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Everything Everywhere Stunt Coordinator Timothy Eulich On Action, Michelle Yeoh, And More - Exclusive Interview

If you see "Everything Everywhere All at Once," the mind-twisting new science fiction-martial arts-family crisis epic from directors and writers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who are credited as Daniels on screen), you'll immediately be struck by the explosive, highly kinetic action sequences in which Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) must do battle to save the universe.

All that action is designed and supervised by a team led by Timothy Eulich, whose 20 years in the business include working as an Emmy-nominated stunt coordinator, fight choreographer or stunt person on films and TV shows like "Westworld," "The Librarians," "Cobra Kai," "Spider-Man: No Way Home," and more, while his upcoming projects include the film "Babylon" and the fourth season of "Stranger Things."

Eulich is especially proud of his efforts on "Everything Everywhere All at Once," in which he got to work with the legendary actress and martial arts star Michelle Yeoh, as well as iconic actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan (best known as Short Round in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"). But Eulich says that the movie's message is what affects him the most. "I think it is so beautiful and so important right now," he tells Looper. "It's deeply meaningful to me and I am really excited for everybody to have an opportunity to see this and allow that message to resonate in their lives as well."

In our exclusive interview, Eulich talks about working with his incredible cast, how he feels action is a crucial part of storytelling, and why he believes that an Academy Award category for stunt people is long overdue.

What makes these directors a joy to collaborate with

You worked with Daniels previously on their first feature, "Swiss Army Man." What was their pitch to you on this one?

Actually, I've worked with them years before "Swiss Army Man." I started working with them on their music videos and commercials probably about 11 years ago. A lot of people who worked on "Everything Everywhere All at Once" and "Swiss Army Man" date back to the same music video where we all met, and we've been working together ever since. I knew that they were secretly developing an action movie. Didn't get too much information on it. The first script that I saw of it was in 2019, early on. They sent it over to me as a "What do you think?" I was so excited about it.

First of all, I'm a huge fan of these guys' work — Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan and Jonathan Wang, their producer. They really create this familial atmosphere on their sets that makes it such a pleasure to go to work every day. It's not something that you experience in this business all the time. They sent me the script and the action scenes they wrote offered so much opportunity to be creative. They really wanted to go for the style of classic Hong Kong cinema. With that and with what they had written, it offered a lot of room to creatively collaborate with them and the actors to put together these really fun action pieces that really enrich the story and move it forward and develop the characters. It was really great experience, putting that stuff together.

What do you enjoy most about working with Daniels?

They really genuinely care about everybody in the community that they bring together to make their films. There's a lot of respect there for everybody working for them and with them as well. They know exactly what they want. They know exactly what they're looking for and it's written on the page. Within that, they give you space to be creative and pitch creative ideas to accomplish what they have written and how they envision bringing it to life.

That's really great for me. I'm a big fan of collaboration. From an industry perspective, a lot of people see stunt people as crafts people, or just a tool — like, "We need somebody to fall down, make that happen over there." More and more, with this generation of stunt people who are coming up, I think we're artists. We have creative influence over these films and TV shows that we're working on. Daniels really appreciate that and want that from their stunt people and from all of their crew, in general.

Using action to move the story forward

Was the script that you saw very different from what we ended up seeing in the finished film?

That's hard to say. Definitely, there was a lot that was left on the cutting room floor. There were full sequences that we shot that didn't get used. I sure hope that the world gets to see them on the Blu-ray, whenever that comes out. As far as the story goes, the message of the story and the heart of it, that was what it was. That's what we were aiming for. That really came through in every evolution of the story, from what I read in the scripts to what we filmed to the final edit.

Sam Hargrave, who started as a stunt coordinator and went on to direct the Chris Hemsworth movie "Extraction," said something similar to what you said earlier, that action has to push the story and the characters forward.

For me, that's everything. I choose jobs that I do based off of that. It's like a musical to me. When the characters in a musical break into song and dance, that's not arbitrary. They have reached a point in the story where the circumstances are so heightened that simply speaking to one another no longer serves them. They have no choice but to break into song and dance. It's the same thing with a good action movie. It's got to serve the story, but you've reached this heightened point in the story where the characters can no longer solve their differences by speaking to one another. They have no choice but to break into action. It is the most dramatic point in the story. It's drama made dynamic. That really excites me and speaks to me. What drew me to this profession in the first place was being able to tell that particular part of the story.

