When Jackie Chan, Chris Rock and Zhang Ziyi’s characters leap out of an exploding 15th-floor room of the Dragon Inn during New Line’s “Rush Hour 2,” they’re performing a stunt created by veteran Conrad (known to his friends and co-workers as Connie) Palmisano.
The mix of hard work and spectacle — staged in the repainted, abandoned Desert Inn hotel on the Las Vegas Strip –was the hardest performed during the nearly six-month shoot.
“We had mountain-climbing engineers and other special stunt riggers to do an elaborate flying stunt like this,” says stunt coordinator Palmisano, who has been making audiences gasp in astonishment since he become a stuntman in 1970. He got his big break coordinating stunts on the Sylvester Stallone starrer “First Blood.” The seasoned second unit director has been the mainstay of many martial arts films, having combined creative forces with everyone from Jet Li (“Romeo Must Die”) to Steven Seagal (“Under Siege”).
Though he’s been in the biz for the same three decades as pic’s legendarily indestructible martial arts star Chan, Palmisano relies on many factors to turn what’s written in the script into an unforgettable image on the screen.
“It’s a meld between taking the written concept, applying it to the characters, then to the locations as well,” he says. “I then collaborate with the director, and with the star, like Jackie, and then kick it all around to see what works.”
Chan — notorious for performing all of his own stunts — did, according to Palmisano, about 98.9% of his stunts on “Rush Hour 2.”
“Jackie has a very strong way of shooting his fight action sequences, and is very specific about the way he wants it edited together,” Palmisano says. “But the hotel jump was much more my doing than his.”
In fact, fans will be shocked to learn there was a stunt double for Chan in the complex sequence.
“Even though he is more than willing to walk face first into an explosion in a Hong Kong film,” assures Palmisano, “the American film industry won’t allow him to do those kinds of things.”