Way back in April 2018, about a week after our YouTube channel hit one-million subscribers, we’d just returned home from Istanbul, where we’d been filming Crossing Continents for Canon, to find a very interesting email waiting for us.
Turned out that Michael Bay, the American director and producer known for his unique style of action-packed films including Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and the Transformers series, is a STORROR fan. He’d watched our Rooftop POV escape from Hong Kong security video and decided we would fit perfectly into his upcoming big-budget production for Netflix. He wanted to arrange a meeting with us to discuss the project as soon as possible – surreal!
Some weeks later, we met Michael Bay and Jeffrey Beecroft (production designer) in the rooftop bar of a hotel in Soho, London. They explained they were making an ambitious action thriller called 6 Underground, and that parkour would feature heavily in it. They wanted our help in almost every capacity – location scouting, set design, choreography, costume, training actors, stunt doubling, cameo roles, even filming some scenes of our own. We knew this was a massive opportunity, not only for us but for parkour as a whole, to play such a big part in a Hollywood blockbuster.
The intervening months were filled with emails, storyboards, plans for sets, and conference calls with the 6 Underground production team to discuss the details and practicalities of the parkour sequences. And in late July, we were invited to visit the headquarters of Bay Films in Los Angeles to sort out the final details.
At some point it was decided that myself and Benj would be the parkour stunt doubles for Ben Hardy, who plays the character known as Four, as we looked the most alike. Michael Bay wanted it all to look totally authentic, and we were asked to provide a range of our own-brand STORROR clothing so the stylists could get that aspect right.
In early August 2018, Benj and I started our first practical job for the film with a location scout in Budapest, Hungary. We had to find a rooftop area that would work for a team action sequence. This scene in the movie was supposed to be set in Ukraine, so Jeffrey Beecroft, the production designer, took us to some locations he’d already identified as having the right aesthetic. The roof we settled on was actually used in another film – Blade Runner 2049. We identified possible jumps and lines, and some changes that we needed to be made to the structure for safety reasons.
A few days after returning from that, we flew out to Italy for more rooftop location scouting in Florence, Rome and Siena, and then made a quick trip back to London to meet Ben Hardy and coach him in the basics of parkour. Immediately afterwards, we travelled to Florence again for a stunt test on the historic Duomo, and met the stunt rigging team we would be working with on the rest of the film.
The Duomo run was an interesting challenge because working with a wire wasn’t something we were used to. The stunt riggers were massively experienced and helped work through it methodically so I could get comfortable enough to do it multiple times when filming. The Florence Duomo sequence at the beginning of the movie, where Four is seen running down the dome of the cathedral, was first up when shooting started at the end of August.
Callum and Josh had been chosen to play bad guys in suits in the Hong Kong chase scene. They were the henchmen who followed Four, Ben Hardy’s character, across the crane and were shooting at him during the beam plyos. Josh was eventually dressed as a chef instead of wearing the suit, and an entire sequence with dialogue was filmed that was cut out, unfortunately, but you can still spot him in his chef outfit in places.
Max and Toby played members of Four’s parkour team in a flashback to the robbery in Ukraine. This was the scene we actually shot on the Budapest rooftop.
A female thief was also needed so we put out a casting call on Instagram, and got Hazal Nehir on board. We had never met her before this, but she really impressed us with her skills. I imagine it was pretty intense for Hazal to have to spend weeks with the seven of us, all day, every day, but somehow she managed to stay good humoured throughout!
Sacha was given the fantastic opportunity to direct and film the entire flashback scene that took place in Budapest – all of the action shots you see there are his. Also there’s a parkour action sequence in the Hong Kong chase, leading up to the beam plyos, which Sacha shot most of.
We realised early on in the process that continuing to make our videos for YouTube, and uploading to schedule every Monday, would be difficult because the entire team was involved in 6 Underground. However, with careful planning, we managed to stay consistent by training at local spots on our days off in Rome, Florence and Budapest. We created some cool videos during that time including Ghetto Rooftop Parkour, which is a testament to the whole team’s commitment to the Monday ritual.
Another challenging aspect of this movie was learning to work with such a massive crew of world-renowned talent, and within the necessary safety constraints. We’re used to it just being the seven of us, with maybe some additional crew, making decisions quickly and on the fly. Movies are a world of regulations, layers of approval, and red tape. Fortunately, the director was always on our side and wanted to get the best out of us.
We loved working with Michael Bay. He’s a brilliant hands-on director, and truly understands how to push people to meet his high expectations. The amount of trust he put in us was incredible and really humbling.
Although we’d worked on feature films before, our level of involvement had been nowhere near this and the element of creative control was a completely new experience. For instance, the plyometric jumps in the Hong Kong scene were directly inspired by an Instagram clip of Callum jumping between similar poles in Brighton. We had complete creative freedom to design the set, the heights and distances between, and choreograph all the movement.
The stunts we performed for 6 Underground were among the most intense moments of our lives. There was incredible pressure, having to perfectly execute some extremely difficult jumps often fifteen or twenty times, through explosions and gunfire, and in front of a crew of hundreds.
All the parkour you see in the movie was performed as naturally as we were allowed to, using the minimum of safety equipment, so we could maintain as much realism as possible. Some of the stunt riggers we worked with – David Hugghins, Aaron Walters and Richard Epper – had previously worked with Tom Cruise on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and were planning on retiring after this. These guys are absolute legends of the industry, and had some mind-blowing stories to tell and fascinating insights to the world of stunts. It was incredible for us to be able to work with them on their last project.
Ben Hardy was also great to work with. Before shooting began, Benj and I were given a few days to train with him in London. We taught him the fundamentals, how to land, jump, basic vaults, climb-ups, etc. He picked it up very quickly, definitely had a genuine interest and natural talent. We spent a lot of time talking him through the mentality behind what we do, so he could understand the character fully. He totally grasped how we think about fear, and actually relays it really well in an interview we found recently here. We couldn’t have asked for a better non-parkour representative for our sport.
While most of our time on set was spent with Ben Hardy, the other members of the cast were equally cool. We only had one scene that overlapped with Ryan Reynolds but did have some brief interactions with him a couple of times. He is a super relaxed and naturally funny guy.
Our work on set was finished by early November 2018, but we would have one more job to do prior to the movie’s release over a year later. And in the meantime, we had to keep the details of our involvement under wraps. Finally, in December 2019 we flew over to New York to perform at the red carpet premiere of 6 Underground.
And a few days after that, on Friday 13th December, Netflix released the film worldwide. Mission complete. We were now able to reveal exactly what we’d been up to all that time ago!
We’re massively grateful to Michael Bay and Netflix for the opportunity to thrust parkour to the forefront of mainstream consciousness again. It was an amazing experience for us and one we’d love to repeat, although the scale of this project will be hard to match – but, who knows, maybe there will be a sequel!
See the 6 Underground trailer, which features some of our sequences plus a clip of our original POV footage, and watch the full movie on Netflix. Then enjoy our series of behind-the-scenes videos, the last of which you’ll find here.