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Jordan Two-Delta // THE ISLAND (2005)

Set Visit 'The Island'
from Joblo.Com, February 21, 2005, by Chris Gaede

Cloning is a hot topic these days. Right about now, I bet there’s a lot of people wishing that someone had been able to clone Hunter S. Thompson, sadly no longer with us. Whenever a hot button issue is in the air, you can bet Hollywood is right on the heels of the subject.

This summer, in addition to some hot clone action in STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH, the local multiplexes will be unspooling another take on those pesky clones. It’s the latest from the master of sturm und drang himself, director Michael Bay . The film is THE ISLAND. JoBlo.com was recently invited to come check out the set in Downey , California .

The film boasts an all star cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, and Michael Clarke Duncan. I got a chance to tour some of the sets, and speak to key members of the crew, including Michael Bay . But first… a little intro.

THE ISLAND is set some 25 years in the future. It is the story of a man named Lincoln Six-Echo (McGregor), who is part of a small underground utopia. The surface of the earth has been ravaged by various catastrophes. Everyone has their place, fulfilling their various roles for the good of the society. The most exciting thing for the residents is to win a lottery to go to “The Island”, which is supposed to be the last safe environment on Earth. But Lincoln soon discovers that he has been lied to, he and his fellow workers are actually clones of real people. Their purpose is to be raised as spare parts for their owners. When your number comes up to go The Island, that’s when you get harvested.

Lincoln breaks out and makes a run for it, along with another worker, Jordan Two-Delta (Johansson). The film follows them as they are pursued by agents of their former masters. Obviously, some heady sci-fi, but with Bay at the helm, you can expect it won’t be your run of the mill summer demo derby.

I arrived at the Downey studios, and saw a gathering of smashed up futuristic cars in the parking lot. Hmm…somebody had fun. Then the tour began.

It’s funny to walk on any film set, let alone the set of a film that will be a major contender for your summer dollars. The main difference being that this was larger than any film set that I had ever been on. Various workstations and hallways were revealed, but the real icing on the cake was the main set, where all of the clones congregate. It looked like the Apple store crossed with IKEA, with a nice steel finish, kinda like what you would imagine the inside of an iPod to feel like. Come to think of it, it looked like my college, which was right next to Wright Patterson Airforce Base, we used a lot of old underground tunnels that they had built.

The set was MASSIVE. It functions as a gathering place, includes a yoga center and exercise room, along with a water bar. While being a spectacular set, it will be made even more astounding through the magic of digital technology. The wizards at ILM will be handling the chores on that one. Which brings us to the Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Brevig.

He was kind enough to take time out of his hectic schedule and speak to us about the challenges of THE ISLAND, and how they go about creating what producer Ian Bryce calls “Michael Bay Mayhem.” First he discussed what will surely be one of the highlights of the film. It’s a major sequence where Lincoln and Jordan try to escape the baddies on a WASP, a futuristic military jetbike. It begins as a massive freeway chase, that continues up into the sky.

ERIC BREVIG (EB): We’re using all techniques. We dragged the stunt people behind a truck at 70 mph on a real freeway, we shot the real actors in a safer condition, also outside. We’re gonna shoot some bluescreen and we have digital doubles for the sequences that no one can survive.

What was your reaction to the script?
EB: Knowing that it was a Michael Bay movie, and I did PEARL HARBOR with Michael, well…this is really going to be tough! But it’s a good script and he’s a lot of fun to work with, so I was eager to get on board.

How many shots do you have to do?
EB: 300-400

Total? Or that’s just what’s left to go?
EB: In total. Since we’re still shooting and we’re getting into some of the biggest deal right now…it’s hard to tell. We’re basically doing pre-production and post production at the same time.

Are you sleeping at night?
EB: Not as much as I would like to! (LAUGHS) And it’ll only get worse.

What kind of energy does Michael Bay bring to the post production process?
EB: A significant urgency. The guy is sort of at 100% all of the time. He communicates the need to really do your best.

Is there a lot of pressure for you to top other futuristic movies, in addition to the hectic schedule?
EB: Personally, I don’t like to do something that’s already been done before, so I’ll try to come up with a shot or a technique that hasn’t been done. The needs of the movie dictate what we have to do. But I like to do something different each time.

Next, he spoke about working with Ewan McGregor, who is pretty used to CGI and bluescreen thanks to a certain trilogy.

EB: Ewan has been great. He knows how to deal with effects and I go out of my way to give him cues on the set as to stuff that isn’t there, what’s going on, so he’s not just standing in a blue void with a C-stand. He’s really a joy to work with. I think he likes the fact that he can actually play with all of the actors, and we’ve got big sets like this. Most of the STAR WARS movies…it’s a minimalistic set.

What do you look for in an actor, when it comes to doing the work?
EB: Cooperation. So many of the things that I ask them to do are ridiculous, petty things, that don’t come natural. (NOTE: He’s referring to the actors doing scenes in front of a bluescreen with nothing to react to, and potentially feeling silly. I’d hate for anyone to think the “ridiculous, petty things” involved Eric making Ewan do his laundry or get him an iced coffee)

For example, he plays himself and he plays a clone, and we had a long scene where he is talking to himself, all done in one long dollying shot. He had to hit a lot of marks. And he was just great. Very technical stuff, a lot of performers don’t like to deal with that, but he was right there.

At that point we had to wrap up, as Eric was needed back on the set. Given the fact that the film is due to come out in July, you can imagine the pressure that Eric and the rest of the crew are facing.

In the next part, we’ll go on the set as Ewan McGregor films a scene, and visit with director Michael Bay , who was cool enough to show us an breathtaking reel of scenes from the film. Until then…ask yourself this: how would you know if you are a clone?


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