Stunt actor and San Antonio native Chris Silcox (Spider-Man: Homecoming) had never been to a party as chaotic as the one in the opening sequence of the 2022 comedy-drama Babylon. Set in 1920s Hollywood, Babylon follows a popular silent movie star (Brad Pitt), an aspiring actress (Margot Robbie) and a production assistant (Diego Calva) as they maneuver their way through the burgeoning film industry.
For that eye-popping opening scene, shot at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, Silcox — a 2004 graduate of Churchill High School — was cast to play one of the partygoers gathered inside the home of a studio executive. Producers brought in about a dozen stunt performers to join the approximately 20 professional dancers and 100 or so extras to create the crazy celebration, which included a lot of simulated drug use, sex acts and other debauched behavior.
There was even a live chicken running around on set that Silcox, dressed in a black-and-white tuxedo and pink boa, almost flattened accidentally. One of the stunt actor's jobs was to crash through a prop cocktail table, but he didn't anticipate the bird getting loose and running into his shot.
"The chicken landed on the table as I was in mid-air," Silcox told the Current during a recent interview. "I broke through the table, but I missed the chicken. Everybody thought I killed it. So, the chicken lived to see another day."
Babylon is currently playing at local theaters.
So, how many tables did you end up breaking during production?
Man, they had 40 different tables for me to break, [but] I think we ended up getting through 16 takes in about a week. So, I must have broken 16. We also came in to rehearse one day with just the stunt crew, and I broke a couple of tables just to see how it would feel. They were made of balsa wood, and they were scored in the middle. The funny thing is that you don't see [the stunt] in the actual film because it's out of the frame.
You had other stunts though. I did see you get pushed by that one plus-sized lady.
Yeah, a whole bunch of stuff happens in that party scene. And it all needed to be done with good timing and in the right sequence, so people wouldn't hurt themselves. So, I had that small fight with that woman, and I broke the table. There's also a shot where this man is hanging from the balcony and a woman is hanging from his pants. She falls and pulls off his pants, and I catch her. It was the most fun and wild shoot I've ever been a part of.
There were quite a few naked people, too.
There were a lot of naked men and women, yes. At one point, this couple threw themselves into this cake while they were having sex. They must have destroyed five or six cakes. There were people chained up and dressed in costumes and doing very strange dances. It was a feast for the senses. It makes me laugh thinking about it because it was such a peculiar scene.
I know your character doesn't have a backstory, but what did you imagine it to be? Did you act like you were coked-out during the scene?
I imagined that I was strung-out on ketamine — like I'd taken a lot of ketamine and had a few drinks. I had these showgirl tail feathers, so I was meant to be as flamboyant as possible.
Was there anything else in the room you reacted to? For example, are you dancing to the actual jazz music playing at the party?
We had the track from the movie playing. It was already composed. So, we would dance to that and react to the person next to us. I would dance with a couple of the stunt performers like Kate Boyer (Spider-Man: Homecoming) and Hayley Wright (Birds of Prey). We would kind of stick together and get pushed and moved around by some of the dancers who had their choreography set. So, we were just reacting to whoever we ended up bumping into. Each take went by really fast, and they were never the same.
So, when director Damien Chazelle said, "Action!" you knew what to do?
Yes! I knew to keep the energy up and keep it real. If I wasn't in the frame, I was still high on ketamine or really drunk. I had to keep stumbling around and trying to get my balance — trying to find some more drugs, trying to find a girl to dance with.
How do you think your character's night ended?
He probably never went to sleep. He probably walked out and got lost in the vineyard somewhere. I can only imagine.