It took 3 days to film the incredible hallway scene in Atomic Blonde. The action from the stairwell to the room to the car was shot continuously, but to do it successfully, the cast had to practice the fight scenes repeatedly. The practice fights were filmed without the usual breaks after just a few fight moves. The Atomic Blonde cast completed 20 fight moves at a time without stops. It was an incredibly long time for filming fight moves in order. It was also very exhausting for the cast to rehearse and then perform.
The fight sequence was filmed in chronological order. Each shot was filmed 15 to 20 times. The final cut of the fight sequence includes 40 shots. Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir was on set, making certain that perfect continuity was retained from move to move and position to position. She decided on the spot which shot would be used. That allowed the film crew to know how to set up for each subsequent shot. It was crucial that the camera speeds and angles were uniform from shot to shot.
Each ending position and speed had to correspond exactly to the beginning of the next scene. Ronaldsdóttir edited the complicated sequence on location, ensuring it was done seamlessly so the edits aren’t noticeable. This level of accuracy would have been impossible to achieve in an editing suite after filming was completed. The precision work created an intensely visceral scene. Film critics are already writing about its physically brutal images, and for good reason.
From the perspective of movie stunt coordinator, Sam Hargrave, the 2nd Unit Director and Stunt Coordinator for the film, Theron trained in judo to work well together with her stunt performers. There were many details incorporated common to stunts. Stunt pads were placed under carpets to protect Theron from injury. In other segments of the film, special effects, special movie props, and stunt action editing contributed to making the action appear very fast and very violent. Hargrave praised Theron for her extensive and successful training, because her physical moves were so well done that they could film scenes without much editing necessary to cover lack of ability.
Theron cracked two teeth during training for the film and had to have surgery to remove them. She had been clenching her jaws so tightly that her molars cracked. It was due to the stress of intense practicing, and she had to take care of the teeth right before leaving for Budapest to film.
Theron had some doubts about how well she would complete her fight scenes. She considered herself to be “an older white woman” with no fighting skills. But, she dutifully trained for six to eight weeks in Los Angeles before shooting in Budapest began. She trained for four to five hours daily in the same facility that Keanu Reeves used while preparing for his role in John Wick 2. They were training in different fighting styles, but they did chat during breaks. Truly working out together was only a fantasy for Theron, she admitted. She said she’s known him for more than 20 years, and not only did they play wife and husband in The Devil’s Advocate from 1997, they are good friends in real life. She was glad that Reeves was there while she was training at such a difficult level.
David Leitch, who co-directed John Wick, is the sole director of Atomic Blonde. Theron portrays MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton. The story is set in Berlin, Germany just before the wall falls which divides the city. It is an espionage tale based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, which author Antony Johnson and illustrator Sam Hart created in 2012. Atomic Blonde is a Cold War, old school action thriller, and that hallway scene is one visual stunner.