Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Island (update)

Thought you might enjoy this little story which comes from Andrew Weil via Coming Soon. It is a visit to the set of the new Michael Bay movie "The Island":

"Come on!" Michael Bay barks at his crew. His attempt at humoring the hard-working crew may not go over well considering his new film, a futuristic riff on cloning dubbed The Island, is running a scant shooting schedule of 84 days and the film is to be released on July 22.

"I think the hardest part is the movie has been chasing itself, because the sets are so big and it's just like you're on one big set and boom, you go to another set," said Bay on his birthday.

ComingSoon.net received a chance to look at one of the aforementioned big sets for the upcoming film that stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. The Island is set in the distant future (roughly twenty years) and starts following McGregor's character, Lincoln. Lincoln lives in Centerville and, like the rest of the inhabitants living in Centerville, he hopes to win the daily lottery for the chance to be shipped to the last uncontaminated place on Earth, the island. He soon discovers that his world is a sham and Centerville houses clones to help rich benefactors remain healthy. Lincoln and Jordan (Johansson) break out of Centerville and make a desperate escape to find out the truth about who they are.

The central set on display at Downey Studios was the main plaza of Centerville. The gargantuan set featured four glass elevators, an actual pool, huge walkways, exercise bikes, a "stim" bar, and giant casing that were soon to feature blue screens.

"As you'll notice, the set is very wide but not very tall. In the movie, it's supposed to be 70-100 stories tall," explains ILM Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Brevin. "Every place you look that doesn't look like part of the set will be extending it and outside of it is a synthetic world that the inhabits of this place see whenever they look outside the windows."

Brevin also discussed the use of digital doubles in the film. For The Island, Brevin took Ewan's digital double model from "Star Wars" and took off his beard and gave him a new wardrobe. He also mentioned that Johansson took the process well. "I think it's fun for her. Basically you stand there and a laser scans you and you look over, and there's a wire frame of your character on the screen. I think she enjoyed it," said Brevin.

When asked about the number of effects shots for the film, Brevin said "3-400. That's the total, since we're still shooting and we're getting into the biggest deal right now, it's hard to tell. We're basically doing pre-production and post-production at the same time."

Next door to the concrete monstrosity of a set, Bay and his crew were shooting a scene in the interior of an elevator.

"Today is a slow day here," explains Bay. "This starts like three minutes into the movie, they're going down an elevator, and it's kind of, it's a lottery recast of the past winner. Mike Clarke Duncan is the one who just won a spot on the island. So they're just getting a recap of it as they're going down this elevator. We do this big pull out and reveal the whole place where they are."

The set is a small, cramped elevator that features a giant screen with Ewan's Lincoln character staring straight forward.

Bay explained that his reason for choosing to do a sci-fi film is that The Island features a human core. "At the core of this movie, there's a human story here and it really deals with the human issue. That's where I felt like relieved I didn't have to redevelop the whole sci-fi genre."

The Island also happens to be the first movie that Bay directs without his usual producing partner, Jerry Bruckheimer. "I didn't lose (Bruckheimer). I gained a guy named Spielberg and Walter Parks," brags Bay. Bay reports that he does still enjoy working with Bruckheimer.

Ewan McGregor was on set, but we didn't have a chance to speak to him about his work on the film, but Bay explains that he chose McGregor because of his "childlike quality" and he plays him harder in this film than most before.

Bay also feels like his film will stand out among the summer behemoths because its sexier, original, and just an all-around cool concept.

Bay, after mock yelling at his crew again, says of the balloons on set because of his birthday, "I demand that they get me balloons everyday... They're bringing a male stripper for me," jokes Bay.


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