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Kurt Russell had to, apparently, get up-close and personal with fire in Backdraft (1991)....but did he really?

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Special effects were pretty advanced back then so it's possible that clever camera angles and stunt men replaced him...but did they?

So, my question is, how close did Kurt get to the fire in Backdraft?

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There is a wealth of sources for stunt information on Backdraft. I will post some excerpts here with links for you to delve in deeper.

Backdraft the Explosive Stunts

In 2006, a Documentary was produced detailing the special effects and interviews with cast and crew. I don't want to link to a copy of the video online for copyright purposes. It includes interviews with Kurt Russell discussing his stunts and the experience of shooting.

  • Kurt Russell, Kevin Casey, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin did a lot of their own stunts, and the Stunt Coordinator Walter Scott was so impressed by their performances, that he credited them as stunt performers in the credits.

AMC Notes on Backdraft

  • Scott Glenn (Axe) was actually on fire for his scene. He was coated in layers of fire-proof clothing and special gel for his skin so he wouldn’t get burned. As soon as the cameras stopped rolling, firefighters doused him in water and chemicals.
  • The cast came face to face with 1,200 degree fireballs on set
  • Baldwin and Russell went to a firefighter “boot camp” to learn the ropes. They even slept at a Chicago firehouse for about a month
  • Both Baldwin and Russell did many of their own stunts throughout Backdraft. Stunt coordinator Walter Scott: “We did things I didn’t think were possible before that film.”

Kurt Russell GQ Interview Most Dangerous Stunts

Kurt Russell details the ways he was nearly killed or injured on set including Backdraft.

I got disorientated in the smoke and I started beating the floor with my axe and running. I had no idea where I was. It was pitch black and I thought to myself "Wow...this is a really stupid way to die."

Russell's Own Words

"Well, up until Backdraft there wasn't a lot of this. I know that because Ron Howard and I talked about it a lot and we had to go and find actors that were willing to set themselves on fire using a gel that had only just been invented. After that movie, more and more directors started wanting to put actors into scenes. But there's something else that's very real that goes along with that. If one of those actors goes down for any reason, that's a lot of money. So you have to be very, very, very careful. And the stunt people then become extremely important in terms of how they set up something with the actors and the director so that you can do this and get away with it."

And

"Nobody will ever do a movie harder than Backdraft."

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