Chatting With Daredevil’s Emmy-Nominated Stunt Coordinator Philip J. Silvera
Stunt coordinator Philip J. Silvera is one of the best in the business. In recent years, he's put his touch on one of the greatest fight scenes in recent memory (the bruising final beat down in Deadpool), helped make Iron Man 3 the best Tony Stark film of the bunch, and, applied his martial arts expertise to the animated series Star Wars: The Old Republic. Recently, Silvera has helped turn Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix into one of the best comic book television shows on air, rivaling Marvel's Jessica Jones, also on Netflix, for fight scenes and action that is downright cinematic in scope. This is why he's been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Drama Series.
We spoke to Silvera about his favorite fight sequences in the second season, what's different about the fighting styles of Daredevil and the Punisher, and more.
You've worked in film and TV—how does your approach change between the two mediums?
We approach it the same way with the same thought process—we always want to make sure we’re designing the action for the characters and story. The big difference is the time frame. On Daredevil, we have about nine days to prep, while on a film we've got months to nail a sequence. For Daredevil, we're basically doing a feature film every 9 days.
It must take a village…
We have a team that works around the clock behind the scenes. Our stunt doubles work very hard in front of the camera, but we also have a core team that works nonstop prepping and setting up each one of these actions sequences. We do a pre-visualization for every single sequence.
What were your favorite fight sequences in season two of Daredevil?
One sequence I enjoyed a lot was the very first interaction between the Punisher and Daredevil, when they're meeting for the first time. That’s been a fan favorite, seeing these two on screen together, and we took that very seriously.
There were maybe four sequences I really loved. That first intro, the new, longer one-take that we did this season. And then there's a sequence where Daredevil is going through the hallway and into the stairwell—that was another undertaking we wanted to make sure we did very differently.
Frank Castle/the Punisher has become a big part of the show. It sure looks like you and your team are having fun with him.
Yeah, another favorite was Jon Berenthal’s prison fight as Frank Castle. Seeing him in that element, seeing that pure character on the screen, we finally get to witness him unleash the Punisher, and we get that great interaction with the Kingpin (Vincent D'onofrio). Seeing those two together, it was just an amazing scene. Also, as stunt coordinator, something I was excited to do was getting Daredevil to use his baton and swing it the first time.
What kind of fighting style does Daredevil have?
His style that he pays homage to is boxing, which is coming from his father and his upbringing. He learned so many different styles of martial arts over the years, but there’s a huge boxing element that comes out. He’s been trained by Stick, who's a well rounded martial artist. So Daredevil does everything from Chinese martial arts to boxing to his acrobatic abilities. It’s all mixed in there. He never uses just one specific style.
And Frank Castle?
In Frank Castle, what you have is a tactically trained military personnel, he comes from that background. You see how he approaches things tactically, but he’s also got a very brutal mentality. Unlike Daredevil, he’s not afraid to cross the line. So he’s very efficient with guns and knives, very proficient in hand-to-hand combat. And his fighting style also has this sense that it alleviates pain for him as well. The way I saw it, it’s like he doing something for his family that he loss.
In Deadpool, how you'd create that epic final battle between Wade Wilson and Ajax?
Honestly, I think the workshop fight is the most brutal fight in that movie, but it was trimmed down because it was a little too violent, but you can watch it in deleted scenes. What was fun about that final Deadpool/Ajax scene is their differences. Deadpool can feel pain and can’t die, and Ajax can’t feel pain but can die. You can see how one will shrug off pain and push through it, and one doesn't feel it, but is actually getting hurt.
How long did it take to film?
That sequence took about three days of second unit and two days of first unit. We had a very tight schedule. We had about a month of training the actors for each of their sequences. So Ed [Skrein] would come in a work nonstop for both his sequences. And Ryan Reynolds has a photographic memory; he'd do something three or four times and remember it very well. We had Alex Kyshkovych, Ryan’s main stunt double, and Adrian Hind, his second stunt double, doing great work. And Jeffrey Robinson doubled Ed Skrien, and was great.
What's next for you?
How are these projects looking to you?
I think they're going to be amazing. For Pacific Rim 2, Guillermo del Toro has a great vision. I’m really excited for it. As for Deadpool 2, we’re pushing the story forward. I don’t know who the bad guy is, but Cable will be part of the film.
Going back to Daredevil, any shout outs you'd like to give?
I’d love to give a shout out to our assistant stunt coordinator Eric Linden, who's also Jon Berenthal’s double, Roberto Gutierrez, our assistant fight coordinator, and Joe Ross, our head stunt rigger, Then our stunt doubles; Chris Broussard, who's Charlie Cox's stunt double, Aja Frary, who doubles Rosario Dawson's character, and Lauren Mary Kim, who’s Elodie Young's stunt double.