Jon Devore is the manager, captain, first member for Red Bull Air Force, and the guy behind what’s sure to be this summer’s most memorable action scene — and one of this fall’s most YouTubed videos.
A skydiver for 19 years, he was hired by one of 'Iron Man 3’'s many stunt coordinators to make their dream a reality. “The stunt coordinator called me and said, ‘Remember that game Barrel of Monkeys from when you were a kid? Well, we’re gonna organize something like that in the sky.’”
The Scene Took a Month to Shoot
The premise was simple: Thirteen civilians get sucked out of an airplane and Iron Man flies to the rescue as they fall toward Earth. But he can only carry four people. So they’ll have to make the human chain you learned about in lifeguarding class, but they’ll have to do it while falling about 100 mph through the sky.
Stunt coordinators showed Devore storyboards, a shot-by-shot list, and a cartoon of how the scene should look. “We had to fly precisely but look out of control,” Devore said. “And we had to wear suits and ties.”
The scene took a month to shoot. Days were eight to 15 hours long and some jumps yielded as little as 1.5 seconds of footage, a process Devore likens to building a house “one brick at a time.” The team, costumed in business attire, totaled 580 jumps (each jump lasts about a minute) with zero accidents.
'There's nothing more addictive.'
What looks like CGI in the film is not in fact CGI. It’s Devore and his team of 14 other divers, ages 30-44, forming a human chain in the sky. “It could not have gone smoother,” he says. “It was fun.”
Devore says he was chosen because of his extensive background in not only wingsuit skydiving but in freeflying, where a jumper not only flies horizontally during a fall but moves up and down, changing angles and velocity. Jumpers for this stunt, the coordinator explained, “would need to get grabbed and dragged though the sky.”
Visible to the public eye for about a decade, the wingsuits (“squirrelsuits” to professionals) used by Devore and his team are new technology. Flying suits had been tested often with heavy casualties since the 1930s, and even made an appearance in The Gypsy Moths (1969) starring Burt Lancaster. But it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that French skydiver Patrick de Gayardon applied parachute technology to make the suits what they are today, fine-tuned flying machines used for both skydiving and BASE jumping.
“There’s nothing more addictive,” says Devore. “But there’s no room for error.”
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