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When audiences walk out of the theater after seeing G.I. Joe: Retaliation, there is one scene in particular that will be a hot topic of conversation.
A nine-minute action scene featuring ninjas fighting on the side of the Himalayas is an extreme-action experience that is a definite highlight of the film.
While the scene in Jon M. Chu’s sequel does not feature any of the bigger name actors in the Paramount film – which stars Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis and Channing Tatum – it does display complicated choreography as Snake Eyes and Jinx go up against a group of evil ninjas using an intricate system of zip-lines to fly across the side of the massive mountain.
“That scene took months and months and months. Probably the longest shooting scene I’ve ever been involved with,” says seasoned producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, whose long list of films includes the Transformers franchise, 2010’s Red and 2013’s Jack Ryan.
The idea was first brought up as a part of the script for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was written by Zombieland writing team Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. It was a three-page scene featuring no dialogue.
The scene was, according to di Bonaventura, a direct homage to one of the comic books, Silent Interlude.
But taking what was written on the page and bringing it to life on screen would prove a bigger challenge for di Bonaventura and Chu.
Chu tells The Hollywood Reporter that he literally set up couches, chairs and lamps in a room to sit in as the mountains. Then he got HASBRO to send him over some ninja toys so he could stage the scene in front of his stunt coordinators and a mountain climbing expert.
“I showed them how they would jump off this couch and swing this way. And our mountain climber guy would say, ‘Well if they are going to swing, they need a mountain here because that’s their pick point,’” he says. “And literally we did that until we built the whole sequence.”
One the sequence was mapped out, Chu says they went to the mountains of Vancouver to shoot some of the wintery action.
“We had zip-lines a thousand feet in the air and stunt guys zipping along in skin-tight ninja suits,” he says. “They were freezing cold, couldn’t breathe in that altitude. It was craziness.”
Chu adds that due to the freezing temperatures, the stunt people had at first worn wetsuits under their ninja costumes, but it didn’t look right so they just had to deal with the cold.
Additionally, Chu shot more stunts in New Orleans against a large green screen, and combined that with CG to create the breathtaking scene.
But for Chu, the scene may never look for him like it does for the millions watching it on the big screen.
“When I look at the sequence, I just see lamps and chairs and stuff,” he says with a laugh.
Watch the featurette below to see some of the high-flying scene.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation opened wide on March 28.
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