What do Stranger Things and Ozark have in common, besides being two of Netflix’s biggest shows? Emmy-winning stunt coordinator Hiro Koda, here’s our exclusive interview with him.
Hiro's action-packed adventures with these fans favorites include the Starcourt Mall stunts for Stranger Things Season 3 and the Ozark Season 3 final chapel shootout. He is the Stranger Things stunt coordinator and also served as Season 3's Second Unit Director. To learn more about Hiro’s work on both Ozark and Stranger Things, we spoke with him exclusively below.
WoN: Which was your favorite stunt from Season 3?
Many stunts required a lot of preparation to be successful.
It was especially difficult to capture the scene in which Eleven is being dragged down by her ankle towards the ceiling. Millie was injured in an unrelated accident just before we began shooting. We had to create a wire rig to protect Millie's injured knee and allow for the stunt to look violent as she was being pulled into the air with her ankle. With her stunt double, we tried several configurations of the rig and finally came up with one that was both violent and safe for our actress.
Finale's T-bone sequence at Starcourt Mall required the most careful planning. Director of the episode, The Duffer Brothers wanted each car to arrive in the exact same direction. The moment of impact was captured by timing, speed and direction accuracy. We had to capture the moment of impact in one shot so we used five cameras. Safety reasons meant that most of the cameras were left unmanned. In the unlikely event of a crash, I also designed a catcher for Camaro. The catcher would have prevented the Camaro from colliding into the mall. Tensions were high when I yelled, “Action!” But thanks to the intricate planning of my stunt and the talented stunt drivers, Stanton Barrett and Keith Adams the crash was executed to perfection and one of the most exciting sequences of the show.
WoN: Was there a stunt on Stranger Things that doesn’t look very complicated on screen, but really was?
It was difficult to capture the scene in which Grigori searches for Hopper inside the mirror room. We used tape to guide the actors and stunt doubles in the mirrored room.
WoN: Who from the cast is “all in” when it comes to doing the stunts?
Hopper (David Harbour) was definitely “All In” when it came to the fights. It was evident on the screen that he worked hard and really enjoyed it. Andrey and I were very proud of them, as was the double stunt in their final sequence. David is a master at driving that bronco!
WoN: Millie Bobby Brown uploaded an Instagram video last year in which she was strapped to a harness and moving around midair. This is how much work goes into such a thing.
She had lots of fun with that stunt. To get the best possible action, we did many tests with Millie's stunt double. Millie was quick to learn the moves when we brought her in for rehearsal. My safety is paramount to me, so I and my team thoroughly test all equipment before allowing our actor to get into the rigs.
WoN: You have previously talked about Hopper’s big season finale fight. Was that the most difficult sequence of fights?
The second unit was the one I directed. It involved a grand battle between Grigori and Hopper. The laser was later added to visual effects. I tried to preserve the intricate set's beauty. David Harbour, my second unit's main operator, was a major challenge. He kept moving back and forth from one set to the other. Shooting in chronological order was necessary as David only lasted half of the planned days. Andrey Ivchenko (Grigori) was with us on 2nd unit throughout and never missed a beat working double-time with David and then finishing the day with David’s stunt double.
Both Andrey and David deserve my admiration for their dedication and hard work. I also want to thank their stunt doubles Ken Barefield, Randall Archer and Randall Archer for their efforts in putting themselves through some of the most difficult and challenging sequences this season.
WoN: Also, you are Ozark's stunt coordinator. Was there anything that surprised you the most about last season's episode?
Ozark's cast and crew are amazing. Although I had been a big fan of Ozark for years, Season 3 was the first time that I worked on it. After I began reading the scripts, I saw that any character could be killed. One of the biggest surprises of this last season was Helen’s death! Ozark is dark and exciting. It was thrilling to create the action.
WoN: Have you got any stories from the Ozarks?
There is nothing special, however Jason Bateman makes everyone smile and laugh, even though the plotline of the show is dark.
WoN: What is your favorite Ozark sequence?
My favorite scene was the chapel shootout at the end. The Director, Alik Sakharov, told me, “You have 15 seconds to kill everyone!” It took us a full day to shoot and played out in 10 seconds on screen.
WoN: While Stranger Things makes a lot use of CGI. Does Ozark make any other CGI that would surprise us?
Ozark doesn’t use a lot of visual effects, stunt wise. They’ll add gun flashes and enhance the blood but most everything else is done practically.