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Twisted Metal Stars, Creators Break Down Wild Season Finale: "Fast & Furious On Steroids"
The show truly lives up to its demolition derby roots in Episode 10.
What would a Twisted Metal television series be without vehicle-on-vehicle combat?
The entire point of adapting the classic video game property is to render "every car and contestant that crosses your path into nothing but a flaming pile of twisted metal," if you'll allow us to borrow a phrase from Neve Campbell's Raven.
While the first 10 episodes (stream them on Peacock now!) involve some sort of motorized action, it's not until we reach the season finale that the show fully lives up to its demolition derby roots as John Doe (Anthony Mackie), Quiet (Stephanie Beatriz), Sweet Tooth (Samoa Joe/Will Arnett), and the Convoy (led by Jamie Neumann's Miranda Watts) wage all-out vehicular war against Agent Stone (Thomas Haden Church) and his Topeka police force.
"It was the gnarliest thing I've ever mixed in my whole life," Supervising Sound Editor and Re-Recording Mixer James Parnell told NBC Insider over Zoom ahead of the premiere. "It was like a Fast & Furious [movie] on steroids."
How That Battle in theTwisted Metal Finale Came to Life
Speaking with us prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, Mackie revealed that the finale's 7-minute action set piece involving bullets, rockets, and burnt rubber was filmed using "big clunkers" at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, Louisiana.
"Our stunt team did an amazing job, just flipping them and making it seem more exciting than it was," he explained. "Because it was literally just one car chasing another car chasing another [laughs]."
Samoa Joe recalled the experience as "tremendously fun" with a lot of "moving parts — literally and figuratively," he said. "Just some amazing stunts by our team. It’s definitely something I look forward to the world seeing."
The sequence prominently features a number of game-accurate rides, all of which span "so many different sonic frequencies," Parnell explained. Sweet Tooth's ice cream truck, for instance, "is this low, growly thing," while Watts' Formula One-inspired Twister "occupies the high-end frequency."
"All of these cars are in and out of scene and they're all firing weapons at the same time," he continued. "We really had make decisive creative decisions on what sound we're playing and when and for how long."
For Parnell and his pit crew of sound technicians, things went from zero to a hundred a mere minute into the episode's runtime when John launches a rocket off Roadkill (another classic option from the games) and the camera follows the bazooka-like projectile as it flies through the air and explodes on the pavement.
"You have the cars splitting up, the rocket firing. So we were really picking and choosing our moments to play the sound of the rocket, hear the vapor trail, hear the explosion, kill the rocket, go to the car swerving, hear the debris. And the camera flies through the debris, so we're panning the sound through the room and you hear the bits of rock and rubble blow past you. That in and of itself was a challenge."
Parnell went on to describe the process as a delicate "ballet" of trying to keep the world together from a sonic perspective via sound effects, dialogue, and music. The latter plays a major part in the adaptation, which utilizes a toe-tapping soundtrack culled from the late '90s and early 2000s (a constant reminder of how society collapsed in 2002). Cake's "The Distance" ended up taking center stage for Episode 10's battle royale because it "pairs perfectly with the comedy and the action."
The volume of the song also helped mask a few minor audio cheats here and there:
"Just because you have the sound of Sweet Tooth doesn't mean that that engine sound is going to be the right engine sound at that moment. So sometimes we had to either thin elements out or find different articulations of the vehicle build to play, even though it might not match picture perfectly. [So] when you watch it on screen, you buy it."
Giving Sweet Tooth His Famous Head of Flames
In addition to bringing out a number of recognizable rides from the PlayStation source material, the fight-on-wheels goes the extra mile (no pun intended) by completing Sweet Tooth's look from the games with a head full of flames. Hoping to accentuate the fire above the cacophony of cars and explosions, Parnell and his team opted for a more "fantastical" approach by adding in "reversed, reverberated pig squealing" at the suggestion of sound effects editor Eric Gilliam.
"[It's a] really high-pitched scream sounds that, when combined with the fire and flame sound design, you wouldn't think was out of place," Parnell said. "But it added that upper frequency. It was a howling sound that I think pairs well with how crazy Sweet Tooth is in that episode."
Thanks to pesky safety regulations, the clown's blazing hairdo had to be realized with CGI. With that said, Samoa Joe isn't opposed to actually setting his scalp aflame if the opportunity should ever arise.
"Growing up as a Polynesian fire knife dancer, I’ve had my fair share of burns and stuff," he finished. "So I don’t know, maybe in a future, more crazy world that is more accommodating to practical effects…you never know [laughs]."
All 10 episodes of Twisted Metal are now streaming on Peacock.
**These interviews were conducted before the actors' strike.**