Movie Article

When Hogs Have Wings

The art of motorcycle mayhem -- How the ''Terminator 2'' specialists pulled off the film’s bike stunts

Portraying a fearless mechanical Terminator is the ultimate test of the stuntperson's art. Even when riding a motorcycle off a 15-foot embankment or through a second-story window, says T2 stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, 33, ''you want to have the image of no fear. A cyborg is not going to think about what happens if it falls off. You better believe a person is.''

Kramer had only six weeks before shooting began to concoct his stunt plans, which featured trucks, motorcycles, helicopters, and enough high explosives to blow the roof off a modern office building. One of the most complex was the first big stunt of the picture, when Schwarzenegger runs his motorcycle off a culvert to rescue young John Connor.

Although jumps are common in action pictures, director Cameron insisted that this one use a real 780-pound Harley-Davidson, not a stripped-down dirt bike. To ease the behemoth bike's descent, Kramer set up two huge construction cranes to the right and left of the shot, 600 feet apart. A one-inch cable was strung between the cranes, and at the center of the cable an eight-foot spreader bar was attached. The motorcycle, with stuntman Peter Kent on board, was then hung from the bar like a marionette.

As the cameras rolled, another cable, leading to a truck in the canal bed, pulled Kent and the bike off the embankment at 35 mph. The bike and rider sailed 85 feet, but before the Harley's wheels hit the canal floor, the cable attached to the cranes was pulled tight so that only 180 pounds of Kent and bike made full impact with the pavement. (The bar and cables were removed from the image through computer doctoring.)

Even more dramatic was the scene in which T-1000 rams a motorcycle through the second-story window of Cyberdyne labs. Stuntman Bob Brown took a running start of 190 feet inside the building to bring his Kawasaki 650 to a speed of 35 mph. A moment before he reached the window, explosive caps shattered the glass. Brown flew through the pieces and traveled another 35 feet before a safety cable attached to his back went taut, yanking him off the bike and letting him drop onto a cushioned landing pad. ''It's like your body is saying, 'Get me out of here!''' Brown says. ''But you've got to tell yourself, 'I'm going to go through that window and nobody's going to see me blink.'''

Originally posted Aug 30, 1991 Published in issue #81 Aug 30, 1991 Order article reprints
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