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Interview: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Alex Kurtzman & Bob Orci for "The Island"
Posted: Tuesday May 31st, 2005 3:50PM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Continuing our look at the $100m production of The Island, producers Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, and writers Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, talked about the film and future projects.
Question: What's the film about?
Alex Kurtzman: I think virtually it's about what it means to be a human, and what makes us make the decision that we make in life, why we gravitate towards love.
Walter F. Parkes: I think what he's actually asking is what the plot is. Laura: There's one element while watching it last night, obviously we were all involved intimately in developing the whole story and had seen the movie, but I was trying to watch it as someone who hadn't, and imagine the questions I'd come out with. I think that there is a key issue that they are in fact developed as adult clones, they aren't grown from children, and they are in fact given memories. They find out, and again this so far ahead science fiction, that they can't just clone these kind of genetic material and leave it in sacks, it won't develop properly, so the lie to the client who comes in, they think they're just developing this mass of organs that is going to be there for their use, they have no idea that what has happened is the found that they need to give them lives, give them memories, they operate as humans to actually develop and function and stay alive. So that lie becomes a key issue in the second part of the movie, and Ewan and Scarlett realize that maybe the only way to turn this around and not just safe themselves but the other people who are trapped in the facility is to reach their own sponsors, the people that paid to have them created, who don't know the kind of inhumanity that has been happening as a result of the fact that their real walking, living people who they can relate to, they aren't just again organs in a petrii dish, or a jar.
Question: Did you have any science fiction movies that you looked back through for cloning conventions?
Bob Orci: No, actually, we just wanted to just kind of approach it fresh.
Alex Kurtzman: There are very few, it's been a tough issue to write about and given what's going on now it was easier in a way not to think about those movies, the movies that came before, and go 'What's the new prospective here? What's the fresh prospective?' But most of all what's the prospective of the clone, not knowing what they are.
Question: Did you do research on the actual cloning?
Bob Orci: Yeah, we did.
Question: What did you discover?
Bob Orci: I'm a clone. That it's here, that we're going to be dealing with this sooner or later. It is fortuitous that this movie's coming out in the time that it's happening. Luckily, since we were doing this as entertainment, and we were trying to stick to true character values, I don't think the movie takes much of a position, but it does kind of supports both sides of the question in an interesting way, and when you see it you're not going go, this is definitely an ad for a clone, or for not having a clone. Hopefully, it will make you think.
Question: So there was no Philip K whatsoever?
Bob Orci: Not consciously, of course we're fans, so yeah, I'm sure.
Question: No Logan's Run?
Alex Kurtzman: You know, I have to admit that I haven't seen it, but I will say that Blade Runner was equally, deeply in our consciousness from childhood, so there's got to be Philip K. Dick.
Question: So much of these movies are rewrites and script doctor work, how do you feel about that, and how much of your actual contributions are on the screen?
Walter F. Parkes: These were the rewrites. Actually, the original script was written by a man named Caspian Tredwell-Owen; it was a fascinating piece of work, it was really the reason we all got on board to do this. But Alex and Bob have a tremendous background from Alias, and had just worked with Laurie and me on The Legend of Zorro, which is the sequel to the first Zorro. So we had a very effective shorthand, and they're especially talented in balancing issues that are often at odds, which are character issues on one hand, and plot issue on the other.
Question: How delicate did Bob and Alex have to be with that material?
Alex Kurtzman: I think Caspian's idea was so brilliant, but I think that for us what we discussed early in the process was - we said, okay, this is a brilliant universe, it's very meticulously created, how do we make sure we don't distance the audience, because sci-fi can be distancing. And when we stepped back from it, we said, this really needs to be a story about a guy who goes to work every day, just like any of us, has an average job, has to punch the clock, and has this deep sense that something's very wrong with his life, can't place it, and of course realizes what he actually is. And when we decided to approach it through the lens, it became a much more human story, which of course merits the idea, what does it mean to be human? So that's where we started from.
Bob Orci: In terms of being delicate, we didn't have to be delicate, you want to be true to whatever the story is, there's a premise there that you want to be true to, and if being true to that you'll find the delicacy necessary to deal with any material that you would approach, unless you're just a horrible person and you're going to throw it out and try and change everything. There's a premise there that is true, that you want to be true to.
Question: Have you had any response from the government concerning this issue?
