While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan didn’t actually fall out of a plane in their latest film “Rampage,” their stunt doubles sure did.
In fact, one of them has made a career out of it.
Rook Nelson, owner of Skydive Chicago, helped film sequences of the film in the Ottawa area last year.
“You won’t actually see me,” Nelson explains. “You’ll see my body, but not the face.”
That’s because Nelson served as the body double for Morgan’s character during an adrenaline-pumping sequence where the character falls out of the plane without a parachute.
Luckily Nelson was given a parachute but, with a little stunt work and movie magic, the audience shouldn’t be able to tell.
“To recreate that would be pretty dangerous,” Nelson said with a chuckle. “So we did it as best we could to recreate it.”
Nelson was contacted from a friend in the skydiving industry who was looking for a cornfield backdrop for a skydiving sequence. The movie takes place in and around the Chicago area, so Skydive Chicago was a natural choice.
Nelson said camera crews filmed for about three days in the summer as Nelson and a couple friends jumped out of one of Skydive Chicago’s airplanes. Their plane was later replaced in post-production using computer-generated imagery to appear as if they were jumping out of a military plane.
Nelson also had markings placed on his face so that his face would later be replaced with Morgan’s.
The same was done for Larry Yount, who played Johnson’s character, but a little extra was necessary to make the resemblance more believable
“They put him in a big, rubber suit so he looked massive,” Nelson said.
Nelson explained the two tumble out of an airplane together and Yount has to pretend to put on and pull Nelson’s parachute.
Nelson estimates they did 14 jumps all together with a variety of camera angles, including a helicopter with a gyro-stabilized camera.
They also landed at Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm as the filmmakers didn’t want to see the airport in the background.
Still, Nelson said viewers can see a portion of Route 23 and north of Ottawa.
“They didn't want to get any town as they wanted to see rural cornfields,” Nelson said. “But if you know what you’re looking for then you can tell.”
It’s not the first time Nelson’s expertise and facility were used by Hollywood. Nelson said he did some work for the 2013 film “Grudge Match” starring Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone and also hosted training jumps for crew members of the “Transformers” series.
“Rampage” made an estimated $34.5 million in its first weekend, bringing it to the No. 1 spot at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo.
The film is based on the video game series that originated in 1986 and stars Johnson as a primatologist who teams up with a giant albino gorilla named George to fight off a number of other oversized creatures after science experiments have gone wrong.
Nelson was not one of those to see the film on opening weekend, but expects to see it soon.
“It’s exciting to see myself, even if it’s just my body, on the big screen,” he said.