“So many of our conversations were about that scene,” Bolter revealed. “We storyboarded the whole thing, we had a model built in the office, with little plastic people and plastic cars. And it all was constantly like, ‘I know, the sniper should be here, and then it should come in here. And then the truck needs to come here.'” The filmmaker also notes that other tricky shots in the scene, like one in which clickers standing behind Ellie get hit by a car, required VFX pre-vis. Special effects teams were tasked with creating mock-ups of exactly how the vehicles would interact with Ramsey and the rest of the actors involved.
When it finally came time to shoot the explosion, Bolter said the crew had four cameras trained on the location “to make sure we got all of our angles.” As is typical with major stunt scenes, the stakes were high. “We had the ability to take two, but it would have taken them three days to reset it over a long weekend, so we really didn’t want to do that,” Bolter said. “So we put a lot of emphasis on rehearsal, make sure everything’s perfect so that we do this once.”
The rehearsal paid off — Bolter said the house explosion was a wrap after just one take: “We got it. We nailed it. It was a one-and-done.” On screen, the scene looks great, with an orange fireball lighting up the night sky and keeping Ellie and Joel’s faces aglow as they witness the devastation unfolding around them. “Once the fire happens, all bets are off,” Bolter said, and it’s a statement that likely applies to both the controlled chaos of filming and the harrowing mayhem of the scene itself.