Meet the new Transporter. And the new star car in “Transporter 4 Refueled.”
Known to the French Riviera’s criminal underworld as the best driver money can buy, soft-spoken Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) will deliver any “package” for a price in “Transporter 4 Refueled.” He abides by three simple rules: no names, no questions and no renegotiations. But his rulebook goes out the window when he is tricked by gorgeous femme-fatale Anna (Loan Chabanol) into driving the getaway car for an ingenious bank robbery. Racing through the streets of Monaco in a state-of-the-art Audi, Frank unwittingly becomes entangled in a scheme to bring down Yuri (Yuri Kolokolnikov), the Russian human trafficker who forced Anna into prostitution 15 years ago.
The Transporter series has set a high bar for action adventure, having delivered some of the most memorable action packed sequences in the genre. Director Camille Delamarre voices confidence that the latest installment, with its new leading man, revenge-fueled women, brutal street-fighting brawls and metal-bending chase sequences, will more than exceed audience expectations. “The Transporter Refueled is more than a reboot,” he says. “It’s a whole new story.”
As for the new Transporter himself, Ed Skrein takes unabashed pride in his character’s journey through the mean streets of southern France. “Rolling around on the floor wrestling and fighting with bamboo sticks and punching other guys with pads on and fighting in front of a moving car—the only time you want to be in situations like that is when you’re on a film set,” he says. “I’m a complete pacifist myself, but when it’s scripted that I get in a fight and win, it’s fantastic.”
“The Transporter Refueled” was shot largely on location in Monaco and other parts of the French Riviera between Nice and Menton. To capture the picturesque Côte d’Azur’s sun-dappled setting, Delamarre brought on Canadian director of photography Christophe Collette.
Although it features fresh faces and a new storyline, Refueled features plenty of the heart-pounding car chases that have made the Transporter franchise an enduring favorite among fans around the world. “I admit that I have a weakness for cars,” says Delamarre, who filmed dozens of car-chase sequences and car commercials before taking the helm of The Transporter Refueled. “When Michel Julienne staged the car scenes, we gave the big car wrecks everything we had, starting with the first sequence that takes place between Nice and Monaco.”
Delamarre’s team put together computer-generated 3-D pre-visualizations to determine the best camera placements before shooting key car chases. “We wanted to make sure we got ‘wow’ shots,” he says. But Delamarre insisted on old-school “in camera” action to maximize the impact of the film’s big set pieces. “I avoided using too much CGI because I really wanted crumpled metal. Sure, we could create that CGI, but it wouldn’t have the same violence as a real car crash. We purposely crashed dozens and dozens of cars for the film because I wanted to provide truly sensational visual impact.”
Skrein became very fond of the Audi S8 2012 sedan that was his near-constant companion during filming. “It’s a very beautiful car and a joy to drive,” says Skrein. “The only problem was that the Audi has such an intelligent computer in the engine that it won’t skid or do anything other than be completely safe. The stunt drivers had to take bits out of the Audi in order to make things happen the way they wanted.”
Before Skrein got a chance to drive the car during production, he took a crash course in high-speed auto racing. “The initial driving training we did was like a boy’s dream,” he says. “They sent me out into an airfield and asked me to drive as fast as possible in this beautiful car that cost $175,000. I learned small details that turned out to be extremely important, like how to position my hands on the steering wheel. Then we got into the stunt car and did the spinning, which was really fun.”
Skrein put his newly acquired driving skills to the test on the second day of shooting. “I had to race around a corner, skid, jump out of the car and do the dialogue,” he recalls. “I was driving a brand-new car that had a couple of very expensive cameras rigged up on either side. So I was very cautious for the first take. Then Camille came over and said, ‘Go for it this time.’ So I did and it felt great. I slammed on the brake and there was dust flying up everywhere. It was brilliant! So I got back in the car feeling like a million dollars and thought, ‘Let’s do that again’ and sped up even bit more. Except this time, I smashed one of the cameras.”
“Transporter 4 Refueled” opens this September 2 in cinemas from Pioneer Films.