These days Marvel’s film and TV projects have reached a level of quality that is hard to deny. The MCU is bigger and badder than ever, while Netflix’s Marvel projects manage to revolutionize the streaming video service. 20th Century Fox also has enjoyed the fruits of Marvel’s live action properties thanks to the unforeseen financial and critical success of Deadpool, which has become the highest grossing R-rated comic book movie of all-time with an impressive $600 million plus box office haul since opening on February 12, 2016.
There are many reasons for why Marvel’s properties have done so well in other mediums besides comic books, but when it comes to the Daredevil Netflix franchise and the Deadpool movie franchise, the intense action sequences stand out as reasons to watch them among a litany of others. Now on projects of this size no single person is responsible for pulling off the gut busting, face cracking, sword slicing action—it takes a team—but that team is usually helmed by a stunt and/or fight coordinator to provide the overall vision based on the script and Director input. If you’ve watched the first season of Daredevil, or saw Deadpool, there’s a great chance you walked away from both experiences blown away by the action, particularly the fight scenes. This feeling of jubilation and amazement is the result of Philip Silvera’s—the Stunt Coordinator and Fight Coordinator for both projects—studious planning and the masterful execution of the action sequences by his teams. The work he and his teams have achieved on these projects have put Silvera in the spotlight, because it’s hard to not look at Daredevil and Deadpool and not talk about their respective action sequences, and how impactful they were at bringing the comic book characters to life. I was lucky enough to interview Silvera about his work on Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, as well as his work on Deadpool, and after speaking with him it’s very easy to see why these two Marvel properties feature some of the best action to be featured in any live action comic book project released.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Before getting into his work on Daredevil and Deadpool we must first understand where the stunt maestro came from. Silvera relayed to me that he always knew he’d be destined to be in the stunt business, it’s been a part of him from birth. From his early days boxing with his Dad, to being featured in off Broadway shows doing acrobatics, Philip has always had a knack for action and rough housing. Although, it wasn’t until 2004 when Silvera made a full commitment to becoming a big time stunt man for TV and film projects. Thanks to his skills and commitment to the trade, he soon found himself getting mixed up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you’ve seen any of the MCU projects there’s a great chance you’ve seen Philip in action. He’s been slammed through a table by the Iron Patriot in Iron Man 3, and had his ass kicked by Captain America in an elevator in The Winter Soldier, as well as many other action oriented roles in a few of the other MCU films. Quite frankly, this run of comic book films and TV shows has been a dream come true for Silvera, who is a self-described, “$200-$300 a month” comic book aficionado. Like all humans strive for, Philip has found his calling by getting to showcase his love of martial arts and comic books for a living, which is a pretty damn radical job if I must say.
There’s no doubt that his passions for comics and stunts are what have led to Daredevil and Deadpool featuring some of the most authentic looking and badass action on the planet. We discussed these projects at length so I could learn more about his processes to find out why these Marvel films (Daredevil is a long ass movie people) feature such memorable action beats, and have set the bar for future projects to live up to.
We started with his work on Deadpool, which he had a hand in bringing to the silver screen thanks to his work on the “leaked” fight demo from a few years back that ultimately got the film funded. In that demo Silvera not only coordinated the action, but he played Deadpool while fighting in the SUV. The scene is nearly identical to the opening of the actual film, so Philip’s vision for the action carried through along with Tim Miller’s ultimate direction of the scene and project.
The pairing of Miller and Silvera is obviously a match made in heaven, just go watch Deadpool and tell me that the action didn’t knock your socks off, but these two have been working together for years, which definitely played into Deadpool’s ultimate success. Miller’s Blur Studios, which is known for making some of the most iconic video game cinematics and trailers to ever be featured in gaming, is where these two refined their working relationship. Silvera starred in, and coordinated most of these iconic cinematic video game promotions, which have seen him portray Batman for the Arkham games, and a badass Dark Side warrior in Star Wars The Old Republic. There’s no doubt that these projects led to Philip’s involvement with Deadpool, and if you’ve seen any of them, then it’s very easy to understand why that film turned out so excellent on all fronts. As the Stunt and Fight Coordinator on the project, Silvera was responsible for taking the vision of the Director and Deadpool’s writers and bringing the action beats to life with bravado. I asked him where his inspirations for Deadpool’s fighting style came from, and he assured me that he always bases a comic book character’s fight style on how he interpreted it from the comics. He essentially made Deadpool fight they way he wanted to see the character fight in his own mind based on his love of comics and martial arts, which proves that Silvera’s mind is an awesome collection of killer stunt ideas centered around comic book character authenticity. Kids, he’s a shining example for following your passions in life and putting in the hard work to achieve your goals centered around them, because what young aspiring martial artist/comic book lover wouldn’t want to help bring a character like Deadpool to life.
