The Perks: Kids Flying Through the Tunnel
One of the highlights of both the book and the film is a pair of scenes that could only be filmed in Pittsburgh. The Fort Pitt Tunnel leads into downtown Pittsburgh, feeding cars onto a bridge with an expansive view of the city’s skyline. A must‐see for visitors to the city, it is the setting for a transformational moment for Charlie, as he first watches Sam take an exhilarating ride in the back of pickup truck hurtling through the tunnel and later takes that same ride himself.
Chbosky calls that sequence a dream come true. “I’ve had the image of those kids flying through the tunnel in my head for about 18 years now, and to finally have actually filmed it felt pretty fantastic.”
Watson was initially told that she wouldn’t be allowed to actually participate in the stunt, but she was determined to do it herself and finally wore the director down. She soon found herself standing in the back of a flatbed truck, traveling at around 60 miles‐per‐hour through the tunnel, tethered by a single cord. “I had only one string, with my hands in the air, all the way through the tunnel until we came out the other end,” she remembers. “The first time I did it, I became so emotional that I cried. It was really special and beautiful, and the shot blew my mind. It’s stunning, and Steve knew when he conceptualized it that it would be amazing. It was, hands down, one of the exciting moments of my life.”
Charlie repeats the ride later in the film and Lerman also insisted on doing the stunt himself. “The experience can’t be matched. I remember climbing out onto the truck bed, and standing up. We shot out of the tunnel and I saw the city lights. I have never experienced anything like that before. Words can’t describe how awesome it was.”
The image of the teens “in flight,” which closes both the novel and the movie, is what Chbosky wants to stay with viewers. “In the face of all that pain, they feel the possibilities for the future are infinite,” he says. “It’s the perfect song, the perfect drive and they’re the perfect people. These are the moments that will define your life forever. To me, ‘infinite’ was the perfect word to describe that feeling that after this, his life is only going to get better. It is only going to go up.”
With the film finally complete, Chbosky says he can’t imagine a better experience. “The Saturday before we wrapped was like the last day of camp,” he says. “Even the most hardened production veteran was crying, because they knew they were about to say goodbye to a unique moment. Landon Pigg sang this song called ‘Something Brief,’ about how these moments come and go, and love comes and goes. We were in this little bar in Mount Lebanon, and I looked across at everybody. There was Emma swaying to the music and Mae sitting next to her boyfriend. Ezra was crying his eyes out. We were all moved. I don’t think anybody who was there that night will ever forget it, because that was like graduation for us.
“When I wrote the book, a few people read it and gave me some really smart comments, but it was primarily me alone in a room,” Chbosky adds. “The film was created by hundreds of people. I’m so proud to be able to share this with everyone involved, including the fans. I wouldn’t change a frame of it. We did it right and we did it with integrity. It is the proudest reflection of the book I could’ve made.”