30 Minutes or Less location shootings in Michigan
30 Minutes or Less was shot on location in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It’s a quiet town, and there were no other films being shot. We got a real sense of the community. They really wanted us to be there, and the state and the city were both very welcoming to us,” says executive producer Monica Levinson.
Though the film is loaded with comedy, the comedic centerpiece is the bank robbery. “There were definitely high expectations for the bank robbery: it had to be awesome,” says Fleischer. “It was also the most fun to shoot – it’s so well-written and all the moments played out perfectly. Jesse and Aziz were both at the top of their game, the supporting cast nailed it. You’ve seen a bank robbery in a movie a million times, but this one is full of unexpected moments and big laughs, and it’s the most memorable scene in the movie, that’s for sure.”
That scene is followed closely by the car chase through the streets of Grand Rapids. The director says that shooting a car chase is more than a bit like being a little boy playing with toys. “You get to drive fast, flip cars, and do all sorts of things you don’t get to do in daily life,” says Fleischer. “Grand Rapids was really accommodating – they shut down about 15 blocks and it became our own race track, weaving cars in and out of traffic. We ran a dump truck into a cop car!”
“I mostly act in independent movies, where car chases are at 10 miles per hour into a driveway,” says Eisenberg. “In this movie there are some very intense chases with very imprecise but very powerful sports cars. We’d have a long strip of road and 20 stunt drivers were all driving around me, and I was weaving in and out of them. I’m not such a great driver, but they allowed me to do it.”
Ansari agrees that Eisenberg’s driving skills will not challenge Mario Andretti’s any time soon. “Yes, they actually let Jesse drive a real car – no green screen – and I was in the passenger seat next to him. I ended up doing a lot of screaming – not just as Chet, but me, personally,” says Ansari.
Eisenberg wasn’t as bad as all that – in fact, he acquitted himself quite well, says stunt coordinator Rick LeFevour, who was responsible for plotting and pulling off the action sequences. “He had a heavy lead foot – I had to reel him in a little bit,” says LeFevour. “I told him to come through at a certain speed, and I think he was enjoying it – he got fairly confident and that right foot got a little heavy. But he picked up on it fairly quickly. I took him out driving for three or four days, just prior to shooting, to get him used to that 5.0 Mustang that he drives at the beginning of the movie, and I had him throwing it into 90-degree slides and smoking wheels around corners.”
When it came time to film the chase in the Datsun 280Z, LeFevour says, “We were able to get a lot of nice close-ups of him driving through the chase traffic.”
The overall goal for the sequence was to make a real, thrilling action sequence, but to always keep in mind that 30 Minutes or Less is an action comedy. “There are definitely comic elements to the chase – it’s not just another car chase that’s been done before,” says LeFevour. “For example, when we were looking through the locations where we were going to shoot, we’d find a certain turn or a park they could drive through that would dictate the dialogue in the scene – we could enhance it that way.”
Another comic enhancement was the choice of cars. “Ruben could have picked brand new cars, but he picked the Datsun 280Z and the 5.0 Mustang, which is probably the ugliest Mustang they ever made,” says LeFevour. “Instead of a sleek, hot-looking car, he has a boxy thing where you don’t know if it’s a sports car or more of a utility car. The biggest challenge was that the cars were antiques; we had to keep them running through the whole chase. It was challenging, but we had a lot of fun.
In filming the climax, LeFevour and his team – and the actors as well – got to play with fire, courtesy of a flamethrower held by Travis (Nick Swardson). The first and most important step, of course, was to find a way to safely put a flamethrower into the actors’ hands. “I’ve seen some flamethrowers that throw off so much radiant heat that I was worried about the actors handling it,” says LeFevour. “But the rig he came up with was as safe as it could possibly be and it enhanced their performances. When the actor feels the heat and has that power in his hands, it leads to some very funny scenes. Ruben gave us a template to start with, and we gave him as much fire as we could that we thought was safe enough for the actors. All of the actors ended up having fire on them and they all did a great job with it.”
Related Link: Read full production notes for 30 Minutes or Less >>