Netflix is now streaming American Gangster, one of the genre’s foremost movies. It gave us the perfect reason to revisit the movie and the moment Idris Elba thought he had been gunned down on set.
After the tragic accident on the set of Alec Baldwin’s new project Rust, firearm safety during film productions has been the subject of widespread discourse by experts and people on the Internet. Ridley Scott has joined the discussion with an interesting anecdote about what happened to Idris Elba during the filming of his 2007 crime drama American Gangster.
In a recent interview, Scott opened up about what happened on the set of American Gangster involving Idris Elba who played the role of a dealer in the film which starred the likes of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe among others. In one particular scene, the director asked Elba to lean against the barrel of a gun so that the recoil would produce a genuine reaction for the camera.
Scott assured Elba that there were no projectiles in the gun and this decision was only for the recoil: “What happened was, I said to Idris ‘listen, when he puts the gun to your head lean on the gun’ – because by the way this is a gun with a solid barrel, there is no aperture, I would never risk it – but when you pull the trigger there’s a recoil, there’s no blank, nothing. So I said, ‘I want you to lean on the gun.’”
However, the recoil was so terrifying that it actually made Elba think that he had actually been shot by a gun. According to Scott, the actor immediately fell to the ground and screamed because he felt as if he had just been accidentally shot by the prop gun. Scott revealed: “He pulled the trigger, and it goes bang. Idris thought he’d been shot and dropped to the sidewalk and said, ‘I’ve been shot!’”
Thankfully, no mishap took place and the actor was completely fine which means that Scott’s claims about championing safety were true. This has been reinforced by weapons expert Paul Biddiss who agreed that Scott is extremely “hot on safety” and always pays attention to the details which might jeopardise the actors or crew members.
Biddiss went on to explain that the prop gun was made in such a way that it was impossible for any projectile to be shot out of the gun which meant that there was no reason to worry. “What he was referring to by a solid barrel is a completely filled in barrel that no bullet would be able to pass through,” Biddiss said, “so it was a completely deactivated impractical gun as far as firing anything was concerned.”
Since the recoil was so important for that particular scene and the reaction it was supposed to elicit, the prop gun was vital for Scott’s vision. “But he was still able to create a recoil effect for the film’s purposes by using something used in films called a UTM round, which can be put in a weapon that has had the barrel completely filled, and it still causes blowback,” Biddiss elaborated.
Watch American Gangster on Netflix now.