Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Improbable’ Crane Jump in ‘Skyscraper’: ‘We Did the Math,’ Says Director Rawson Thurber


Rawson Marshall Thurber Skyscraper
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The heart-pounding fun of Dwayne Johnson’s “Skyscraper” wasn’t just movie star bravado and CGI for director Rawson Marshall Thurber — it was math mixed with a little but of adrenaline.

“This is a thrill ride — you bought your ticket and here it is,” Thurber said. “We didn’t consult with math professors to make sure it made sense, but we did the math with ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] and we knew we were close. People aren’t buying tickets to see a documentary about a guy jumping a big jump. With any action sequence, you want it to feel believable — but 10 percent more. You want it to be improbable, but not impossible. You want it to feel insane, but not unachievable.”

In the movie, Johnson tries to get into a building that is engulfed in flames in order to save his family. The only way in is to jump from a crane into the burning building, 100 floors above ground.

Featured in the trailer of the film, many have already toiled over the plausibility of Johnson’s big stunt (the film opens Friday). Most recently, a University of Central Florida physics professor named Costas Efthimiou weighed in, saying that there is, indeed, a window of opportunity and plausibility. He has taught classes in which he studied films like “Armageddon,” “X-Men” and “Black Panther.”

“Most scenes and many entire movies defy the laws of the current universe. In this case, the movie’s director was either lucky or had done his homework,” Efthimiou said, adding that such a jump requires a specific combination of horizontal and vertical speeds.

Of course, a stunt like this is a difficult feat, even for someone like Johnson. But at no point did Thurber think the star was doing anything too dangerous.

“There’s always jeopardy, and the super crane jump was definitely the most challenging, technically,” said Thurber. “There were a lot of different pieces, shot over different days, and we had to make sure they fit seamlessly together with the CG. There is also a sequence in the film where Dwayne and Neve [Campbell] have to cross a bridge and that was complicated because it was suspended 40 feet in the air. That was challenging due to the scope of pieces and mosaic tiles, and then you’re dealing with actual fire but you can’t bring fire too close to the actors, so you have to do what you can.”

Many fans saw similarities to “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno,” and Thurber said that was exactly the point.

“When people say it’s just ‘Die Hard’ with The Rock, that’s exactly right!” said Thurber. “If you don’t want to see that, then don’t come. It’s a love letter to those movies, but whenever you make a movie about bad guys in a building with more than two stories, you’re going to get compared to ‘Die Hard.’ It’s…

Sasha Harriet

Sasha Harriet

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Sasha Harriet

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