Hyde For Fighting
(Banzai Vitale himself)
any film involving action, your stuntwork is only as good
as your coordinator. In past interviews with Scott Zakarin,
he has stressed how lucky he felt to have found Banzai Vitale
to fill that role.
of several favorite genre shows (including doing the stuntwork
for Danny Strong on Buffy) and
films, Vitale has been working in the business for longer
than he wants to admit. We sat down in his trailer, temporarily
kicking out his stunt team, to talk about his work on Jekyll
and how it compares to his other experiences.
I'm guessing your parents didn't name you Banzai.
Vitale: No, they didn't, actually. My best friend growing
up, he used to say "quit banzai-ing around…quit banzai-ing
around." I came from a really small town, so by the time I
graduated high school, that's all I'd gone by. It became my
How'd you get involved with Creative Light?
Steven Fogel, one of the producers. I'd been in an acting
class with him for a few years. He got me an interview with
and Scott came in, we talked, and I walked out the door with
Is this your first time as stunt co-ordinator?
Oh, no. I've been in the business for years. Since 1985…that's
like twenty years. No, I'm not that old. (smiles) Can
I say 1995 instead?
I've worked on The Rundown
with The Rock. I had an acting and stunt role in Dude,
Where's My Car? and The
One with Jet Li. A lot of TV shows like Angel,
and JAG. That sort of thing.
Have there been any particular challenges to working on Jekyll?
It's been great. The biggest challenge is that this is a low-budget
movie. Out of the fifteen days of shooting, nine of those
days have stunts. It's quite an endeavor.
challenge is developing the fight style for Jekyll and Hyde.
What we wanted to do was develop a specific style. For this
movie we wanted the stunts to support Scott's vision. In other
words, in the beginning Hyde's fight characteristics are very
animalistic but also very graceful. Jekyll's in control of
his character at the beginning.
are very brutal, very quick and very efficient. But also very
graceful. As the movie progresses, he loses more and more
control. Hyde takes over more and more. We use less graceful
moves until the end of the movie where there's just no grace
left - it's just a pure animalistic brutal fight.
Since Hyde starts out as essentially a videogame character,
how much did the gaming world influence your thinking on his
I never let that play into the style. It was more important
to Scott, Matt (Keeslar), Eric and myself that we sit down
and really talk about the character. We all agreed that with
the amount of stunts that are in this movie, it isn't about
"ooh…this would be a cool place to put a stunt. Let's put
were not put in unless they helped tell the story. And a videogame
style is a very unrealistic sort of play. We wanted to keep
it real. What could happen in real life? Hyde doesn't have
super-human strength or anything like that. He's just hopped
up on adrenaline, and we use that style.
is much more Hong Kong style, more fantasy, so we couldn't
Do you have a regular team for your stuntwork?
Zakarin will let no one do a stunt he's not willing
to do himself.
As long as it involves foam.
I have a core group of about twenty to thirty people that
I know really well. A lot of them I trained myself. So I know
what each one's abilities and limits are, and I try to use
those guys over and over, because I know I'm going to get
exactly what I need.
I bring in somebody I don't know, it's sort of a crapshoot.
Usually I get what I want; it just works out better when I
know I don't have to worry about what they can and can't do.
For example, Rick Marcus is doing the stunt-doubling for Hyde.
The character has to do a high fall, and I know that Rick
is a good high-faller, so I know that I can incorporate that
into the stuff.
that all out in pre-production. So knowing all their skills
helps me out during prep week. I can say, "here you go, Scott.
We can do this and this and this. Uh, not really an acrobat,
so we can't backflip…"
You say you've trained a lot of your crew. So do you teach
No, I don't teach classes. I'm the stunt director and casting
director for the Batman and Robin live-action show
at Six Flags.
Hey, then I know your work!
You know my work. I get a lot of people that I have to train
for that show. It's fighting, falls, rappelling, aggressive
Is that just Six Flags Magic Mountain, or do you do all the
It's just Magic Mountain. I've directed some of the other
shows in other states, but my main deal is here.
Is the speed of this particular production posing a hazard?
You yourself mentioned that the stuntwork is needed nine out
of fifteen days, and things are moving pretty fast.
I'll tell you what. One of the best things about this shoot,
and it rarely happens on a low-budget shoot like this, is
that the producers, Scott, Eric, Peter and Steve, have been
great about it.
I came in I said, we don't rush these things. We can't have
people getting hurt. That's my condition for coming on board.
all the time I need. I've been able to bring in people for
a rehearsal day, to get everything blocked out. It costs a
little more to bring them in, but the amount we save because
everything's blocked, we know exactly what we're going to
do when we come in for the shoot - it's bam, bam, bam, bam
- we shoot. There's no snags, no surprises. We're not wasting
time resetting up for this or that.
and Jonathan Silverman
settle a disagreement.
has been one of the best productions I have ever worked for
as far as giving me the time to make sure that everybody's
safe. If we have to take an extra fifteen minutes here or
there, they're fine with it.
How does it compare to working on a weekly series like Angel?
It's sort of six of one, half a dozen of the other. Angel
is quicker. But they have the money where they actually have
no problem bringing people in and letting us rehearse, whatever.
advantage to Angel is that crew. They've been together
so long and know each other so well that they just fly. It
is kind of a rush sometimes. Here we go, work out the fight,
we're ready to shoot it.
Jekyll production itself was flying that day, as Banzai was
called out to oversee a fight between Matt Keeslar and Jonathan
Silverman. Stuntman Rick Marcus was grateful, because then he
could come back into the trailer instead of hanging out in the
parking lot dressed as Hyde.