Walter F. Parkes: Of course the government hasn't seen it yet.
Laurie MacDonald: It's not been viewed by anyone. I don't think there will be, it's clearly fiction.
Question: Did Caspian's original script take the two leads to the outside world?
Laurie MacDonald: The key difference and I'm recalling now, no - it was not Los Angeles, but they did escape and they were on the run. What was missing was the sense of where they were going to, a kind of plan. They were just characters running. And the key, the introduction of looking for the sponsor was a key story change we made, there were others, but giving them a mission.
Bob Orci: In the original, Scarlett didn't win the lottery. She was a pregnant character who made it halfway out of the institute with him, and subsequently gets captures and he has to go back, and in the version that ultimately was shot, she's not pregnant, she's much more of the co-lead of the movie, it's the two of them discovering everything together, and ultimately getting away together.
Alex Kurtzman: And winning the lottery gave us the clock that we needed for him to step up and really figure out what was going on in there, because he had this strong sense, but then it became the girl that I love is going to leave tomorrow, and I really have a sense that something bad is going to happen to her and I need to figure out what is going on, and that's what leads him upstairs.
Question: Talk about the appeal of your two leads, Scarlett and Ewan.
Walter F. Parkes: There are certain big movies that are only made because of the charisma of the star, and there are other big movies that hopefully the concept of the picture is enough. In those cases what you do is you cast for the characters, you cast not so much are they marquee, are they box office, or do they have a quality that is specifically right for this movie. And we were lucky enough because we think this idea was fascinating enough, and Michael Bay is enough of a household word, that we could really cast for the actor and not for the star. Certainly Ewan is a star and Scarlett's a star-to-be, but they're not in the same world with Tom Cruise, or someone like that. It's interesting also that it was not about casting one or the other, it was about casting the two of them together, we knew this was going to be a two-hander in the full sense of the word and that our ability to make a movie that was not just a science fiction picture for teenage boys, but rather something that would possibly have some really wide appeal would be dependent upon the extent to which we could really identify with these two people, as two normal people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and that we want to follow their adventure. It's really in that context that we came upon Scarlett and Ewan. Ewan is already thought to be really a consummate young actor of that generation. When you think of the range of what he can do, and this gave him the ability to truly carry a leading man way a picture. And Scarlett has been so mesmerizing, but they've been for the most part in smaller movies, and the idea of taking what we've already seen that's so extraordinary about her and putting it in this context with a big summer holiday movie, it's actually kind of a privilege and an opportunity for us to try to do that.
Question: She's known as a very hard working actress, with your experience of working with all the young actors, what in your opinion makes her that?
Walter F. Parkes: We talked about that, that 1940's quality. She's kind of a creature of the cinema, to me the great ones aren't acting up there, they're up there, whether it's a Tom Hanks or whoever, the great stars they seem to have the ability to not so much change themselves for the role, but the role inhabits them. There's this interesting connection between how they adapt to the role, but there's this essential quality that they're able to project. And I just think that Scarlett has that ability. She's fascinating when she's doing nothing, and to me that is maybe the biggest definition of a true star. In terms of her work habit and her work ethics, this a 19 or 20 year old girl who has hundreds of hours of film under her belt already, and as result it's kind of second nature for her.
Question: You obviously didn't ask either star to audition, how do you know the chemistry is going to be there
Laurie MacDonald: You don't know. I think we cast them both because we thought individually they had great qualities and were both terrific actors, but that's a hunch that you hope is right. It was clear though, they really had fun working together and there was a great rapport there and I think we were lucky in that regard. You can never be certain.
Question: Having not seen the whole movie, I wondered why certain characters are there, like the older characters.
Walter F. Parkes: I won't be giving too much away by saying that one of those people that you saw is the President of the United States. Part of the fun of this movie, at least for us, is imagining if it were real, who would be the people who would have the money and have the reason to create a spare part for themselves. One is a very important football star, which is the case with Michael Clarke Duncan's character, even the owner of that team might back him up with someone, because there's such an investment in him. It's like having Michael Jordan. You'll find out, I'm not giving that much away because it's in some of our television commercials, that Scarlett's persona on the outside is an enormous fashion model. And you can imagine her client saying, 'We need to make sure we've covered our investment with this.' And if you were a very important political leader that might be the case as well.
Question: Does Michael Clarke Duncan come back in the film?
