As reports circulate about Fast and Furious fans doing donuts, drifts and other dangerous maneuvers at the industrial park where Paul Walker and racing buddy Rodger Rodas had their deadly crash Nov. 30, the deeply held secret of Hollywood’s top stunt drivers is emerging. Hercules Street in Santa Clarita, CA is a known hot spot for stuntmen and their drivers to practice in wide-open, street-like conditions.
It’s largely unpatrolled and it’s desolate with out being especially remote. And of course, it’s completely illegal to practice spinning your wheels and burning rubber here.
In his book, The Full Burn: On the Set, at the Bar, Behind the Wheel, and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntmen, author Kevin Conley recounts an experience performing stunts on Hercules (although the street is unnamed in the book) with actor Adrien Brody and acclaimed stuntman Sean Graham. Known perhaps most for doubling as Mark Wahlberg and taking a Mini Cooper up the walls of an L.A. water main in The Italian Job, Graham teaches Brody how to “ride the slide,” a move that involves pulling the emergency break while moving at high speeds, causing the car to screech around a curve—or “drift” around it in racing terms.
Hubie Kerns, a stunt driver and coordinator who co-founded Drivers, Inc., said he has taken “some younger drivers” on Hercules for a training session, and though the street is not well known, other stuntmen have used it as well.
“That’s sort of hush hush,” said Kerns.
“I don’t want to give that street a bad name,” said another “stunt vehicle specialist,” Mike Ryan, who owns a shop less than a mile away from the crash site, and had worked on the three most recent Fast and Furious films, the franchise which more or less made Walker’s career.
“On the weekends it’s pretty quiet, and there’s a handful of pretty serious car guys… it’s a nice road… It’s a place where you could let [the car] breath a little bit.”
As a California Highway Patrolman told Fox News, Hercules is a well-known “hot spot for street racers,” with visible skid marks on the pavement offering proof as to the street’s secondary purpose. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that Walker’s accident was not the first speed-related crash.
In his book, Conley describes the site as a mysterious meeting point an hour north of L.A. and, “Nobody around, maybe four cars parked in the entire canyon of half-built, big-box warehouses.” After running Brody through the basics of 180s, Graham “urged him to increase the speed and stay on the gas throughout the turn for a ‘race car drift.”
Brody responds with, “Mmmm[….]That’s dangerous. You’re teaching me bad things. Let’s do it the other direction.”
Insiders have confirmed the spot where Graham took Brody is Hercules Street in Santa Clarita. Rodas’ autoshop Always Evolving is 500 yards away from the crash site on Constellation Road. It’s no coincidence that he set up business in an area the racing cognoscenti would know about. “It’s a signal to customers that you’re in with the initiates now,” says an insider.
Longtime stuntman Rick Seaman said that very few of his colleagues practice their trade on public roads anymore.
“There was a time years ago, when we all did that, had our private secret roads,” said Seaman. “The way LA has grown over the decades, with more focus on liability and law enforcement, it’s hard to get away with that anymore. Especially in Santa Clarita — those are tough cops. But there could be exceptions.”
Another stunt driver, Wally Crowder, said that the studio that produced the Fast and Furious franchise had told all of its stuntmen not to talk to the press.
“Universal Studios has given strict instructions to all stunt men not to say anything,” he said. “You’ll find out more by going on TMZ than you will talking to us.”
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