As I was binge watching ‘The Defenders’ for my reviews (the first of which you can check out here), I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to interview Chris Brewster once again, the man who is the stunt-double for Charlie Cox (aka Matt Murdock/Daredevil) and has been since ‘Daredevil‘ Season 1. Chris was game to answer all of my questions about ‘The Defenders’ and the amazing action scenes they got to film, and what it was like to be involved in the series that was the culmination of all the Netflix/ Marvel shows to date.
SPOILERS BEWARE! If you haven’t finished ‘The Defenders,’ turn back now! Chris and I discuss quite a few plot points, and I wouldn’t want to ruin the show for anyone!
ScienceFiction.com (SF): So Matt does a lot of fighting this season outside of the Daredevil costume, and wearing an actual business suit, what challenges did that present? Or did it make things easier not having the bulky Daredevil costume on when doing stunt work?
Chris Brewster (CB): It was a great change of pace, jumping back and forth between the Daredevil suit and a business suit. Each one allows for different movements. I think we are able to incorporate and play off the advantages of each outfit. The business suit is lighter and easy to move in but offers no protection. Therefore, fighting is more defensive and slick out of the DD suit, but when he is in the DD suit, he has less to worry about.
SF: There was a lot of negativity around Finn Jones and his choreography in ‘Iron Fist,’ especially in regards to the idea that he simply was not capable of performing a lot of the action. Was there any extra effort put in by the stunt team on set to let Finn Jones do his own work more in ‘The Defenders?’ It sure seemed like a better balance in this series.
(CB): I don’t know what people are talking about. Finn picks up choreography really well and did a fantastic job on Defenders. He came in and trained hard. It’s extremely hard for the actors to get time to train when they are filming just about every day for 12 or more hours. We normally only have a week or two to prep for the season, so the actors have to go from 0-60 fast!
SF: The big hallway fight in Episode 3 – usually for a scene like that it is one hero versus all of the bad-guys (i.e. Daredevil vs everyone), only now in ‘The Defenders’ it’s 4 heroes versus all the bad guys. What challenges did it present for you to have to keep track of the other hero characters during a close quarters fight scene like that?
(CB): This scene was the first time you saw all four Defenders fighting. It was an awesome challenge to present each character’s style and character through their movements. With that many moving parts, the hardest part is to find and tell the story through the action. Luckily, with 3 different areas and 3 very different feels (Iron Fist and Luke Cage in the boardroom, all four fighting in the hallway, and DD/Elektra in the office), we were able to do that. I need to give credit to every single department. The change in environment, from scene to scene; the tricky camera work, the lighting… everything helped achieve a really great action sequence.
SF: While speaking of the hallway fight, Matt Murdock is wearing a scarf around his head for those scenes, did you have to do all the stunt work blind?
(CB): Wardrobe and props are absolute geniuses, who help design sneaky ways to make blindfolds work. But there are times that Charlie and I are definitely pretty blind. lol.
(CB): Not at all. To me, fight choreography can either be exciting in telling a story, or just a bunch of boring moves thrown without purpose. The four Defenders all have such well-thought characters, that come through in every move they do. Obviously, Daredevil is known for his acrobatics and brutality. But, Luke Cage and Jessica are so strong, they have no need to do anything flashy or intense. I think the polar opposite styles of the characters actually compliment and highlight each other.
SF: I know there were a lot of them in the series, but what was your favorite fight scene in ‘The Defenders?’ What was your favorite stunt with Matt?
(CB): I absolutely loved the DD/Iron Fist fight. It was a very cool change of pace. Most fights involve characters trying to hurt each other. This was more of a brotherly love kind of fight. Charlie and Finn absolutely killed it!
SF: Similar to the above question, what was the hardest stunt/ fight scene you had to deal with in ‘The Defenders?’
(CB): The final battle involved 30 or more bad guys, and the 4 Defenders all fighting in a small cave. There were rocks, and puddles, and all kinds of obstacles. I loved it! Every obstacle makes the fight more exciting and real. Our stunt coordinator, Matt Mullins, did an amazing job keeping everyone safe, but also pushing us to create and perform something really great!
SF: During the fight scenes with Elektra, how do you feel Daredevil’s fighting style was adjusted to portray that this was still the woman he loved, and he did not really want to hurt her? Were the moves less aggressive?
(CB): These fights worked out so well because the actors worked very closely with us in every step of the choreography. Charlie and Elodie spent days in the stunt room, sharing ideas and helping us find the story within each fight. By sharing their thoughts and feelings, we were all able to choreograph moves that really made sense. With the underlying story, obviously Matt would never want to hurt Elektra, so his style is very different from his normal “devil mode”. However, since Elektra doesn’t remember who she is, she is a trained assassin going in for the kill. If Matt doesn’t protect himself, he could die, and so could his friends.
SF: What efforts were put in to distinguish Matt’s fighting style from Danny Rand’s? And also to show that Matt is the better fighter (at least according to what Stick said during the series)?
(CB): Even though Matt and Danny are both martial arts experts, their fighting styles are very different. Matt is more of a hard stylist. He punches like a boxer, kicks like a kickboxer or tae kwon do stylist. He is extremely agile and doesn’t rely on his vision, so parkour and tricking come naturally to him. Danny is a kung fu master. Kung Fu is more fluid. Danny has learned the ability to harness his chi. When he needs to use his power, his strategy is creating an opening to use it. Character wise, Matt has been fighting longer than Danny, so he is much more confident in his movements. He is more aggressive. Overall, Danny is a martial artist, but Matt is a fighter.
After watching the series, I definitely have to agree with Chris that it was fascinating to see all of the different fighting styles working together. I think they did an excellent job of making each character’s style unique. Iron Fist and Daredevil could have easily fallen into the trap of looking too similar because they both rely on martial arts over strength like Jessica and Luke. Speaking with Chris you really get a sense that every fight scene has an art to it and appreciate the time and effort that goes into the planning and execution of each move. The story the stunt people, actors, and choreographers are trying to convey with how the fight moves and flows, I may go back and rewatch the whole series now with a whole new appreciation for these scenes.
Let us know your thoughts on the action of ‘The Defenders’ in the comments below, and of course, thank you, Chris, for taking the time to answer all of my questions!