Walter F. Parkes: You glimpse him later, his other self. The clone died so the other Michael Clarke Duncan may live on and break a record.
Question: Was Steven Spielberg ever going to direct this?
Laurie MacDonald: It was actually our executive team that first read the script and brought it to us, and Steven and we at the same time read it. He was a big supporter of it. We had in fact worked with Steven years ago on something with similar thematic elements, although it told the story not through the clone's point of view but from someone working at the facility, so we were already interested in the subject matter. Did we have a meeting with you guys?
Bob Orci: I think he wrote angry letter where he said make the script better or you're fired.
Laurie MacDonald: (she laughs) But he's a big supporter of it, and was very excited about Michael being on it. He really admires him as a pure director, and thought it would be a great opportunity.
Question: Do we find out how Steve Buscemi's character gets there and why he befriends Ewan?
Walter F. Parkes: Yes, we do.
Laurie MacDonald: He has a much bigger role in the movie than you're seeing.
Walter F. Parkes: The Buscemi character is one of the workers, and that's why that scene where he's saying, 'You're killing me with these questions,' he's made this terrible mistake. I have an old writing friend who once worked a lab attendant in a hospital where they were working on animal experiments, and the first rule is do not befriend the animals, you don't emotionally connect yourself to the laboratory animals because of what's going to happen to them, and Steve Buscemi has broken that rule.
Alex Kurtzman: And he's the first link to this idea that there are certain inconsistencies in the universal, like you live if sector 5, how come we never get to go to sector 5? And how come the people who are employees at this place never get a chance to win the lottery. So he becomes a link to ? and of course his conscience is stricken by what he's going through, because clearly he has feelings for Ewan and likes him a lot and knows that he'll eventually die.
Question: Why was Michael Bay chosen for this picture and were there other directors in consideration?
Walter F. Parkes: No, no other directors were ever a consideration. Michael had had a meeting at DreamWorks and I think he'd recently changed agents, and it was known that he was looking to get out there and go to work, and stretch a little bit. Michael's made some fabulous movies but he was looking to do something he hadn't done before, and from our point of view there really is a magic moment to get certain directors for certain projects and it's really when the material not only speaks to their strengths, but causes them to stretch a little beyond what they've done before, so for that reason - as I said yesterday, there are directors out there that can mount a big production, but there are very few of them that aren't overwhelmed by a big production. I saw over and over again an ability on Michael's part to walk onto a set, you have extras, technicians, green screens, rigged effects, weeks and months of pre-production and yet something isn't as planned, and he has to right there in the moment make it up. And it's a very difficult thing, you need to have such an expertise about literally every technical aspect of the movie, so that just goes away and you can just follow and instinct and say, 'You know something? This would be cool. Oh, the balcony's not ready, fine. We're going to shoot in this direction.' And keep moving, because you're literally moving an army of hundreds every day. So it's a combination of vision and extraordinary experience, and that little bit of stretch.
Question: Do you have any concerns that the government will jump on the cloning issue and make it into something bigger than you intended it to be?
Laurie MacDonald: I can't imagine when you see the whole movie, I can't imagine that happening. Again, it is controversial and it's an interesting thing to make people think about, but we were talking about it earlier, it's really in the tradition, if you look at science fiction in general, it often deals with new technologies and their possible consequences, and to me it's rather a genre, whether it points to things that are happening today. I just don't think they will take it that seriously. We were talking too about War Games, which Walter wrote, which is obviously the very beginning of the use of computers and it dealt with what could go wrong in a fantasy. And it's very close to the truth in some ways too. It certain wasn't meant to say that we shouldn't be developing these things.
Question: What are the challenges of finding movies that are larger than life, and how is Zorro progressing?
Walter F. Parkes: Very nicely thank you. Zorro is a wonderful movie. I'll quote something Laurie once said in an interview, which was the most powerful person in Hollywood is the one that controls the script that everyone wants to make. It only comes down to the script and the script is a combination of two things, the idea and the writing talent. It's tremendously challenging, the movies we like to make have to be on one level recognizable, but hopefully a new version of something that's recognizable. But then we're most interested in doing over and over again is taking a genre and trying to elevate it somehow, trying to make it a little bit more interesting in terms of ideas behind it or perhaps a little richer in terms of character, but also never forgetting what the mainstream entertainment guiding the genre is. And it's just hard. We tend to develop our own material and it's a very, very time consuming process.
