In this day and age, it is quite possible for any director to bring to life on screen his most creative flight of fancy given the advancement of technology. Having that said, one must also remember that no amount of CGI can actually replace the authenticity that comes with performing own stunts, sometimes even at the cost of life.
But does this come cheap? Not at all! Whether it is a train crash or a rope transfer, a web slinging or a race, trying to keep it real in showbiz massively adds to the budget of a movie.
Here are five of the most expensive stunts ever filmed:
Air Force 1 Rescue, Iron Man 3 (2013)
In this particular scene, the President’s ride and Air Force One has a big hole blown in the side, out of which fly out most of the administration. Fortunately, Iron Man is ready to scoop up the free-falling bureaucrats. This took over a month to film and the team totalled 580 jumps, sometimes up to eight a day. The producer had to shell out over USD 120 million.
Aerial Rope Transfer, Cliffhanger (1993)
The most expensive aerial stunt in movie history is the airborne transfer scene in Cliffhanger. It involved British stuntman, Simon Crane, climbing a rope between two airplanes the height of 15,000 feet without a safety harness. This scene required USD 1 million.
The Sking Scene, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
In the opening scene of The Spy Who Loved Me, James Bond is seen fleeing on skis. He jumps off a mountain with a 3,000 ft drop, and sails down with the help of a parachute. For this scene alone, the producers had to spend USD 30,000.
Chariot Race, Ben-Hur (1959)
The chariot race from the 1959 classic was intricately engineered and is amongst the best sequences ever filmed. The scene, costing an estimated USD 4 million, required approximately 1,000 workers to carve the arena out of an Italian rock quarry over a year. It took three months to film the race and involved more than 15,000 extras, 80 horses and 18 chariots.
Train Crash, The General (1926)
Buster Keaton wrote, directed, produced, edited, and starred in this civil war classic. Apparently, out of the USD 750,000 he was handed, he burned through USD 42,000 filming the most expensive stunt in silent movie history. Keaton, who plays a Confederate railroad engineer, sneaks behind enemy lines to repossess his beloved train, The General, which is stolen by Union spies. Reclaiming the engine, he sets out for safety after being chased by two other Union trains. This culminates in Keaton setting fire to the Rock River bridge.