Along with Miller and his writers you can thank Philip for Deadpool’s R-rating, which he fully anticipated based on the fights he had planned for the character from the script and Miller’s direction. Silvera explained that he always leans towards the gritty, bloody, and unforgiving action that is featured in Deadpool, so going into his fight planning, he opened up his brutal throttle to achieve the vision he had for Deadpool’s fight style, which is instantly realized within the first few minutes of the film. Henchman kabobs anyone?
Silvera and his team of stunt performers provided the blueprint for Deadpool’s devilishly fun action sequences, but as he reminded me, if it weren’t for Ryan Reynolds’ embodiment of the character, then the action set pieces and the film in general wouldn’t have worked. Philip said Reynolds was a dream to work with from a stunts standpoint, because not only would he put the work in for dialogue heavy scenes, but he’d turn around and bust his ass to learn the complicated fight choreography without batting an eye.
According to Silvera, Reynolds did as much action as possible, and was very efficient at it thanks to his dedication to the craft. I asked if Deadpool had to be digitized for the more explosive and insane stunts, which he was, but the performance was never fully computer generated, as Reynolds’ stunt double Alex Kyshkovych would still do mo-cap for the few moments that required a fully CG Deadpool. Either way, at all times there’s never a moment in Deadpool where he looks fake, or pulls off moves that are too fantastical, which is a direct result of Silvera’s coordination efforts, understanding of the character, and the execution of the character by Reynolds, his double, and the various stunt performers that aren’t featured on screen.
During the interview I tended to focus my questions on Reynolds and Deadpool, but Silvera made it clear that all of the stars were dreams to work with. Like Reynolds, Ed Skrein also would dedicate himself to the fight choreography, even after a long day of filming dialogue, and Philip had nothing but positive things to say about Gina Carano’s stunt work. Thanks to her MMA background Silvera said she excelled at learning his fight choreography, and didn’t need much explanation for Angel Dust’s move sets. In fact, according to Philip, Angel Dust’s throw down with Colossus was one of the most challenging fight sequences to pull off thanks to the fact that the big guy was a full on CGI character. Silvera said Carano would have to rehearse with Andre Tricoteux, the Colossus body double, and then fight an invisible opponent during filming so the CGI Colossus could be edited in. The fight looked amazing and felt like two real mutants were beating the tar out of each other, so once again Philip, the stunt performers, and the actors involved all knocked it out of the park.
As we wrapped the Deadpool discussion I had to ask Silvera about any strange set stories, or the moment he knew he was working on a very special project. As far as the set stories go he said anytime Ryan Reynolds and T.J. Miller got together it made for an extremely entertaining experience thanks to their knack for comedy and brilliant delivery. In regards to the most special moment, at least for Philip, it was the burning lab brawl between Reynolds and Skrein, which according to him is way more violent and explosive than we saw in the theatrical cut, so he’s excited for fans to see the extended version once Deadpool hits home release.
One would think working on Deadpool would keep a stuntman busy, but not so much for Philip Silvera, who also coordinates the stunts and fights for Daredevil on Netflix along with his Assistant Stunt Coordinator Eric Linden, Assistant Fight Coordinator Roberto Gutierrez, and Stunt Rigging Coordinator Joe Ross. Season 2 is set to debut on the streaming service on March 18th, so I had to press Silvera on his work that will be featured this time around, but before discussing what fans should expect in the second season, I had to pester him about his work on the first season, specifically the iconic one shot sequence that set the tone for the show’s top-notch action.
We didn’t talk about how many takes it took—that’s been covered—instead I asked about how that sequence came to be. I, like many of you, assumed that the show’s Stunt/Fight Coordinator dreamed up the sequence, but according to Silvera, he followed Drew Goddard’s vision to a “T.” Obviously he brought much to this scene, because words can only frame the action, people like Philip bring it to life. With that in mind I asked him if he looks forward to the challenges of a one shot fight sequence, or if he dreads them due to all of the potential pitfalls. Silvera made it very clear that he tried to get the Director of Photography to use creative wipes and other cuts to simulate a one shot, but soon bought into the vision and embraced the challenge, because he knew it would be the season’s shining moment early on in its run, and would set the bar high for the show’s action set pieces. The finished product is one of the most beautifully brutal fights I’ve ever seen, and a shining example of what can happen when a skilled Stunt/Fight Coordinator like Silvera works with a brilliant team of stunt performers and writers to bring a comic book character to life.
