Set Report: "The Island"
from Dark Horizon, February 18, 2005, by Brad Miska
Good friend 'Brad Miska' went to Downey yesterday and sent in this report from the next Michael Bay action spectacular currently in production:
"The biggest set I've ever experienced and I even got to leave having seen the entire movie! You wonder how now.
Day 78 of an 86 day shoot. Michael Bay and his insanely large crew are back in the comfort of California after venturing through Death Valley, Nevada, Detroit, Michigan and various other places shooting his next action-drama The Island for Dreamworks Pictures. The buzz is that Michael Bay's story for The Island might be guilty by association- but the only thing the movie is truly guilty of is... it's a Michael Bay movie - you know, cool cars, big chase scenes, shoot-outs and lots of explosions.
The Island takes place 20-25 years in the future as we follow Lincoln Six-Echo (Ewan McGregor) as he tries to unravel the mystery of who he is and what he is meant for. The movie opens in a self-contained facility with 3,000 humans who live their daily lives there. They believe that their world is devastated and that they are the sole survivors being protected so they can repopulate the world. Every so often a lottery is held and a lucky individual will get to leave the facility for "The Island" where they will live a happy life reproducing.
Lincoln, along with the others, think one of their fellow members Starkweather (Michael Clarke Duncan) had won the lottery and is on his way to "The Island," only Lincoln stumbles onto the truth as Starkweather wakes up during some sort of "operation" and is screaming through the halls begging for help. What the hell is going on? Lincoln finds out that he is a clone - or as Michael Bay calls them "Agnates" - and Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) and him attempt to escape to reveal to the world what is really going on in the middle of the desert.
Why do I know so much about the movie? You'll never believe just how much I know. After our interview with Michael Bay, he's like, "I've got some clips to show you," so I'm ecstatic and yell, "Cool!" In a typical '80s montage fashion, the clip was actually the ENTIRE movie from start to finish! After the clip I'm exclaimed, "Thanks Michael, now I don't have to see it!" He's replies, "NO NO NO this is the movie without any of the COOL sh-t!" True story.
The clip (or short movie) was loaded with sweet car chases, stand-offs, gun fights, explosions and one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - an homage to the great John Woo. During one shot we see pigeons fluttering all over during a big shoot out, a la doves in a Woo film- hilarious stuff! In addition there is the classic "who's the real Lincoln?" scene. "I'm the real one, No I am...." It's ridiculous and cliché as hell, but we don't watch Michael Bay movies for the drama do we? Hell no, we watch them for the explosions!
Enough about the clips, you want to know how the set looked don't you? When you start doing set visits on a regular basis the excitement fades a little, especially after your last visit was to Spielberg's War of the Worlds set. But rest assured this was the absolute most insane set I've ever been on. All War had was millions of people standing around, a rain machine (and Tom Cruise) - The Island on the other hand had room after room after room of giant eccentric sets.
Flashback to my entrance, the Downey Studios (30 miles South of Hollywood) caught me by surprise. The lot was the size of five - maybe six Super Wal-Marts, one could get lost walking around and never make it out alive. When we finally headed inside the first thing we got to see was where Lincoln works. It was a small all white laboratory with 8-10 desks set up all equipped with (you guessed it) Apple computers. Across the desks are giant tubes or wires that look eerily similar to DNA strands. What Lincoln and his co-workers think they're doing is making nutrients and vitamins, but what they're actually doing is pumping everything into the incubated Agnate bodies. To the right of the work area are small rooms with dozens of test tubes and flasks all illuminated by blacklights. Purple lights are cool in the future, I swear!
Build right next to the work area is a long grey cement hallway to the different corridors of the giant complex, which is supposed to look as if it's 60 stories tall. While walking through the hallway to the next section of the set I ran my fingers across the wall to feel the cool cement only to discover that the walls were made of wood! It was unbelievable how real these walls looked; a kung fu expert wouldn't try and punch a hole through these walls!
Then we arrived to the most illustriously portion of our tour, "Centerville," which is the center atrium designed in the middle of three other atriums (they'll be CG'd in later). We stood right in the middle (the core greeting area) of three "practical" levels of the 60 story complex. We were told that ILM would be enhancing various portions of this giant chamber. Third floor and center is a room behind glass that is probably an operations center of some kind. We were told there will be all sorts of holographic images projects around there, specifically on the glass.
Back on our floor, which is designed orbicular, there are various places for the Agnates to relax. There's an exercising room with dozens of bicycles, a room for aerobics that was very '70's looking, a bar for getting plastered, a pool and places around the area were various elevators. This entire complex was made of the same wood that was painted to look like cement, which still to this moment blows my friggin mind. On the lower level were more rooms and a set up for the Agnates to get their lunch cafeteria style. There's nothing like feeling like you're back in school.
While checking out the various levels of the atrium, we were told that a large portion of the film takes place in LA where there will be monorails and check this- a flying jet pack chase sequence! Forget Superman. The Agnates are stored very similar to The Matrix humans. They are in an egg shell chamber with purple goo all around them, their skin is white, they're bald and have hundreds of wires plugged into their bodies. Too bad we didn't get to see this, but I got to check out a sweet image from the film. There was also a shot of Lincoln with his eye pried open and little nano bugs are going to be CG'd to crawl in.
After all the fun and excitement we headed to the stage were Michael Bay was hard at work shooting a scene on an elevator where Michael Clarke Duncan's character is telling everyone how lucky he was to be a winner of the lottery in a projection on the wall. Knowing it's all a farce the propaganda is sickening to the viewer, but damn funny at the same time.
Michael screams, "Woo! I'm going to the island!!!" The group of slaves on the elevator are all wearing white jumpsuits with a black stripe on the back that resembles a exclamation point. Behind the shooting area for the elevator sequence, where we were sitting, was the operation table where the Agnates parts are removed to their donors. It was a circular table hanging by a large arm from the ceilings with wires everywhere. Another very Matrixstique display.
There was just so much, almost too much. My brain hurts just trying to remember all this and digest it all at the same time. But just how big was this experience? On our way out my buddy Joe touched a Cadillac that was used in the movie, which we were told cost $7 million to make. He exclaimed, "I always wanted to touch $7 million dollars."