Watch: Michael Bay discusses biggest stunts in Ambulance
Ambulance director Michael Bay said he is 'the Michael Jordan' of a certain brand of movie stunt and said his speedy shooting style allowed him to make the most of locked-down LA while filming.
The film follows Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as sibling bank robbers who commandeer an ambulance to escape when their heist goes wrong, taking a first responder (Eiza González) hostage in the process.
It's an intense, near-real-time thriller, punctuated by elaborate and explosive vehicular stunts — mostly carried out through the medium of practical effects rather than CGI.
"I didn't realise it would go that big. I kept saying I was making a small movie," Bay told Yahoo.
The movie was filmed in late 2020 on the streets of Los Angeles, with intermittent COVID-19 lockdowns leading to the streets being emptied.
Bay explained that he was given access to police vehicles and permission to drive vehicles at high-speed on public freeways thanks to the cooperation of law enforcement, even when he was shooting with a smaller crew due to restrictions.
He added: "The city was shut down a lot because we were at the height of COVID. LAPD gave me 50 real cops, so then it started getting bigger and bigger.
"Literally, it was 50 real cops, real SWATs, snipers, whatever. They were calling in police helos [helicopters] like 'hey, can you do a fly-by?'. I swear to God. We were locked down, so we got a lot of freebies on this.
"We were shooting real fast. I've got a skill of shooting very fast as a director, doing about 120 shots a day.
"It helped the intensity of the movie and we were able to make it feel bigger than it was originally written."
Although Bay got a lot of benefits from shooting in a city where, in his words, "there was nothing for anybody to do except go to a movie set", it wasn't always easy.
He said: "I did an explosion I posted on Instagram. It went to the governor's office and the mayor in Los Angeles. He said 'this is dangerous'.
"That's me in the dolly shot in the black fire suit. The ambulance comes right towards me. That was a perfectly planned stunt.
"I had to tell the head fire guy because the city started giving me a hard time.
"I said: 'Listen, I'm like the Michael Jordan of doing these types of ratchets and explosions. I've done more of them than anybody in the world. You know how to fight fires. This is what I know how to do'."
Given the effort put in to deliver high-quality, practical stunts, Bay is delighted that his movie will be screening in cinemas rather than on streaming services.
He said he had been lucky in recent weeks to be able to watch the movie with audiences, including at a screening in London on Wednesday evening.
"It's a good, intense, call-back to the 90s. It's sort of like a kick-ass action movie that feels real and authentic," said Bay.
He added: "It's almost all real stunts, very little CG. It's got great Atmos sound if you can hear it. An intense movie is just never as intense sitting in your living room."
Ambulance is screening in UK cinemas now.
Watch: Trailer for Michael Bay action thriller Ambulance