After the one shot discussion we moved on to Daredevil Season 2 and what fans should expect in terms of the fight sequences and action. Before getting into the nitty gritty though, I asked Silvera about his inspirations behind the fighting style he gave Daredevil. Just like Deadpool, Philip drew on his deep comic book knowledge of the character, as well as how he would want to portray the character’s fighting style if he was Daredevil himself. We saw how this turned out in Season 1, Daredevil was an extremely efficient warrior who moved faster and deadlier than his foes who could see, but according to Silvera we will get to see an evolution of Daredevil’s fighting abilities in Season 2. Without going into detail for the sake of spoilers and confidentiality agreements, he did assure me that fans will get to see Daredevil do things we didn’t see him do in Season 1, so be prepared to have your mind blown yet again with some insane action and fight sequences courtesy of a blind lawyer who also happens to be one of the biggest badasses in Hell’s Kitchen.
Daredevil Season 2 just isn’t about Matt Murdock though, so naturally we had to talk about the arrival of the Punisher, who is played by Jon Bernthal. I’ve always been a fan of the Punisher, so I’m excited to see how he’ll be portrayed in Daredevil in terms of his fighting style. The Punisher isn’t as quick and nimble as Daredevil, so I had to ask Philip if he preferred choreographing the more raw in your face style of the Big Pun, or the martial arts-centric style of Daredevil. Without flinching Silvera said he loved bringing the Punisher’s brutal style to life. I really got a sense that Philip’s preferred style of fighting is of the strategic barbaric variety, which fits the Punisher perfectly, so we should all expect bad things to go down anytime he’s on screen. Silvera mentioned that the fact that Punisher will go to the point of murder allowed him to get even more sinister and graphic with the fight choreography.
Fans should expect more violence because of this, and more jaw dropping moments thanks to the flexibility Netflix has given the show’s creators in terms of the violence that can be shown. Let’s just say that Philip hinted that we will see shocking violence similar to the Wilson Fisk car door decapitation from Season 1. Yes please!
The Punisher will definitely ratchet up the violence, so I had to ask Silvera about his time with Bernthal in regards to his fighting skills. Philip said that without a doubt this dude is the Punisher, and took to the fight sequences like a pro. Similar to the cast of Deadpool, it sounds like Bernthal put his heart and soul into the role, and any free time he had he’d dedicate to working with the stunt team, his double Eric Linden, and Silvera to perfect the choreography like a pro. According to Philip his dedication, as well as the dedication from the existing cast, namely Charlie Cox, has yielded another infamous action sequence (or two) that will rival the iconic one shot hallway fight from Season 1, and that should most definitely get the nipples of all fans of the show erect.
As we wrapped our discussion on Daredevil Season 2 I tried to get Silvera to drop a juicy spoiler, but he’s a consummate professional and didn’t crack under my questioning. He wouldn’t comment on where the Punisher’s and Daredevil’s relationship will be by the end of the season, because from what we’ve been shown these two definitely don’t look like friends or even partners in the same cause, so as Philip suggested we should all tune in on March 18th to find out for ourselves.
My money is on them coming to an understanding to take down a bigger threat, but not fully agreeing on how they both choose to enforce their different brands of justice. If anything, as Philip explains below, the level of work he and his team put into Daredevil Season 2 will surely make it as memorable, if not more so than the original, so don’t skip out on this Marvel project.
“DD season 2 was a grueling effort from everyone on the stunt team, show runners, actors, writers and crew, who work endlessly to give the show the best we all could and make a 13 hour movie.”
Superhero Dream Fights
Finally, due to Silvera’s love of comic books and the whimsical characters that come from them, I had to ask him a few fun questions on who he thought would win a fight if we could just line up characters and make them do battle. When it comes to a fight between Deadpool and Daredevil Philip is going for Deadpool. If a fight broke out between Deadpool and the Punisher he’s still picking Deadpool. Finally, if Deadpool fought his hero Wolverine, Silvera emphatically thinks Deadpool would win. I think it’s fair to say that Philip is a Deadpool superfan, but after seeing his movie it’s easy to understand why.
I had to ask him about DC Comics, which he’s a big fan of, so when it came to the question of the day—Batman v Superman—he went with the Dark Knight, and said he’d love to work on a DC project. Warner Bros., you listening?
Action and fight sequences aren’t mandatory for a film or TV project to be entertaining, just look at a majority of the recent Best Picture winners, but when it comes to a live action comic book project, they are a must. It’s people like Philip Silvera and the unheralded stunt performers that bring these scenes to life, giving projects like Deadpool and Daredevil a sense of authenticity in terms of staying true to the characters and the amazing feats fans love them for from the comic books. It’s a shame that stunt people aren’t recognized for their efforts like every other department on a film project, because without them and people like Silvera, we wouldn’t get to experience awesome moments like Daredevil’s ridiculous one shot fight sequence, or Deadpool’s deadly flips, twists, gun tricks and sword tips. Without moments like these life isn’t even worth living, well, that may be a bit much, but you get my point. Reach out and hug a stunt person, because there is much more to them than a lack of fear.
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