‘Bullet Train’ Director Reveals Why the Brad Pitt-Aaron Taylor-Johnson Fight Scene Was so Hard to Shoot

We haven’t seen Brad Pitt in a starring role for quite a while. Bullet Train changes that. The last time he headlined a movie came in 2019’s Ad Astra, which hit theaters almost three years before Bullet Train. Pitt addressed retirement rumors while promoting the movie, and one hard-to-shoot Bullet Train fight scene could prove that his retirement remains beyond the horizon.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (left) and Brad Pitt in 'Bullet Train.' The concession car fight scene between Pitt and Taylor-Johnson was hard to shoot because of a last-minute change by director David Leitch.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (left) and Brad Pitt in ‘Bullet Train’ | Sony Pictures

Director David Leitch is also a stunt coordinator

David Leitch was a stunt performer and coordinator on movies such as V for Vendetta, Tron: Legacy, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He then transitioned to directing, and his resumé includes John Wick, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and Deadpool 2 (though he won’t return for Deadpool 3).

Leitch knows a thing or two about staging and shooting a fight scene, and Bullet Train contains several. He typically shoots and edits a rough cut with the stunt performers to get a feel for what it will look like when the actors step in. 

He followed that process on Bullet Train, but a moment of inspiration triggered a last-second change that made one fight scene between Pitt and Aaron Taylor-Johnson the hardest to shoot.

Why one ‘Bullet Train’ fight scene was the hardest one to shoot

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Bullet Train takes place on a high-speed Japanese locomotive, but Leitch shot most of the movie in and around Los Angeles, per IMDb. The movie’s train was housed in a soundstage at Sony, as he told Collider.

Leitch had a last-minute idea to switch the setting for a fight scene between Pitt and Taylor-Johnson, but it presented a challenge even in the controlled environment of a soundstage. As he told Collider:

“[O]ne of the fights with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Brad Pitt, it changed cars. … I thought it was more fun to be inside of the service car where the concessions were, where the concession cart could come in, and we could do this sort of fun gag with the concession girl. Problem is, that set wasn’t made to fly. The walls couldn’t move.

“So logistically, you got a camera operator in there, you got a China ball light, and you got sound, and you’re trying to move and fight. And that was hard. It was hard.”

Bullet Train director David Leitch on shooting the Brad Pitt-Aaron Taylor-Johnson fight

The constraints of a confined space made shooting and performing the concession car fight scene difficult. It was so hard to shoot, Leitch recalls the specific challenges months later. The director praised the actors for rolling along with the drastic last-minute changes and making the scene work. It might have been one of the hardest Bullet Train scenes for Leitch to shoot, but the results speak for themselves. The fight sequences bring some of Bullet Train’s best highlights.

Is ‘Bullet Train’ a remake, and what is it about?

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Pitt plays Ladybug in Bullet Train, a skilled assassin looking to do a quiet job after several messy gigs. But Ladybug’s latest mission puts him on a collision course with several other trained killers — all with connected yet conflicting objectives — on the world’s fastest train. 

The movie is not a remake. It’s based on the novel Maria Beetle by Kōtarō Isaka, originally published in 2010. Both the book and the movie are full of violent killings, which makes sense when assassins are involved. The concession car fight between Pitt and Taylor-Johnson proved hard to shoot because of the last-minute location change, but there are several other action sequences featuring the five stars.

In addition to Pitt as Ladybug and Taylor-Johnson as Tangerine, Bullet Train stars Joey King (Prince), Brian Tyree Henry (Lemon), Bad Bunny (Wolf), Michael Shannon (White Death), and, in her second movie with Pitt in 2022, Sandra Bullock (Maria).

Bullet Train arrives in theaters Aug. 5.

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