Cool Movie Tricks: From ‘Back to the Future’ to ‘The Call of the Wild,’ Stunt Coordinator Charlie Croughwell Drops Knowledge

We spoke with stunt pro, Charlie Croughwell, about his career which stretches over three decades in the film business. Some of his recent work includes The Call of the Wild and The Laundromat, and one of his most well-known projects is the classic Back to the Future series. Here are a few tidbits Croughwell shared about how he brings cool stunts to the big screen

Charlie Croughwell, Callie Croughwell, and Harrison Ford
Charlie Croughwell, Callie Croughwell, and Harrison Ford | Photo courtesy of Stephanie Pfingsten / Impact24 PR

About ‘The Call of the Wild’

The Call of the Wild is an adventure movie based on a classic tale. The film stars Hollywood veteran, Harrison Ford, alongside a very tenacious computer generated dog. It features high-action sequences and intricate water scenes that required a keen eye for stunt production.

Croughwell on ‘The Call of the Wild’ river scenes

Charlie Croughwell rehearsing stunts for 'Call of the Wild'
Charlie Croughwell rehearsing stunts for ‘Call of the Wild’ | Photos courtesy of Stephanie Pfingsten / Impact24 PR

Some of that, the river stuff was shot up in BC [British Columbia]. It was basically play work that was done and then, Harrison [Ford] and the canoe were all done on blue screen…We just get professional river people. Guys that, that’s what they do for a living. They’re the best in the world.

We had a double for Harrison in the boat also, but there was no dog in the boat. And then they just animate the body, or they just CG the dog into the boat or create an entirely CG world depending upon what it is they have to do like go over the waterfalls.

Charlie Croughwell

About  ‘The Laundromat’

The Netflix drama, The Laundromat, directed by Steven Soderbergh, stars Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Bandaras. In the film, a boat filled with passengers aged 80 and up capsizes. Croughwell coordinated the intricate stunt with safety considerations top of mind.

Croughwell on capsizing a boat full of seniors in ‘The Laundromat’

Charlie Croughwell with daughter and stunt woman Callie Croughwell
Charlie Croughwell with daughter and stunt woman Callie Croughwell | Photos courtesy of Stephanie Pfingsten / Impact24 PR

I had 15 safety divers and swimmers in the water all around the boat. And I had a couple of safety swimmers on the boat in case someone got trapped, if they got hit over the head, or if they got stuck. We had to make sure that there were people that could respond to an issue — and could read an issue, that could see it — that were performers on the boat.

Also, all the way around the boat, I actually had five Navy Seals in the water as well. And the whole reason for them is I have two people on the boat to every safety person that’s in the water, whether they be divers, or they be swimmers, or whatever the case may be.

When we chose the people for the boat, the most difficult part of that whole thing was that they had to be 80 or over. And if you can capsize a boat at 80-years-old and come out alive, you know you have to be pretty good with water.

So, everyone that we went after, everyone that we brought on have been water people their whole lives. They’re either surfers or they’re divers, or they’re just swimmers — competitive swimmers. But everyone had to have that background. All the people that populated the boat.

So, it’s not complicated. It’s just a matter of making sure that you have the right people there and that everybody’s equipped with what they need to be equipped with.

Charlie Croughwell

About ‘Back to the Future’

Croughwell worked as a stunt double for Michael J. Fox in over a dozen films, including the Back to the Future series, the timeless trilogy helmed by Robert Zemeckis. The series features several stunts, including the famous 1955 skateboarding scene, in which Croughwell performed.

Croughwell on the ‘Back to the Future’ experience

Charlie Croughwell and Michael J. Fox
Charlie Croughwell and Michael J. Fox | Photos courtesy of Stephanie Pfingsten / Impact24 PR

When I started on Back to the Future, basically it was a summer movie, or a movie that came out in the summer, and they thought it was just going to be one of those, you know, a popcorn movie for teenagers, so you don’t really look at it…I don’t think I look at anything in that way, that you think, wow, this just  is going to be an absolutely amazing iconic picture that is just going to stand the test of time and everybody’s going to fall in love with it.

Charlie Croughwell

Read about Croughwell’s first day on the set of Back to the Future and his beginnings as a stunt performer here: Back to the Future’ Stunt Pro Charlie Croughwell Remembers His First Day of Shooting With Michael J. Fox