Off-Roading Goes to the Movies

March 25th, 2016 by David Beran

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“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” is one of this year’s most eagerly anticipated movies and vehicle enthusiasts can’t wait to see the Batmobile in action. Last year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” featured dazzling off-road vehicles and stunt work that helped it snag Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design and Film Editing. The lineage between Hollywood films, off-road racing and stunt coordinating runs deep and when comic books make the quantum leap to live-action films there are an elite few qualified to realize that vehicle vision on the silver screen.

Dennis McCarthy and Billy Hammon are among those few.

McCarthy’s Sun Valley, California-based company Vehicle Effects was responsible for building the Batmobile for the just released Warner Bros./DC Comics “Batman v Superman.” Hammon built the life-sized Hot Wheels car for “Batman v Superman” that debuted at last year’s Comic Con. Their stories on working as Hollywood vehicle builders and stunt performers/coordinators all have a familiar thread running through them: off-roading. Here’s a look at how off-road racing, fabrication and vehicle stunts are making inroads into big film productions and how inspirational off-roading continues to be.

The Off-Road to Hollywood

Dennis McCarthy took the off-road route to break into Hollywood that originated at his custom car shop in Burbank, California. After cutting his teeth on commercials, he was referred to Jim Brubaker, one of the executive producers of the 2002 fantasy movie “Dragonfly.” “I built a few cars for “Bruce Almighty” and then ended up doing stunt work on it,” McCarthy recalls. “Bruce” paved the way to “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” and since then he’s worked on four different films in the “Fast” franchise.

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But what sparked the mind-blowing stunts he creates for movies was McCarthy’s background in off-road racing. He’s raced in SCORE International, M.O.R.E. and the Lucas Oil Regional Series, and brought the off-road racing sensibility to his stunt coordinating for movies. “If you can build a car to survive off-road racing, you can build a car for anything,” laughs McCarthy.

Keeping the Caped Crusader and Man of Steel Real

Recently, McCarthy built the Batmobile for “Batman v Superman” using a Class 1 Off-road body. His inspiration comes from his passion for off-road desert racing and McCarthy still loves to go out and watch the King of the Hammers. He acknowledges that with movies on the scale of “The Fast and the Furious” and “Batman v Superman” there’s going to be CGI involved. “I still think that fans want to see realism,” says McCarthy. “In my experience, when people see the behind the scenes video it reveals there’s a lot more reality to it and not as much VFX as they would think.” This is where off-road driving and fabrication comes in handy.

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McCarthy is known as the man who brought off-roading to “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. “It was a lot of fun to build the cars for the “Fast” movies and some were built on a Pro 2 chassis,” he says. The vehicles were used and abused every day and there was no resistance from director James Wan. For the big truck that pulls the cars off the train in the 2011 “Fast Five” train heist scene, McCarthy recalls “We built a truck along the lines of a trophy truck and a monster truck with typical off-road hardware like bump stops and shocks.”

Look for Part 2 featuring Billy Hammon – coming soon to an off-road blog near you.

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About the Author: David Beran

As a professional inkspiller living in Los Angeles, I’ve written in industries ranging from entertainment to employment to automotive. Terrain I cover includes off-road events and races, budget builds, custom mods, EVs and the latest innovations in aftermarket 4x4 parts. I’m always eager to learn about new trends in 4x4s and my motto is “go off-road or go home.” Google+ is the destination for my dispatches: https://plus.google.com/+DavidBeran/posts.

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