The True Story Behind the Car Chase Sequence

“The only thing there was permits for would have been to shoot around the elevated train”, explained William Friedkin, the director of “The French Connection”. He with the exceptional producer met while using Head of Public Relations to the New York Transit Authority. They told to him what you wanted to try and do and wanted permission to make it happen. “You guys are crazy”, admonished the state run, “I could never permit you to do anything like what we’ve just described. First of all: there has never been a heightened train that’s hijacked, there has never been a train crash about the elevated system in New York, and we’ve never had an auto chasing a train. It would you need to be really DIFFICULT.” The director and also the production manager were waking up to leave. Luckily, the producer was prescient enough can be expected the conditions this agreement the New York transit official was alluding. “How DIFFICULT?”, asked the producer knowingly. The official’s response was the initial step towards creating what’s arguably the best car chase ever filmed inside the history of videos; a sequence that had been so audacious in the execution it may never again be performed legally. “$40,000 plus a one-way vacation to Jamaica”, he responded. He was serious which is what he was allegedly paid through the production. However, based on Friedkin, the film would not originally have $40,000 allocated for pay-offs. The budget from the entire film involved $1.5 million plus the film would look at that by $300,000; due partially to paying bribes just like the one just described. Friedkin convinced the studio this was the way it had to be performed. He asked the guy why he specifically needed a “one-way ticket”. “Because”, the transit official confirmed, “if I help you do that which you just said on that train, I will be fired. I want to live the remainder of my life in Jamaica.” And so he did; happily ever after.

“The French Connection” will be based upon a real drug case in New York City. Real-life detectives Sonny Grosso with his fantastic partner Eddie Egan (the inspiration for Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle character) split up an organized crime ring in 1961 and seized 112 pounds of heroin, an archive amount at that time. The investigation was the topic of a book by Robin Moore along with an Academy Award-winning video. For legal reasons, Egan and Grosso’s names were changed to Doyle and Russo. Despite the name changes, however, Sonny Grosso may be quoted as stating that the film is usually a 95 percent accurate depiction on the events from the 10-month investigation. The only event that wouldn’t actually happen from the case was, actually, the auto chase scene in “THE FRENCH CONNECTION”.

William Friedkin felt he needed the vehicle chase in any other case he would don’t have anything but “a police surveillance picture.” Friedkin proceeds to say that “police surveillance is compared to watching paint dry. It is so boring.” He knew the film needed the scene, but he couldn’t know until a month or more before commencing principal photography, what your vehicle chase scene in “THE FRENCH CONNECTION” would entail. One day, he with the exceptional producer chose to take a walk starting on 86th street for the east side of Manhattan. They walked for 55 blocks south. “We’re not gonna stop, nobody is gonna turnaround for the until you can think up a chase scene”, Friedkin recalled each of them deciding. They heard the subway rumbling beneath their feet, they saw the smoke rising from your streets. They saw the traffic along with the crowds of people who comprise New York. “We begun to improvise the chase.” This took over as genesis on the scene that will obviously end up being the signature sequence with the film.

Gene Hackman’s stunt driver was named Bill Hickman. He had also been the driver in “Bullitt” starring Steve McQueen. Steve McQueen is alleged to have been one with the original choices for that role in “The French Connection” that Gene Hackman inevitably would play. Both “Bullitt” and “The French Connection” were created by Philip D’Antoni. It was the automobile chase in “Bullitt” (that had only preceded “French Connection” by 36 months and had been very much in memory) that set the bar depending on how exciting the auto chase scene in ” The French Connection” had to be shot. It would eventually be decided they would top Steve McQueen’s car-chasing-a-car with Gene Hackman’s car-chasing-an-elevated-train.

According to your director, he didn’t storyboard the chase. “I didn’t write it down”, insists Friedkin. “It wasn’t in different script. But we traveled to various locations. There can be a guy named Fat Thomas who gets credit like a Location Manager. Fat Thomas was obviously a 425-pound bookmaker in New York who has been arrested 52 times for bookmaking with one conviction. But he knew New York such as back of his hand. He involved around and showed me throughout the area that I got permission to film the chase.” This neighborhood was the Stillwell Avenue line at Bay 50th Street near Coney Island. Friedkin would go ahead and take crew to any or all these locations with regards to a week before they started principal photography and so they discussed what may potentially happen since they made some notes. “We had no permits to shoot the chase. None. We had no permits from your city to be around the streets in any way. But I had these off-duty cops beside me and so however went sour, they can just show a badge as well as the problems would vanish entirely.”

When that they finished shooting everything which they had planned, the director looked over the rushes and the man decided which he was unsatisfied using the end results. “I thought it was pretty lame stuff”, admitted Friedkin. One day, if they were supposedly finished, Bill Hickman the stunt driver accompanied the director to some bar downtown for just a drink. The stunt driver looked to Friedkin and asked, “Well boss, what do you think in the chase we shot?” The director was instructed to admit which he felt it had not been very good and that it had not been as exciting as yet have hoped. Hickman got slightly red inside face and responded having a challenge. He asked for that car being placed under the improved tracks this morning at 8 am. “You get within the car when camping”, he promised Friedkin, “and I’ll teach you some driving”.

They were likely to shoot some other place that day however the director went on the production manager and arranged to the car to become mounted with one camera around the bumper. He decided that however operate the opposite camera over Bill Hickman’s shoulder when he “was young and single, plus the cameramen both had families.” Bill Hickman then drove 26 blocks through city traffic at 90 miles per hour with no paid extras with out permission. As a warning to pedestrians, they installed a police siren at the top in the car that’s never photographed. The only thing that had been staged was the shot with the woman using the baby carriage.

Actor Randy Jurgensen describes just what it was like: “The car was totally stripped down… and I sat within the passenger side. I was covered with a mattress and Billy Friedkin was inside the back and the man was for the camera.” Jurgensen procedes to describe the conversation that transpired before cameras were to roll: “Prior which will get into the vehicle, Billy [Friedkin] spoke to Bill Hickman inside the following manner: ‘We’re only likely to be able to perform this once, we are really not protected, we’re lucky whenever we come out of this thing without getting arrested, we’re gonna steal this shot, therefore you gotta create it for me. You REALLY gotta design it for me.’ He weaved, we went around the sidewalk once, we faced the oncoming traffic once.” The car even slightly swiped a major city bus such that prevented the stunt car’s doors from having the ability to open.

The stunt driver kept his foot around the gas until he’d to break plus the director kept encouraging him to complete more. During the second unit, they should shoot some footage of Gene Hackman driving the auto. What they hadn’t anticipated was that a person would leave their house, hop within their car and drive in the shot. “Suddenly, I see this blur”, Hackman recounted years later, “and mike geary pulls in front of me.” Hackman hit the opposite driver, as well as the collision sent Hackman to a pillar. The cameraman got thrown towards the floor in the trunk through the force in the impact. Fortunately, Hackman and also the cameraman wasn’t badly hurt.