Working with the legendary Michelle Yeoh

Michelle has clearly already had quite a bit of experience with action. Was she totally ready for whatever you could throw in her?

We rehearsed her into these action sequences. She takes exquisite care of her physical instrument and was fully prepared to do pretty much everything that we asked of her in this process. She had a lot of other obligations outside of doing the action — she's in just about every single frame of this movie. We had about three days with her and maybe an hour or two each of those days, and she would come in and we would mark through everything, get her comfortable with the movements until she felt good, and then she would film it on her phone and go home.

On the days that we would be shooting big action sequences, she'd come in and mark through the sequence that we'd be filming with the other performers. Then as soon as we called action, she would just bring the energy up and just absolutely perform this beautiful ballet of violence. It was so cool to watch. Her work was very influential in my decision to go down this path, to be a stunt coordinator and action designer. I've been watching her from a very influential age. It was an absolute treat to have an opportunity to work with her.

The directors said that she makes everybody feel like they're a part of her family. Is that the experience you had with her as well?

That's a great way to put it. That was my experience. It was very clear to me that she deeply and genuinely cared about every single person on that set — all the cast, all the crew. There was one point where we were talking and she found out that I had a son and he was one year old while we were filming the movie. A couple of days later, she came to work with a gift for him. She had bought him a brand new Ferrari. It was made of plastic and only a toddler could fit into it, but still, that gesture was so appreciated. She's a legend in her performing career, and to me, a legend of a human being.

A cast ready for action

How game were Jamie Lee, Ke Huy Quan, and the other actors to get in the ring and do as much of their own stunts as possible? Is there a point where you gently pull them aside and say, "Okay, you're great, but we have to take it to another level now and get somebody else in there?"

Everyone was game. I think having Michelle as number one on the call sheet really raised the bar for the entire cast. They all wanted to come in and do as much of their action as they possibly could and they did. You can really see that in the final edit of this film. We had scheduled rehearsal times with him and [Ke] would come in every day for his scheduled rehearsal time to work on the fanny pack fight. After his rehearsal time was over, he would take his fanny pack and go into the corner of our rehearsal hall and practice on his own. Then when it was time to shut it down for the day, he would take his props and practice at home.

I knew he was practicing at home because he would come back the next day better than he was the day before, and we would do it all again. He put so much effort into it and it really shows through. For Jamie, she wanted to do everything. We were putting her up into some pretty big wire rigs and flying her around the space. She had that professional wrestling sequence with the Waymond character, picking him up and spinning him around over her head before breaking his back over her knee. She put a lot of time into that. We also spent a lot of time with her at the stairwell, flying down the stairs.

As far as when it's time to say, "Hey, you're great, but we've got to let somebody else do this," it's always my goal as a stunt coordinator to have the actors do as much as they can possibly do, if not everything. If you get to a point where ... it's going to hurt, we can mitigate as much of the risk as possible, but there is some danger there, and at the end of the day, we got to make sure that our key cast is going to be able to come back to work the next day.

As a stunt coordinator, I deeply and genuinely care about every single person on set with me, all the people that come into work for me and all the people who are working with me and around me, and I want to make sure everybody goes home to their family in one piece, safely, just like they came to work that day. There are some things where you are taking a little bit more risk than I am comfortable having a key cast member do, and we have to have the stunt person do that. Even with that, there's a collaboration between myself and the directors, and the actor, and the stunt person doing that to make sure that they're serving that character and telling that story.

The classic actor who inspired Everything Everywhere All at Once

Were there any specific films or filmmakers that Daniels wanted to look at in prepping for this?

Yeah, the classic Hong Kong cinema — the Shaw Brothers and Jackie Chan's canon of work. That was very influential in the style of action that we were going for in some of the key action sequences.

How did you work around having a smaller budget on a film like this?

I have to say that it did not really affect me. I had everything that I needed to achieve the sequences that we were trying to achieve and to do it safely. I was never at a want or need for anything. There was really no compromise there. If anything, it allowed us to be more creative with how we were doing some of these moves. We didn't have the time to do a lot of these sequences in the standard way of doing it. Any of these fights or any of these action sequence would typically take days, if not weeks, to film, and then you'd probably have a second unit to pick up anything that you didn't get on the day, but we did most of them in one day of filming.

