We spoke to amicable stunt driver Debbie Evans while she was in Australia promoting The Fate of the Furious.
Even if you don’t recognise her face, chances are you will have spotted Debbie Evans in a movie at some point. She’s a stunt driver with credits in over 200 films, but she’s best known for her roles as Michelle Rodriguez/Letty’s Fast and Furious driver double, and for roles in The Matrix Reloaded.
We caught up with Debbie to chat about working on the Fast and Furious films, and even found out what she drives in real life.
That was you driving the Civic that goes under the semi in The Fast and the Furious, right? Can you tell me how that scene came together?
That’s probably my favourite scene of all time. It was funny because we were just sitting at lunch one day while working on the film, and the stunt coordinator said “I have an idea for this particular stunt where a girl drives under a semi truck”, and I said “well, I’ve done that before”, and he goes “really? Really?” It’s a big process when you do a scene like that. There’s a lot of preparation involved, you don’t just get in the car and drive. You have to be very careful, ’cause you could be crushed by the wheels in the back. We had the truck going about 50mph down the road, and it was swerving, and I had already picked a specific mark on the side of the truck where I knew I was good front to back, that the wheels wouldn’t get me. He was swerving, and I was kinda on the side dancing with the truck, and when I saw that it looked good I went straight underneath it as quickly as possible and out the other side. We did another shot where I come up alongside the wheel, they’re big old wheels, and he hits the side of the car and I dive off the road. The third shot, I’m marrying the truck – driving next to it – and we set up what’s called a pipe ramp. What you do, is you run the undercarriage of the car up the pipe that’s on a triangular angle, and I flip the car off the side of the road. All that was real. I have people today saying “Was that CGI?” and I’m like “Nope, it was me the entire time.” You have to have a healthy sense of fear, otherwise you can get hurt, or you could even get others hurt.
In case you don’t know what scene we’re talking about:
Do you double for anyone apart from Michelle Rodriguez?
On Fast & Furious 6, I doubled every girl that was driving, plus I was a police officer, and I drove one of the camera vehicles. They just put me in wherever I’m needed. On F8, I doubled Michelle in the Rally Fighter, and the Challenger, and the very cool Corvette Stingray. Not only that, I was a police officer in the motorcade, and I drove one of the cars into the big pile where the zombie cars come out of the parking structure. Those were all real cars coming out of the parking structure. Another one I did I was in a seat and then they put a seatcover over the top to make it look like there was nobody driving. I had a blast doing all those kinds of things, it was so wonderful.
Do you have a favourite vehicle that you’ve driven over the years?
I would say my favourite motorcycle was the Ducatti 996 on Matrix Reloaded. I’d have to say on the Fast films, the Corvette was a pretty cool car to get to drive, but of course the Rally Fighter was cool too. It’s hard to say, it’s like a kid in a candy store; “I want that one, and that one, and that one!”
Feel free not to answer this, but what do you drive personally?
You won’t believe me. Let me preface it first; I drive undercover cars, because even though I have a very small foot, it’s made of lead. I tend to get into trouble if I have something that catches anybody’s attention. I have a Toyota Prius. But, I call it my race Prius. It’s very stealth, except I managed to get a ticket in it the other day. I don’t know how that happened. Then I have a Nissan Pathfinder for 4WD trips through the mountains and for skiing, and I do have a 1990 Nissan 300ZX. In that car I was on assigned risk in three months, which means you’re in big trouble and if you do anything else you lose your licence. It was funny, because it had just come out, and I had one of the first ones, and one of the police officers pulled me over and he was walking around my car just admiring it, and he goes ‘how fast does this thing go?’, and I just said ‘I don’t know officer, but it says 164mph’, and he said ‘it looks fast just sitting here!’ and I said ‘That’s the problem!’.
Are there any stunts you’ve thought about that you’d love to do?
You know those flat bed trucks that carry cars, and when they’re unloading the car they go down and it looks like a big ramp? I would love to hit one of those and just square the cab up – which means to cut it – and just blow through the cab and see how far I could get. Every time I see one with the kids in the car they dive over like I’m gonna do it. I get to do a lot of different things that nobody would think a mum of three would be doing.
Finally, are there any film franchises that you haven’t been involved in that you’d love to work on?
I just go to work when they call me. I’m at the point now where I don’t really worry about it, the phone just rings. I really love being a part of the fast franchise. I think it’s a great honour; I’ve done 1,2,3,6,7, and 8, and hopefully there’ll be a 9 and a 10 and I’ll be in those too. It’s kinda like a family. We go from show to show – especially with the stunt driving team, we know what everybody else is gonna do, and we just know each other really well. We can avoid incidents because we know when someone’s getting in trouble, and we can avoid crashes, and help each other to look good. It’s a really tight-knit team.