That’s Real Fire and Real Night in ‘Angel Has Fallen’

In an age of superheroes and fantasy realms, it can sometimes feel like nothing you’re watching in a movie is real. Robert Downey, Jr. isn’t really in space in Avengers: Infinity War. The animals in The Lion King aren’t even real animals. At least you can know that when you go see Angel Has Fallen, they really blew things up, and they really shot in the dark.

Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen
Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen | Simon Varsano/Liongate

Angel Has Fallen is the third film in the series of Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen. Gerard Butler returns as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. This time he has to save the President from assassination while Banning himself has been framed for an assassination attempt. Director Ric Roman Waugh told Showbiz Cheat Sheet how he blew stuff up real good. Angel Has Fallen is in theaters Friday, August 23.

There’s a reason you can’t see the night chases in ‘Angel Has Fallen’

Banning goes on the run and finds himself evading cops and locals on the backroads and woods at night. When it’s dark for Banning, it’s dark for you too.

“For me, I wanted night to feel like night,” Waugh said. “I didn’t want to have the big lit backgrounds and so forth. For example, the semi chase, we shot with zero lights. We literally shot it by the headlights of the vehicles and the searchlights and so forth.”

The crew needed light to work by and set up, but when it came time to roll, they shut the lights off. 

Gerard Butler in Angel Has Fallen
Gerard Butler stars as ‘Mike Banning’ in ANGEL HAS FALLEN. | Simon Varsano/Lionsgate

“So when we were out in the middle of the forest and we would yell, ‘Okay, get ready to roll action, turn your headlamps off,’” Waugh said. “And they turned their headlamps off, we were in the pitch black. So I felt like it was a way to introduce the skies and introduce the real-world setting and paint in a different way action films that suddenly have these huge lights everywhere in the air and so forth. I wanted to create much more of a real ambient feel to the movie.”

You will see those explosions in ‘Angel Has Fallen’

When drones attack the President’s escort on Queens Lake, VA, the vehicles they blow up are real. When Banning’s father Clay (Nick Nolte) sets off traps in the woods, those are real. When a helicopter on the roof of a hospital blows up, it’s real.

“There’s some VFX augmentation, but we blew up a tremendous amount of explosions on Queens Lake for the drone attack,” Waugh said. “Virtually everything in the forest is all real. When Clay Banning unleashes a little bit of mayhem on the bad guys. On the rooftop, we blew up that helicopter.”

Angel Has Fallen
Gerard Butler stars as ‘Mike Banning’ in ANGEL HAS FALLEN. Photo Credit: Jack English.

Waugh was a stuntman himself so he drew from his background to create Angel Has Fallen’s action.

“I know what I felt like when I was doing stunts,” Waugh said. “I know how f*cking real it felt being blown up and having those things happen. So what we wanted to do was to create an atmosphere for the audience to where you’re not sitting in the theater watching the screen like voyeurs and seeing something that’s up there. But you actually feel like you’re participating in the action, that you’re rooted in the action the way Mike Banning’s rooted in the action.”

The hospital in ‘Angel Has Fallen’ was three locations

Angel Has Fallen climaxes at a hospital where Banning tries to prove his innocence and prevent the real assassination. That extended finale was actually a mix of three locations. 

Ric Roman Waugh
Ric Roman Waugh on the set of Angel Has Fallen | Jack English/Lionsgate

“There were three different locations plus the rooftop, stitching it all together,” Waugh said. “We shot the movie in three different countries. It’s a big jigsaw puzzle to put together. Especially when you deal with things, weather and everything else, you come up with a major battle plan that’s hopefully as bulletproof as it can be. You know it’s going to get shot to sh*t and you’re going to have to shapeshift and find clever ways to do things when things fall through or new cool inventive ways.”