Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Avatar Crew Member: How Worthington Prepares For Battle, And... Just How Detailed Is The Set?

Jim here. Got a very interesting anonymous email from a former crew member on James Cameron's AVATAR. He/she has got some great stories to tell - like how Worthington gets his rage on for intense shots and how Cameron and Weaver interacted. Have a read!

"Well, I certainly don't have any stories about jokes played on set! This was a Jim Cameron movie. The crew were on eggshells most of the time. But having said that, Mr. Cameron was very well-behaved despite the legendary stories. I think he's mellowed with age and was very pleasant to work with. He doesn't suffer fools gladly though and chewed out a couple of his staff when things weren't ready when he said 'Let's go'. He also works very long hours so it was great for overtime, but not great for getting lots of sleep. He's like Peter Jackson in that he can just keep going.

I got to see most of the key cast at work and I was impressed by the new guy, Aussie Sam Worthington. He's certainly more Russell Crowe than Hugh Jackman in style, a pretty intense guy. He would take a while to get into character, mainly getting angry for the scenes I saw and for one take he got so worked up, he punched his hand through a window! He needed a few stitches, but once he was all fixed up, he was back into it a couple of hours later. People were a little scared of him after that...

For a sci-fi geek like me, it was amazing to literally stand next to Jim Cameron giving direction to Sigourney Weaver. Jim would often start sentences with 'Sig, remember that time on Aliens when we...' It took all my will power not to have my jaw on the ground! Sigourney was absolutely lovely. Ethereal. She would drift onto set and suddenly snap into character. Her only preparation was to do heaps of star jumps.

Stephen Lang is awesome in this film
. For a guy who mainly does period character pieces, he was great as the hard-ass colonel. Would have been the sort of role that an aging Arnold Schwarzenegger would have been perfect for, but Stephen was better.

Giovanni Ribisi
is also great in this film. Funny, weedy and well, just like Giovanni Ribisi. He spent a lot of time on set, rather than in his trailer so he was popular with the crew. Answered all of Jim's directions with that Ribisi-drawled 'Arrrbsolutely'.

The sets were amazing. The attention to detail was phenomenal. I won't describe them as this would hint at the look and story of the film, but they were so detailed that diaries placed on the set had relevant entries written in them. In one set there was a prospectus on the operation happening on the planet. It was a fifty odd page document, basically detailing the entire backstory of the film, with pictures and sketches and everything. And it was just a prop that only gets seen on a desk. That's Weta for you.

As for the filming technology, well that was amazing. This is going to be the most advanced movie ever made in terms of the 3D process used to shoot it and the effects within it. If this movie is going to be blown up to Imax size and in 3D, then every frame has to and will be in perfect definition.

Basically the process of filming involved having a 3D rendering of every set within the camera so that the 3D actors can be placed within it, during the live takes. This will soon be the way movies are made that involve digital actors with real ones. Jim could basically move anywhere on the set and see in the lens where his digital components would be. Then he could do a take and show the replay on a monitor with all the components roughly added. Very handy I guess for an actor to know where an 'invisible' actor is going to be.

So that's all I'm prepared to say as I don't want to (and am not allowed to!) give any of the on-screen elements away, suffice to say it will be a huge, science fiction action movie with aliens, battles and guns. Lots of guns. And Sigourney Weaver.

I'd hazard a guess and say it's highly unlikely there'd be any (teaser material) this year. I think Jim's the sort of guy who wouldn't let anyone see anything until it was screen ready and that's a way off.

One other weird experience working on the film: Pete Jackson's 'Lovely Bones' was shooting at the same time in the studio next to us. You'd get to work in all these futuristic sets, then walk past a studio where they'd built an entire cornfield. Seriously. Very surreal. We glimpsed Mark Walberg and Siourse Ronan walking through the lot one time.

If you were a Kiwi, especially one who knows the very small, nondescript nature of Mirimar in Wellington where the studio is, you'd know how weird it is for the place to have famous movie stars walking round in it. And for the biggest budget sci-fi film ever made to be produced here. Prior to Peter Jackson building his empire here, Mirimar was only famous for its Garden Centre and the fact that planes from the airport next door make a lot of noise. And soon it will be filled with little people making the new Hobbit movies. Weird."

Yes, and Hobbit movies in 3D!! Damn it Guillermo, just admit you are doing them in stereoscopic 3D and get it over with! :-)

YEAH! Sounds like a blast to be involved with as anyone would expect. I've said it before, it is the behind the scenes (BTS) action that really intrigues me about the hype behind any movie. Now it just so happens that AVATAR is 3D and being helmed by one of the masters so naturally I have a really intense interest here.

If anyone else has BTS stories to tell - use the contact me form below! As always you are completely anonymous and I don't expect spoilers, just interesting stories about the production. Well, if you do have spoilers I won't complain!!

Photo from another MarketSaw source taken INSIDE the "Avatar" set! Check out all of our previous Pandoran posts - we think it is the best "Avatar" scoop coverage on the PLANET.

Contact Me

Jim Dorey
jim (at) marketsaw (dot) com

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