Tom Russo
August 16, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Steve Martin’s Z-movie director Robert Bowfinger does everything on the cheap — including getting his nerdy star, played by Eddie Murphy, to run across a six-lane freeway of zooming traffic. Director Frank Oz knew that the harrowing near misses the scene demanded were too risky even for a stuntman. Enter visual-effects specialist Bill Taylor and his team at Illusion Arts. before IA had Murphy traverse an actual freeway — on a Saturday, with a mile-long stretch closed to cars. Then, with several takes of the actor’s simulated mad dash in the can, Oz and IA brought in a fleet of 50 cars, filming them all zipping down one lane, then the next. AFTER These various visual elements were then assembled using rotoscoping, in which hand-traced silhouettes of Murphy and the cars were composited onto a single piece of film. Because each lane of traffic was shot as a separate visual element, the filmmakers had pinpoint control over Murphy’s run. ”We could just change the synchronization from lane to lane as he went across,” says Taylor, ”and place Eddie in maximum danger.” The effect ”took three people working full-time for close to a month to achieve.” But it was worth it. ”This shot wouldn’t have meant a thing,” he notes, ”if you weren’t convinced that it was really Eddie.”

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