Laurie MacDonald: We like to make all kinds of movie and develop different scale and genres, but it actually is hard to find a big idea like this. That's why when we talked last night when we literally just heard over the phone the approach to it we said, 'Let's buy it,' We committed a lot of money to it immediately because it's hard to find something fresh and topical and in this case that has real character written into it. Often you have a great, bit premise that you spend years trying to find the heart in it, the human interest. They are hard to find.
Question: Will you be doing Ring 3 or Lemony Snickets 2?
Laurie MacDonald: We've had a year of sequels. Ring 3 we're talking about, we've actually have kind of a cool approach to it, but that's just in the beginning stages. And Lemony Snicket is still something Paramount's interested in pursuing and we'll be talking with them more.
Walter F. Parkes: It's easy to scale down the Ring 3 into a small picture, it's not inherently expensive. Lemony Snickets was the creation of a world and therefore they tend to be expensive, and there's Jim Carrey and you have to be absolutely certain that the market's there before you embark on it.
Question: Are you suggesting that Ring 3 would be done with a different cast?
Walter F. Parkes: Not necessarily, but by it's very nature a very small movie.
Question: For the writers, can you talk about some of the choices you made with the characters' details and when something's moving at this speed, that you create needs for the character detail?
Alex Kurtzman: Early in the process Michael said that he knew that he wanted to get to a point where Lincoln and Jordan have their first kiss at the perfect moment, and actually it was something we knew he had to build to and it was something we knew required a lot of set up in the first act, because these are two people who don't realize it but are actually on sexual inhibitors, which is something that you'll find out later in the movie.
Bob Orci: They're totally unaware of sex, actually.
Alex Kurtzman: That was the first thing that we brought into it was they should be completely unaware of sex. That was a big change we made was the idea they didn't know what it was, so it gave them the joy of being able to discover it and go out into the world and see people kissing for the first time and not know what they were looking at, which by the way provided a lot comedy for us. So that was one of the big changes that we all knew we wanted to make early on.
Bob Orci: Some of the details of their socialization, the fact that they read stories, the fact that they watch cartoons, the fact that it's like a spa, a lot of those things as we got closer to production started sliding into those details, the fact that he finds a moth and the fact that he's curious about it, and wants to tell Jordan, these little kinds of moments like that, once we had a good structure and knew where we wanted to go with it, we really focused on. What's the day-to-day of this, and what's a good little clue here.
Walter F. Parkes: You guys are forgetting a major change from the first draft, which is originally the audience was aware of the fact that this was an institution for clones on page ten, and it was a very conscious choice that was much debated, it's funny everyone has a different point-of-view about how a movie's made, and probably the people here think a movie's made in Michael Bay's conference room over the course of ten weeks of intense discussion and writing, as opposed to what really happens on set. But I remember one of the major, major discussions was could we sustain this movie, allowing the audience to believe that they were in the actual world and hold off for as long as possible letting the audience see what the actual story was. And we thought if we could possibly have the audience see the big picture at the same time that our characters saw the big picture, it would be the most effective.
Alex Kurtzman: It was the first thing that we felt very strongly about because for us revealing to the audience before the characters know what's going on would have been the equivalent of telling the audience that Neo lived in the matrix before Neo found out that he lived in the matrix. Before he took the pill. And we said, 'You can't do that to the audience, the key to making them just blown away by this is to keep totally in line with Lincoln subjectivity.' And it was very interesting because Michael said, 'That's totally right but you have to rely also on the ability of the filmmaker to sell the visuals of this universe and there might be a middle ground.' And ultimately what we came to as middle ground is very effective, because the first time you see them cut open the clone sacks it's really shocking, and we'd done just enough work, at that point Lincoln is suspicious enough that we're tracking him emotionally, such that we set up that reveal.
Question: What about the decision to bring it closer to present day? Wasn't it originally set much further into the future?
Walter F. Parkes: It just stuck us that - we were well aware enough of the technological issues with which we all live to feel that it wouldn't be that surprising that something like this was just around the corner.
Laurie MacDonald: Also I think we felt it was much more relatable and ultimately scarier. It's much scarier when you feel, I can relate to that world, it's not that far from where we are now, and this could happen.
Question: Do the number and the characters' names mean anything?
