everything straight.
How did you become a stunt driver?
I started off washing cars for sets. I honestly believe my boss, Ron Oakeley, made me do it so he could see if I was committed enough to making a future out of it, and I give full credit to him. Initially it was very difficult getting jobs as I was seen as a ‘kid’, but once I picked up some good shoots from major car companies I built up my reputation. Before filming Furious 7 I had a few commercials to show for, but now I only have to say I was a stunt driver for Furious 7, and it has really put a notch in my belt.
Miranda Davidson, CEO of Miranda Davidson Studios
Former TV host and actress, Miranda Davidson is one of the UAE’s top casting agents, and her studio provided more than 200 extras for the film.
How did you get involved with the film?
A producer named Maxine De Vere called me and said, “Can you come to Abu Dhabi? I can’t tell you what it’s for.” She is one of those people that you just don’t ask why or what, you just do it because you know it’s in your best interest. So I went and met with one of the women from the Universal Studios Production team, and it took about a year after that meeting before we were actually on the job.
What kind of people were the filmmakers looking for?
The main importance was they were reflective of the UAE’s diverse population. They wanted to make sure every nationality had an equal presence in the film.
What impact do you think this film can have on the UAE film industry?
I think that we can finally say we have arrived in some capacity. We are able to service major productions. I hope it inspires more people in the country to look seriously at the film industry as a viable future and want to get involved.
Furious 7 is out now in cinemas across the UAE.