Netflix’s “Daredevil” went viral in April 2015 thanks to a season one fight scene that was edited together to look like an uninterrupted shot running three minutes. The hallway fight became a staple of the show’s inaugural run, earning over 2 million views on YouTube and making fans wonder when the Marvel series would ever try to do something that ambitious again. The answer, as fans are now discovering, is in the fourth episode of the newly released third season. The installment, entitled “Blindsided,” features a one take that lasts 10 minutes and 43 seconds.
What makes the season three long take such a jaw-dropping feat isn’t its length but the fact it really is a single, uninterrupted shot. Showrunner Erik Oleson recently told Vulture the fight scene is an actual 11-minute take and not several shots stitched together like the season one fight scene or Alejandro González Iñárritu’s movie “Birdman.”
“I had built in some places where we could’ve hidden cuts if it didn’t work, like the darkened hallway where he’s looking up and the red lights are flashing,” Oleson said. “But instead, in post-production, I insisted on using a true one-take and I lightened that hallway so that the audience can see that there are no hidden cuts.”
The idea to film the fight scene in an uninterrupted take came from episode director Alex Garcia Lopez. When Lopez proposed the idea to Oleson, he immediately was met with some roadblocks, starting with the fact it takes hours of rehearsal to successfully pull off a one take fight scene. “I had to call all the financial people and say, ‘Guess what? We’re gonna stop filming for a day but have the entire crew there to rehearse,’” Oleson said. “From television production, that’s definitely caused some agita.”
Tom Lieber, Marvel Television’s vice president of original programming, admitted to being apprehensive to the idea at first. “I was like, ‘This is 12 pages of script,’” Lieber told Vulture. “He’s like, ‘Yeah, I know! Isn’t that crazy?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it is!’” What finally convinced Marvel executives to give the one take a go was the cast and crew’s willingness to go above and beyond to pull it off.
“Charlie was really excited about it,” Lieber said. “Our camera [operator] was really excited about it. Alex was beaming about it. We were like, ‘We should just do it. We should just try it. We have to set them up for success with this.’”
The scene was shot at an abandoned prison in Staten Island, New York in under 12 hours. Lopez said Cox performed about 80 percent of the fight himself. One of the bigger challenges in pulling off the scene was figuring out the moments when Lopez could sub in Cox’s stunt double, Chris Brewster, and then sub Cox back in without making it obvious to the viewer. The stunt team started practicing these subs, called “Texas switches,” before rehearsal even started.
“The stunt guys came up with some very clever ways of doing it,” Lopez said. “For example, when he’s in the hallway where the police guys come at him and start hitting him with the baton, one moment it’s Brewster, and then he gets hit with the baton a bunch of times. He falls down, he gives one kick, which is him, and then the second kick is given by Charlie, sort of laying next to him, and then Charlie gets up. So there’s these constant Texas switches happening throughout the oner.”
Lopez said the main source of inspiration for the scene was the famous “Children of Men” one take, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. “What he did was obviously a very big reference for this,” the director said. Lopez and cinematographer Chris LaVasseur specifically looked to “Children of Men” DP Emmanuel Lubezki and the way he shot the film’s climactic one take at mid-range so that the viewer never questioned it wasn’t a oner. The camera never soars above the camera in “Children of Men,” and Lopez and LaVasseur didn’t want it to for “Daredevil” either.
Head over to Vulture for more fascinating behind-the-scenes details from Lopez.