Alex Kurtzman: Yes they do. They refer to where their owners actually live.
Bob Orci: It's like a zip code. That means their client lives in Los Angeles or New York, or wherever.
Walter F. Parkes: Echo refers to what generation of clone they are, it's like the newest model. One of the unintended consequences is that this latest generation of clones have an advanced sense of curiosity. It's kind of great that the movie really celebrates asking questions.
Question: Can you talk a little about the movie The Transformers and how are you going to get into the character development for them
Bob Orci: I think we have to start by once again going to War Games, which is a movie that we grew up on as far that, and I think I watched it 50 times on the Z Channel when I was a little kid.
Walter F. Parkes: That kind of hurts!
Bob Orci: Those were the movies that we grew up loving, so for us I think the first thing I would say is that the joy of this is getting to work with the people who made the movies that we grew up loving, and the kinds of movies that we would be first on line to see. When you're in the middle of having to deliver on a deadline, which can be very difficult because you have the director demanding things, you have the producers demanding things, money is being spent, there are two things that you want more than anything, one, is a compass, and two, is honesty. And when you're lost Walter and Laurie are always there to say, 'No, this is the movie, keep going in this direction.' And they're also there to say, 'This line is great, this idea is great,' or, 'This line is not good, and you need to work on it.' And that's all you could ever hope for as a writer, because it just keeps you moving and it's joyful. Every day that we all sit together I think we all come from a place of loving movies and loving story. Walter is always talking about the deliciousness of irony and he has this wonderful book called Ploto that he breaks out, and it has every different plot in the world, and it's really fun. It's the kind of thing we always hoped we would end up doing.
Alex Kurtzman: And in terms of Transformers, it's the same approach to this, how do you do giant robots and care? We used to joke that we were calling it Campbell Soup, The Movie, because it was ultimate product placement. Just put up the toy up there and what the hell are we going to do? So we've been very diligent to find what the character story is, how they relate to the humans, how they relate to each other so that it's not just a toy commercial. So I think it's going well.
Question: You talked about not revealing too much of the plot and letting the audience discover the world with the character, what kind of conferences have there been on the advertising campaign.
Walter F. Parkes: That's a very astute question. It's the case for many sorts of movie - how often do you hear consumers say, 'I hate trailers, they tell you the whole movie.' We have to show enough of the movie to differentiate it, to put out the message of why the movie's singular. And frankly the topic in this case has been, to what extent are we clear about what the exact medical purpose for these characters are. There's a whole set of advertising that we've done in the early teasers, we kind of decided that it was a complex plot to do the advertising in stages, so I don't know if you saw the teaser, but the teaser is quite impressionistic, and really just suggests that there's a world and this place called the Island, and you kind of want to get there, but when you find out what it is, it's bad. The next message took it a little bit farther, there are two characters you care about, and they seem to really want to win a lottery to go to the Island, but then you realize there is no Island, and they're going to kill you and we have to get away. Still we didn't quite nail it. It was not until television later on that we say there are people on the outside when they need a new part they get it from you. Much like in the story we wanted to start with the characters and use that as our vehicle to get to the science fiction, same thing with the advertising, we wanted to use the relationship between the characters and the kind of visual elegance and the size of what Michael Bay can do. To first interest people and use that as a foundation to then present the specific science fiction pass.
Question: Your whole point was for the audience not to know that they're clones, and I did see a commercial last night where Ewan McGregor confronts himself, that gives the whole thing away, why would you put that on television when your whole premise was that nobody should know?
Walter F. Parkes: It's a great question, and I think there's two specific answers - the first one is, if you don't give that away you might just think that this one other action movie, in other words it is the detail of the movie that makes it different from everything else that's coming out this summer. And after much debate we decided let's embrace that. Second thing is, and this comes from both our experiences as producers and quite honestly as moviegoers, I know that Anakin is going to become Darth Vader and it doesn't impede one iota of my enjoyment of that movie. I think if you're doing your job right, and you're telling the story well, the audience will become involved in the moment to moment unfolding of events, and the fact that they have been told that some kind of medium, a 30-second spot, what the general story is, I don't think is going to impede their enjoyment. I hope not.
Question: Have you had any friendly arguments with Michael Bay regarding budgetary concerns?
