There are plenty of death-defying stunts in the new Ryan Reynolds Netflix movie 6 Underground. From intense explosions, a magnet-filled assault on a yacht, gun fights with bad guys on skyscrapers, and foot chases across rooftops using parkour, the film went above and beyond when it comes to action-packed moments.
But the most jaw-dropping stunt might be the car chase that took place on the streets of Florence, Italy—including a jaunt through the centuries-old Pitti Palace. As Reynolds put it in a recent interview, that chase might be “the craziest car chase that has ever been committed to film.” And the man behind the wheel for that sequence? His name is Brett Smrz, and he’s worked on some of the biggest action films of the last decade.
“It was surreal to be able to collaborate with the Pitti Palace to make that scene possible,” Smrz told Men’s Journal. “It was a very tight space with not much room for error. In some spots there were only inches to spare, and if we damaged anything inside the museum we would have been in really big trouble. I personally didn’t get to see the Pitti Palace until the day we shot there. For me, driving at the Pitti Palace was one of the highlights of 6 Underground.”
Here’s a look at the scene in the 6 Underground trailer:
Smrz has built a reputation as one of the top stuntmen in Hollywood. Over the course of his career, he’s earned credits in movies like Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Amazing Spider-Man series, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and 2019’s Ford v. Ferrari. And Smrz has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s done work for upcoming films including Fast & Furious 9, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Suicide Squad, and Cash Truck, where he worked as a stunt driver and driving double for star Scott Eastwood.
Smrz’s resume makes him a one of the top drivers in the business, but that’s not the only thing that makes him unique: He also drives with a carbon fiber prosthetic leg. Soon after his first professional race at 16 years old, Smrz suffered an accident on a trampoline, which resulted in 10 complex surgeries and the loss of his left leg below the knee. But the accident didn’t stop Smrz from pursuing what he loved most, and he was soon back in the driver’s seat.
Smrz spoke with Men’s Journal about what it was like driving through the streets of Italy for 6 Underground, how he prepared for his most dangerous scenes, and the prep that goes into working on a big-budget blockbuster.
Men’s Journal: Your backstory is really inspiring. How did you get into stunt driving work?
Brett Smrz: I appreciate the kind words. When I was a teenager, I raced go-karts, open wheel, and sports cars internationally. I won a few championships and had a successful career, but the expenses got a bit too high for me to continue racing. My father, Gregg Smrz, and my uncle, Brian Smrz, are both in the stunt business and when I turned 18, I decided to fully commit to stunts. Given my racing background, I convinced some stunt coordinators to trust my driving abilities, which in turn got me invited to join the stunt driving group Drivers Inc. I’ve enjoyed so many things about the stunt business. Getting to go to incredible locations, such as Florence, and drive exotic cars, like the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio—it’s like a dream come true! Believe it or not, I also enjoy crashing cars. Cannon rolls, pipe ramps, and car crashes are some of my favorite things to do. That’s what really gets the adrenaline pumping, especially while performing for Michael Bay.
The Florence driving scene is incredible. What went into the preparation for that and how did you pull it off?
We walked inside the Pitti Palace first to see what route would be the safest to take. We made ramps that helped get up on the little steps inside the museum so that we didn’t damage the Alfa. In some spots there were only inches to spare, so we took some extra precautions with these scenes. Prior to doing any stunt, the stunt coordinator will always go and scout the location first to see what’s possible and what we’ll be able to get away with. Once I get to a location, I’ll walk or drive slowly down the road one time to get a look and feel for it and then jump straight into the action. You don’t really get any practice runs when filming in prestigious locations.
What goes through your mind when you’re performing stunts?
I try to keep a calm mindset when performing any stunt. All I’m really thinking about when I’m strapped into the seat is hitting my mark and making sure I get to where I need to go. When doing any stunt, I always find landmarks on the road or close by that I can use to help me perfect the stunt. Stunts can be dangerous and people can get injured, but we do everything we can to take safety precautions before we do any stunt. For example, when doing a car crash, I have a full roll cage, a racing seat, five-point seat belts, my Arai helmet, Sparco fireproof gloves and suit, and a few pads. It definitely eases your mind when you are surrounded by such an incredible crew and talented stunt performers. Trust is everything when it comes to stunt work.
What are some of the other moments from the movie you’re excited for people to see?
We did so many fun things in this movie. It’s action-packed and exciting. If you can think of any popular location in Florence that you’d like to go visit, we probably drifted or drove really fast past it. Drifting around the Cosimo de’ Medici statue was a highlight for me, and it turned out to be such a beautiful shot with the Duomo in the background. There are a ton of cool shots of the Alfa Romeo drifting and sliding that I’m excited for everyone to see.
What’s your preparation process when you’re working on a movie like 6 Underground?
First we figure out which car we are going to use for the upcoming chase sequence—in this case, it was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Once we get the car, we test it to its limits and work with the manufacturer to get it set up exactly to our needs. When drifting a car, you need things like ABS, stability control, and traction control disabled. Then we’ll look at some of the locations to get a sense of what we’re going to be dealing with and what stunts we’ll be able to get away with. The special effects team works with us a lot to make sure the cars, ramps, and cages are prepped the way we need them.
I also just want to throw this message out to everyone reading: Be safe out there driving. I know everyone wants to go out and drift every corner they see after watching a fun movie like 6 Underground, but just know that this was all planned, designed, and made to be as safe as possible. Take it to the track and have fun!
What was it like working with director Michael Bay and the cast of the film? What are some of the interactions like when you’re working on scenes together?
I absolutely enjoyed working with Michael Bay. He loves what he does and he’s very good at it. When he’s directing, he already knows exactly what he wants and he expects his crew to be prepared and help him achieve that vision. I have a lot of respect for that! Michael and I get along great, and I always enjoy working with him. There are some times when a shot is a bit out of reach because of a car’s limits, and in those situations the stunt coordinator and I will come up with some other ideas that would work within the parameters of what they are ultimately looking for. It’s fun bouncing ideas back and forth and then going out and executing them successfully. It really is a team effort on all ends.
Apart from this film, what are a few stunts and moments from your career that are most memorable for you?
On Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I had the incredible opportunity to climb to the very top of the Burj Khalifa with my dad. That is a moment I will cherish forever. I remember Jennifer Coolidge sitting next to me on Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. We were driving up on a curb, taking out parking meters, and she was screaming her lines at me. I couldn’t stop smiling and if you watch the movie, there’s a shot where you can see a glimpse of my grin in the rear view mirror. I’ll also never forget the time Billy Bob Thornton hit me where the sun don’t shine with a wiffle ball bat on Mr. Woodcock.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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