How did the special effects team shoot up Bonnie and Clyde in the movie?

When the police ambush the infamous duo in the climactic scene of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Faye Dunaway writhes and twists beneath a deluge of fire in a slow-motion death that looks agonizingly real.

While the motions are all her own, special effects don’t always preclude the necessity of good acting, some technical tricks did enhance the image.

Both the car and Faye Dunaway sitting in the front seat were plugged by a shocking cataclysm of bullets, and both were wired with scores of little explosives to simulate the impact.

Imagine getting dressed for a routine day’s work in clothes rigged with electric charges, and only little metal plates serving as shields between them and you. That’s what Faye Dunaway had to do, day after day, changing from one set of rigged clothes to the next for the different takes.

Where each explosive was to rip through her clothes, the fabric was thinned with sandpaper to give the blast maximum effect. “She looked like a telephone switchboard with all those wires coming out of her,” recalls special-effects artist Danny Lee, who orchestrated the scene.

Holes were punched in the car and these were filled with similar charges, embedded in putty. When the police opened fire, the charges were set off successively, leaving the holes both in the car and in Dunaway’s clothes as she jerked and convulsed under the simulated impact.

In later films like The Godfather, plastic capsules or rubber pouches of synthetic blood were added to each metal plate.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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