Laurie MacDonald: He's remarkably responsible as a director. Not only is he incredibly skilled and talented and fast, Walter and I talked about this, we produced movies with Steven Spielberg, and they are similar in that they both actually love the challenge of getting all the work done in a day, they drive their crews harder than anyone else on the set can. We didn't' know that, because we'd never worked with him before, but he's as determined as his producers are to bring the movie in on time and get through the work. He was very responsible. We had a great experience with him in that way.
Walter F. Parkes: We went into Christmas break ahead of budget, we had savings, and it turned out that there had been some mistake in the reporting of certain departments, particularly construction, because it was a very tough film. Literally, you'd be shooting on one set and they would be finishing the build of the set that you would shoot on the next day.
Laurie MacDonald: I think it was the only day we actually dropped a day because a set wasn't ready and we just couldn't shoot.
Walter F. Parkes: But it turned out that through really no fault of anyone's other than perhaps some mistakes in recording, what we thought was a fairly substantial surplus turned out to be a deficit. And no one took on the responsibility for making adjustments, cutting, condensing, more than Michael did. It was actually a surprise, because the very thing you're talking about, his reputation that we'd been aware of and we were expecting a very different partner in making this movie on the whole. But as Laurie said, he thrives on that challenge. I think he kind of thrives on challenges anyway in terms of production.
Question: Do you cover how easily Ewan McGregor's character breaches security and if it has anything to do with the stuff that was put into his eyes?
Bob Orci: There's a payoff for the thing that goes into his eyes. There's a great revelation about how he has certain abilities based on the fact that he is an Echo generation clone. You're going to find out that there are a lot of things that he can do like pilot a jet bike, which you saw. It comes from a very specific source.
Alex Kurtzman: And with the moth, we actually came up with the moth to explain how he would be led by something towards wherever it came from, and initially the idea was that he would be led toward light, because the moth would be going towards some kind of light. And the light was ultimately coming from the medical labs upstairs.
Question: You find in the first half of the movie that there is no island, so why was the choice made to call it that?
Laurie MacDonald: It was discussed, it was interesting, by marketing. We always loved it, because I think the irony of the lie inherent in it is a good one. And in fact even thematically in terms of where Scarlett and Ewan go at the end, there is a sense of an island that's created by this relationship in a way, on an emotional level. So we really liked it, it is a challenging title to marketing.
Bob Orci: The Island is life, you're going to go to this place and it's life. The people who come to this institute want extended life, that's why they want clones, so the idea of the island is, what is that thing that we all want, that immortality, that life, that love, and it does have a payoff in the end, and it's redefined as rather than being the evil lie, it becomes the good thing that we're all after and our characters get it.
Walter F. Parkes: These are all fascinating, thematic ideas, and then the art department says, 'But there's no island, what are we supposed to do with this title?'
Laurie MacDonald: We did discuss changing it, but I think it was the best title for the movie, and in fact it hopefully became a kind of virtue in the materials because it's intriguing.
Question: What was the working title?
Laurie MacDonald: That was the title, but again marketing - our marketing department was concerned about just what you just brought up.
Walter F. Parkes: It's funny, but what always happens is when you think about changing a title someone, I don't know if there are people who are paid to do that, they do a title document, where they e mail you 70 titles, and it's like Escape to Another Land
Question: What was the worst title you got?
Bob Orci: I Think I'm a Clone Now!.
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Quote:Steve Jablonsky scores Michael Bay's The Island
Today the world-famous Newman Scoring Stage at 20th Century Fox was filled with music to Michael Bay's latest action thriller, The Island. Composed by Steve Jablonsky, the film takes place in a futuristic society where the rich can pay to have a human clone made in case they need their spare body parts for medical reasons. The clones are kept isolated from the rest of the world, believing it to be uninhabited due to some disaster, except when one of them "wins" the lottery to be taken to "The Island" - a paradise of sorts. In truth, that means some part of the clone is needed - and they are then used, and destroyed. Lincoln (Ewan McGregor) is a clone who discovers the horrifying truth of "The Island", and along with Jordan (Scarlett Johansson), tries to escape.
Conducted by Blake Neely, the score is mostly electronic, with string, brass, choir and solo instruments adding to the palette. An emotional and lush main title cue was the first item recorded, and as they progressed through the score, Neely explained - in his wry and humorous manner - to the session players what was happening on screen so that they would understand where the music was coming from.
