The genius of Netflix's Daredevil can be summed up in one scene. In the closing minutes of Episode 2, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) breaches a Russian mob den to rescue a missing boy. This sets off a three-minute, single-shot fight sequence in which Daredevil brutally takes on an entire gang of villains. The fight leaves Matt victorious, but also exhausted, bloody and bruised.
We spoke to Daredevil's stunt coordinator Philip Silvera (who's also working on Deadpool) to get the story behind the epic brawl.
How has the reaction to the scene been for you so far?
Philip Silvera: I love hearing how the fans feel about it. I love seeing the final work of the actors and stunt men on the screen. I think it's a beautiful thing.
And people keep comparing it to Oldboy, which is one of the best compliments you can get. Silvera: Yeah, it absolutely is. There's a similar feel, but it's something different at the same time.
How did you first feel when presented with the challenge?
Silvera: When I first read it, it was a lot to take on in a couple of days with the schedule we had. And I had tried to convince a couple of the people and [director Phil Abraham] himself if he wanted to maybe work in a couple of wipes and maybe hide a couple of switches here and there and any camera tricks we could do, and he really believed in having the purity of a one-shot. And I'm glad he did because it really forced us to step up to the plate and give him that. I think we created something great in that process.
How long did you have to choreograph and shoot the scene?
Silvera: We had about two days of rehearsals. Most feature films for a fight like this might get a week, maybe two weeks. We had two days. And our shoot day was one long shoot day. Half the day was spent blocking with our genius DP Matt Lloyd and then the next half of the day we were just shooting.
How many times do you think you ran through the scene when filming?
Silvera: This particular scene, we probably made it anywhere from 8-12 times.
How much was Charlie and how much was stunt doubles?
Silvera: Charlie Cox was in there quite a bit. We did a few types of switches between him and the stunt double. Obviously there are things outside of Charlie's training that his double can do better, but Charlie was in there quite a bit doing that fight.
I love how grounded all the fight scenes are. How do you go about injecting that human quality to the sequences?
Silvera: There are two things I like to do, especially with a show like this. When dealing with superheroes, I always like to find the real-world weight to the characters. You try and find what grounds it in reality. And with Daredevil, this is a character who does what he does with pure will. He's the type of character who can dish out punishment and take it in return and keep pushing through it all. But really, the choreography just has to push the story forward. If it doesn't push the story forward, it's just punches and kicks. Every fight we design, every piece of action we do, every stunt we do, has to be relative to the story. Because if it isn't, it's just gags or punches or kicks for the sake of it. It all has to be relative and have the emotional content of the scene.
How do you build a narrative arc within a fight scene?
Silvera: We pay close attention to the script and to the tone that Steve DeKnight sets and what the writers do, and we have some phenomenal writers on that show. And then it's all about the character design. We work closely with the actors and we find out how they view the character or how Charlie might react to a certain thing. And then we just enhance that or work on pushing that or furthering that along the best we can through the choreo.
I think one of my favorite moments in the hallway scene is the microwave hit to the head. Was that your idea?
Silvera: That was an idea I think we all just toyed around with with DeKnight. We were just talking about throwing objects out of the room. That was something very specifically scripted, to be honest. But it worked out well.
Do you enjoy injecting little humorous moments like that into fight scenes?
Silvera: I don't know if I look for the humor intentionally. I feel like it just happens when telling a story and we find moments like that that just seem to play out through the character design.
How did Matt Murdock's blindness affect how you approached the choreography?
Silvera: A lot of that we based off of Charlie's movement and how he saw the character and his little nuances. Then, we would interject that into the character design. Charlie had these really great ideas on how to approach Matt Murdock. And then, based on that and our conversations with Steve DeKnight, we wanted to show that he has his own self. Matt Murdock is a boxer because of his father, but he's also trained with many other people over the span of his life ... Whatever's efficient, whatever's tactical to his mindset to get the job done is what we used. And then we added his own flavor there. And then we also had a great stunt double, Chris Brewster, who is a physical phenom with how he flips and does acrobatics.
How would you say Matt's fighting style evolves once he puts on the red suit and gets the billy clubs in the finale?
Silvera: There's definitely an evolved fighting style throughout the show. He's definitely a hero that takes on punishment, but he becomes more confident with who he is as he goes through the show. And I think we just tried to show that confidence in the choreography as we went on.