April 15, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Many actors flop in a role, but few take a dive with as much impact as Charles Durning’s 45-story leap in the first moments of The Hudsucker Proxy.

For the shots, the actor (playing executive Waring Hudsucker) was hung in midair via 1 8-inch-thick steel cables attached to a body cast under his suit. The bit when Durning waves pedestrians out of the way was an improvisation, says Micheal McAlister, who supervised the movie’s visual effects: ”I thought he was asking us to get the wind off him because he was uncomfortable.”

The buildings in the background were 1 24 scale models, shot separately and merged in postproduction. To lengthen the sequence, the model of the Hudsucker building was the equivalent of 90 stories, not 45. But that’s not the only way reality went out the window, McAlister admits. In real life, the fall would have lasted seven seconds, not half a minute. ”It’s movies, you know?” he says.

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