During the day, the strings were recorded, with the brass recorded in the evening. By keeping the strings, brass, and choir all in separate sessions, score mixer Alan Meyerson will have better control over the final sound. With a lot of electronic elements to keep track of, he's got his work cut out for him! Jablonsky sat behind the console, next to Meyerson, giving feedback and notes on the various cues. Kevin Globerman managed the ProTools rig, while music editor Dan Pinder keeps track of the 100-minutes of score. There are at least two more scoring dates coming up soon, and readers (and fans) should look for a soundtrack release on Milan Records in July around the time of the film's release.
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Quote:The Bad Boy of Summer
Michael Bay vs. his critics.
By Bryan CurtisHeres one good reason to see the new thriller The Island (DreamWorks) on July 22. The director is Michael Bay, the closest thing Hollywood has to a nuclear warhead. Bay specializes in disaster pictures, which contemplate the total annihilation of Earth (Armageddon, 1998), Western civilization (Pearl Harbor, 2001), or merely San Francisco (The Rock, 1996). Bays critics say that such calamities are nothing compared with the hellfire the director is unleashing on the American cinema. For years I believed that the introduction of MTV marked the beginning of the end for movies, a reader wrote the Los Angeles Times after seeing Armageddon, and now I am convinced that the end is finally here. Journalists have called Bay manipulative and shamelessand, in a more open-minded spirit, asked, Is Michael Bay the devil?
With his free-range hair and surfer-dude locutions (This is gonna be bitchin!), Bay doesnt seem like a harbinger of the End Times. Nor had it previously been thought that the Antichrist would emerge, as Bay did, from the Pasadena Art Center. The apoplexy Bays movies inspire reveals something interesting about film critics: That no matter how much they insist that theyve made their peace with the summer movie, and its bullying domination of the multiplex, they can still go limp at the idea of the summer movie as an artistic end in and of itself. Bay is a pure creature of summer, a man who has no ambition other than to dazzle and pummel. As he once put it, savoring his critical infamy, I make movies for teenage boys. Oh, dear, what a crime.
Who is Michael Bay? He was born Feb. 17, 1965, in Los Angeles and adopted shortly thereafter by Jimmy and Harriet Bay. Later, after a bit of sleuthing, Bay learned of rumors that his birth father was John Frankenheimer, the director of The Manchurian Candidate. Frankenheimer furiously denied parentage and took some DNA tests to prove it, but the idea has a poignant irony: Bay, a reviled summer-movie artist, as illegitimate son of a decorated auteur. (Only Bay knows for sure if The Rock was an homage to Frankenheimers Birdman of Alcatraz.)
Bay went to film school at Wesleyan, where his professor Jeanine Basinger says he eschewed film majors all dressed in black for the brighter company of his Psi Upsilon fraternity brothers. Frat-boy adventuring is one of the hallmarks of Bays films, which always involve a group of men on a mission. In Armageddon, his troupe consisted of Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Owen Wilson, and Steve Buscemia honey of a pledge class, though you wonder what Buscemi would bring to the spring formal. Bays fealty to the Greek aesthetic made him something of a curiosity at Wesleyan. While his classmates angsted over mannered senior projects, Bay submitted a film about a very good-looking guy driving very fast in his yellow Porsche. The movies exuberant texture, says Basinger, was recognizably that of a Michael Bay film.
After a graduate stint in Pasadena, Bay cut his teeth with music videos (the DiVinyls, Donny Osmond) and TV commercials (Got milk?) before falling under the sway of the producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It was a fortunate meeting. Bruckheimer has long coveted commercial directors for their ability to deliver what his swaggering productions need most: a triumphant high in 30 seconds or less. Bay, in turn, has taken the Bruckheimer imperative to new heights. In addition to the old Bruckheimer coda, the massive explosion, Bay has added two new signatures: the droll joke, which he delivers effortlessly in The Rock and Armageddon; and, in keeping with the zeitgeist, an affirmation of patriotism. The United States government just asked us to save the world, Bruce Willis barks at his team in Armageddon. Anybody want to say no?
