Set Visit Preview: The Island
from FilmForce, February 17, 2005, by Jeff Otto
IGNFF checks out Michael Bay's sci-fi flick.
Earlier today IGN FilmForce was in Downey, California to check out the sets of Michael Bay's The Island. The story takes place 20 to 25 years away in the future. Ewan McGregor is Lincoln Six-Echo and Scarlett Johansson is Jordan Two-Delta. They live in a seemingly utopian facility safe from a "contamination" that has infected the rest of the planet. The residents all have the same ultimate goal, to win a sort of lottery that will enable them to go to the last uncontaminated spot on Earth, known only as "The Island." Lincoln makes a discovery one day and learns that his life and the lives of everyone he knows have been a lie. They are all, in fact, human inhabitants of a cloning facility whose sole purpose is to provide spare body parts for their human counterparts. Before being "harvested," Lincoln makes an escape with Jordon which incites a relentless pursuit from the forces that created the facility where they were initially held.
Walking through the sets of The Island earlier today, the closest comparisons I can make are 2001, Clockwork Orange and THX 1138. The sets of the facility area we saw are very drab and sterile, mostly grey and white and made up of concrete and glass. The Downey soundstage is massive and seems to house endless corridors, labs and a large open space where much of the action is taking place. The characters in the facility wear very plain white outfits.
Today is a bit of a slow day for the production and, coincidentally, also Michael Bay's birthday. Balloons are tied to the monitors on the side of the set. "I demand that they get me balloons everyday," Bay jokes. (Laughs) "Today is a slow day here. 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."
Today was Day 75 of 86 production days. The schedule is a relatively short one for a project of this magnitude. This aspect has provided the director with some additional challenges. "The challenge? Shooting it in 84 days. You know, it's a big mama to shoot. It's like developing the world for the price and trying to be judicious with the effects and trying to shoot a lot of the stuff practically, you know?"
The initial story was set further into the future, but it was actually Steven Spielberg that suggested moving the time period closer to the present. "I actually liked it a lot because a lot of sci-fi is about a lot of mumbo jumbo sometimes. Sometimes, all right? But this has a real human kind of core to it, and it's something that, when I read the script, I like how there's a really slow build to the story. Basically, for 20 minutes, you're thinking, 'There's something wrong with this movie… Something's not right.' Then all of the sudden on page 23 it just all changes and it just goes. You know, we set the movie, originally the script was written like 80 years in the future and it was just too far out and then Spielberg was talking to me about how he felt, that Minority Report was a little too far out and then bringing it closer makes it a lot scarier. At first, I wanted to do something that was way out there and then I realized, 'Wow, it does get a lot scarier when you make it 20 years out.'"
With the stories of cloning in the news recently, the ideas of The Island are particularly pertinent. "This movie kind of deals with it in a way, it's like we all eat meat, but we don't want to know what goes on in the slaughterhouse… We show you the positives that could [exist] with cloning. The doctor that created this feels like he created the Holy Grail of science. He's doing good things, in two years he's gonna have this facility up for children, he could cure leukemia, he could cure a lot of things, so it makes you think…"
Although McGregor isn't the typical action hero, Star Wars has given him a whole new audience and exposure. Bay likens McGregor to Nicolas Cage. "He's a great actor, he's got that childhood innocence. When I was thinking about this story, you need the, it's like Nic Cage, it could be Ewan McGregor because he's just got these eyes that can exude that childness, you know, that childlike quality? I'm playing him pretty edgy in this movie. You'll see him edgier in this movie than any movie before."
Before departing today, Bay took us to the on-set monitors in front of the cast and crew chairs to show us some footage. Speaking of Ewan, he sat down right in front of us to check out the reel. The footage we saw was very cool indeed, and I think a lot more footage than we at first expected to see. We actually saw quite a bit of the film's end. You want to know what happens? Only kidding. No spoilers here. The footage we did see looks great, though. Lots of very cool action and a lot of the intensity that Bay has become so known for.
Stay tuned to IGNFF next week for the full on set discussion with Michael Bay, a more detailed discussion of the sets and a breakdown of the footage.