The initial descriptions of Wednesday’s accident on the set of Transformers 3 sounded bad enough, but the more details leak out, the more it seems that something has gone very wrong on Michael Bay’s latest production. But why?
As we reported on Thursday, extra Gabriela Cedillo was airlifted to a nearby hospital with a severe head injury after a stunt went very badly wrong. But since those initial reports, it’s come out that Cedillo was driving her own car during the stunt, which she’d been paid $25 for the use of (Edit: Since this post was initially written, Paramount has issued a statement strongly denying this). Luckily, I already know that I’m not the only person to feel slightly disturbed by an extra performing stunts in her own car – An unnamed industry source emailed Deadline Hollywood’s Nikki Finke with the following:
An extra doing stunts in her own car with a tow rig? Holy shit is somebody’s head gonna roll over this one. SO many things against industry standards, don’t know where to start! Bay should be starting to sweat right about now. 30yrs of motion pictures and never seen stunts fuck up this bad.
In an era where the audience has become so jaded by visual effects that moviemakers are forced to come up with ever more elaborate spectacles, whether CGI or “real,” it may just have been a matter of time before a stunt led to an accident like this. But why was an extra performing her own stunts (and in her own car)? And does the breaking of the tow cable speak to lack of preparation or merely unfortunate accident? I’m weirdly ambivalent about that last question; as much as I want to believe it’s the latter, I can’t help but feel that Cedillo using her own car for a stunt speaks to some kind of mindset (Cost-cutting? Time saving?) that maybe doesn’t promote carelessness, but definitely doesn’t do enough to warn against it, either.
There’s no doubt that there’ll be serious repercussions from this incident, and doubtless investigations into Transformers 3 in particular, but I can’t help but feel that this is going to end up being something that will push the industry towards more CGI effects, if only from a fear of controversy stemming from the possibility of more accidents like Cedillo’s… and that might not be a bad thing, no matter what your feelings on CGI/authentic aesthetics may be.