Bay also achieves rapid-fire highs by cutting between shots very quickly. A beguiling image might appear on screen for a half-second before Bay replaces it with anotherthen another, and anothercreating a mind-bending visual collage. This is the source of much discontent on the parts of critics with Bay and his summer brethren, since fast-cutting is seen as a hackneyed technique of music videos, not cinema. In fact, patching a bunch of quick cuts together is a massive undertaking in the editing room. Moreover, Bay has a fluid, gliding camerahes using quick cuts to create atmosphere, not to whip up false momentum. (Basinger has an alternate explanation: Bays quick cuts are the directors attempts to introduce something like abstract expressionism to the $150 million blockbuster. There are studio chieftains who will faint at those words.)
Bay has a worshipful, almost tender reverence for his male stars. His trademark shot makes them look like Renaissance statuary: His camera begins at their right arm, then swivels around behind them, and comes to rest gazing up at their granite chins. If anything, this swooning pales in comparison to Bays lusty admiration for government agencies. For 30 years they questioned the need for NASA, Billy Bob Thornton crows in Armageddon. Today were gonna give em the answer! Bays first feature, Bad Boys (1995), can be read as a paean to the Miami Police Department; The Rock as tribute to the FBI chemical weapons expert, as embodied by Nicolas Cage.Such homage may make Bay slightly Dadaistic. But it doesnt make him the devil. What really irks critics is that Bay feeds from the detritus of 30 years of summer moviesas the New York Times puts it, his films feel stitched together, like some cinematic Frankensteins monster, from the body parts of other movies. Hollywood has heard versions of this complaint before. With the first generation of popcorn directors, led by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the standard protest was that they had learned all their tricks from television. With Bay, the complaint is that he has learned his tricks from Lucas and Spielberg. The implication is that, within a few generations, Hollywood will produce a director who knows nothing but the grammar of blockbustersthe bastard son of Top Guns Maverick and a velociraptor. Bay further exacerbates the problem by blockbusterizing his directorial pronouncements. For him, a characteristic boast is not, I write all my own movies, but, I write all my own action.
The danger is that Bay will heed critics advice, forsake his chaotic blockbusters, and try to do something noblewhich is more or less what happened with Pearl Harbor, his most humanistic and least effective movie to date. The Island, in which Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson play clones on the lam, represents a return to form. DreamWorks screened the first 45 minutes of the film last week, followed by a hair-raising highway chase scene that was shown out of context. There are those who say that watching a Bay movie is itself like watching one long chase scene out of context, as Bay whips from one image to the next, but I think Bay is on to something. Hes whittled the summer movie down to its smallest constituent partswithout the clutter of character, cohesion, or exposition. Go ahead, embrace him. It wouldnt be the end of the world.
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Jun 19 05 11:30 PM
Quote:Eric Brevig, who supervised visual effects on Michael Bays upcoming SF action movie The Island, told SCI FI Wire that he followed Bays directive to shoot everything in reality and avoid computer imagery unless it was absolutely necessary. Theres been a lot of dicey things [weve shot], Brevig said in an interview on the films suburban Los Angeles set in March. Both Michael and I feel that the ability to show the audience stuff that is completely realthat looks like it was shot in the real environment all in front of camerassort of amps up the energy, and thats really important to try and achieve.Brevig, who is a principal with Industrial Light + Magic, also directed second unit on The Island, which centers on two clones (Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson) who flee from a top-secret compound and find themselves on the run in a futuristic Los Angeles. The film involved several elaborate chase sequences, including one on flying motorcycles, or wasps, amid skyscrapers and another on a freeway.
In another scene, Bay and his crew drop a two-story letter R from a sign atop an office building, while Brevig directed a second unit from a helicopter. Theyre 50 stories up on the outside of a building, and I had to fly over with a helicopter and literally shoot looking straight down the sides of a building background while Michael was probably 80 feet away on the balcony of another building with another helicopter flying through his set, Brevig said. And were trying to not have a mid-air collision while hes screaming at his guys, Come on in! Faster! Faster! And were coming around the other side of the building, not even knowing that hes rolling. I think that was the hairiest moment. Even the helicopter pilotwhos been doing this for 10 years and is the best in the businesssaid he had to change his drawers when we landed.
Brevig added: Were out there flinging cars literally end over end on the freeway stuff. That one [you] could do using computer graphics if they wanted. But just the excitement [and] the randomness of real physics that is so hard to simulate makes that always the first choice. If you can do it for real, you do it for real. And if its too unsafe or too expensive or whatever, then we rely on all the other movie tricks. The Island opens July 22.
Jun 20 05 5:37 PM
Jun 21 05 2:23 AM
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