In order to do that and make it happen safely, we put a tremendous amount of preparation into it. Everything was pre-lit. We were very careful about the locations that we chose. We shot everything in one building. It was a practical location. I could easily be rehearsing tomorrow's action sequence and then, within two minutes, be on set overseeing today's action sequence. That really allowed for a lot of quick movement and communication. We also did [pre-visualization] for all the action sequences. We collaborated with the directors on that. We had a good game plan for everything that we were going to do on the day.

Why Timothy Eulich is excited about Stranger Things Season 4

You have been working on "Babylon" with "La La Land" and "First Man" director Damien Chazelle.

I can't say too much about it, at this point. I was the fight coordinator on that film. The stunt coordinator was the legendary Doug Coleman. He brought me in to put together fights on that movie. All I can say is that it's a huge movie and it was such a great experience to work on a film of that scale with all of those amazing creatives behind it in Los Angeles. It's very unusual to see a film of that scope being made here these days.

You've also been working on Season 4 of "Stranger Things." What can you say about it in terms of the action and the scope of it?

I can't talk too much about that one either, unfortunately! I was working as a stunt coordinator supporting the main stunt coordinator, Hiro Koda, on that. He's the stunt coordinator and second unit director of the series. I will say that the action is significantly bigger this season than it has been in the past. We did some pretty big stuff on that and I'm really excited to see it myself. I'm excited for everybody to see it.

Why an Oscar for stunt people is long overdue

There has been a push for a while to get a category at the Oscars for stunt people. If you were to sit down with the average moviegoer right now who watches movies but doesn't necessarily know how they're made, how would you make the case for that?

From an industry perspective, historically and for a long time, our profession as stunt people was looked at as a trade or craft — come in and crash this car, whatever. It's getting to the point where we're being recognized more and more as creative artists in this collaborative filmmaking space. We are artists who are realistically risking our lives at certain points to tell these heightened moments in these stories. It is frankly confusing and baffling to me that there is no recognition there. It would mean a lot to me and to my colleagues to have that recognition in some way. The Television Academy recognizes us in the Emmys, which we appreciate very much. Hopefully, the Motion Picture Academy can come around to that understanding someday soon.

There are people who have been working on making that happen for 20 years now, with no movement. My understanding is that the resounding response they've gotten is it will never happen. Stunt people will never be recognized at the Oscars ever. At that point, it seems like there's something personal going on, but I'm only speculating it. I don't get it.

Timothy Eulich's favorite film and who he'd like to work with soon

What is your favorite film of all time?

You're not going to love this answer, but right now, it is "Everything Everywhere All at Once." I'm a little bit biased on that, because of my participation in it, but the message behind this movie, I think it is so beautiful and so important right now. It's deeply meaningful to me and I am really excited for everybody to have an opportunity to see this and allow that message to resonate in their lives as well.

It feels like one of those movies where some people may not like it for whatever reason, but people who love it are really going to love it.

It does feel like that. It's got a "Scott Pilgrim" vibe like that. That's one of my favorite movies, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." I could watch that over and over again. That's one that was very polarizing with people. They either loved it or they hated it, but it really got me. I love the irreverent humor in it, the way that it was shot. I thought that comic book style of action was just beautiful. Look, personally I'm not a violent man, but I love cinematic violence and I love that when you turn the story into this kinetic symphony of chaos, it's just so vibrant. That's something I really liked about that movie.

Name an actor or director that you have not worked with, but would love to work with at some point.

I will name an actor and a director who are the same person that I haven't worked with and I would love to work with at some point. He's never done an action movie before, either as a director or an actor, but it's Bo Burnham. I think he's a creative genius and I would love to have an opportunity to collaborate on something with him at some point in my career.

You've done a little acting as well. What's one role you wish you could play, either past, present or future?

When I was younger, I always wanted to play D'Artagnan in "The Three Musketeers." As I am getting a little bit older, possibly now it would be one of the Musketeers. I love sword fights. That's a huge part of my martial arts background — Western sword play and fencing. I have always wanted to be a part of telling the "Three Musketeers" story, so I think it'd be really cool to be a performer in that.

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" is now playing in select theaters, with a wide release coming April 8.