Movie sets can be a dangerous place.
These days most big stunts and action sequences are done with the support of CGI. For modern studios and directors, it’s just not worth the risk of losing an actor or stunt person to a stunt gone wrong. While James Cameron has softened alongside Hollywood, his younger and wilder self embraced practical effects to create intense action sequences. Don’t let the word “practical” fool you, because the stunts discussed in this article are as psychotic as they are impressive.
James Cameron and his co-writer William Wisher provide commentary on the Terminator 2 Extended Special Edition DVD. During a pivotal action scene, the antagonist commandeers a helicopter and tosses the pilot to the ground.
“That’s Chuck Tamburro,” Cameron explained. “Vietnam trained pilot, Excellent helicopter pilot, one of the best in the business. Possibly the best.” The sequence progressed to an intense moment in which the stolen vehicle approaches an underpass.
“Now here it gets interesting. You see this helicopter going under a freeway overpass? That’s a helicopter going under a freeway overpass.” Cameron said, repeating himself to imply that there was no green screen involved in the seemingly impossible stunt.
“That was real?” Wisher asked in disbelief.
The Terminator director went on to explain that the camera crew refused to shoot the scene, forcing James to take matters into his own hands. It was just Cameron and the insert car driver following the helicopter through the underpass to capture the scene.
“So that guy really just flew under that overpass?” Wisher asked again, still stunned by the revelation.
“Yeah, it was Chuck Tamburro! Now watch this…” Cameron draws attention to the next part of the sequence in which Mike Tamburro pulls up and barely misses the skids on top of the underpass. “These are NOT things you should do with a helicopter but these guys were so good.”
Michael Tamburro was Chuck Tamburro’s younger brother who died in 1996. Chuck seems to have retired with his last imdb credit coming in 2016 but his nephew Michael Jr. continues the Tamburro legacy to this day, working on big budget films like Wakanda Forever as an aerial coordinator.
As for the Terminator 2 scene, fans in the Youtube comment section mourn the sequence as a relic of a bygone era.
“It makes me sad that we won’t ever see a scene like that anymore. Despite all the movies that try to go for practical effects, nobody would risk actually flying a helicopter under a bridge when the CGI is almost as good. It makes sense, it’s stupid dangerous to risk the lives of the crew and pilot for a single shot, but it makes me sad that it’ll never happen again.”
Not every stunt has been replaced with CGI. Plenty of dead and injured stunt people attest to the existing danger. While fatalities have declined since the 90s, increased movie production has led to a recent uptick. While CGI is something we should embrace for the lives and limbs of stuntmen and women, the Terminator 2 helicopter stunt proves that it’s hard to compete with the real thing.