Magazine article Variety

Great Scott's Go-To Crew

Magazine article Variety

Great Scott's Go-To Crew

Article excerpt

Brit helmer assembled vet collaborators and a new d.p. to create magic of his latest opus

In April 201 1, when director Ridley Scott, was a third of the way into principal photography on "Prometheus" at London's Pine wood Studios, the producers faced a critical decision.

With the Arab Spring uprisings spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, it had become too risky to shoot the film's alien landscapes outside Ouarzazate, Morocco, as planned. Just 125 miles away in Marrakech, a suicide bomber had blown up a well-known tourist cafe, killing 16 people. The advance team gearing up with local crew in Ouarzazate would have to pull up stakes.

For most film companies, this would have been the terrestrial production world equivalent of the poster tagline for Scott's original "Alien" (1979): "In space, no one can hear you scream." But the "Prometheus" team handled it with calm efficiency, moving the film's alien exteriors 2,400 miles to the north to the colder climes of Iceland.

"We were already filming, so we flew up to Iceland on one of our weekends with our department heads," says Mark Huffam, the film's executive producer, who was part of the eight-person scout team that also included Scott, cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Arthur Max, first a.d. Max Keene and Fox creative exec Steve Asbell.

Using helicopters and "super trucks" modified to travel across rugged mountains and glaciers, they surveyed areas around the Mt. Hekla volcano and the Dettifoss waterfall.

"Five weeks later, we're shooting there," Huffam says.

The ability to turn a multimillion-dollar production around on a dime doesn't just occur by happenstance. Over the past decade and a half, Scott has cultivated a trusted team of regular collaborators - including Max and editor Pietro Scalia, who have each worked on eight films with Scott beginning with 1997's "G.I. Jane," and costume designer Janty Yates, a veteran of seven Scott films since 2000's "Gladiator." All are equally adept at working independently, anticipating the boss' needs, sparking his imagination, and taking orders.

"One of the advantages with Ridley is he's incredibly well-prepared and knows what he wants and is very good at communicating that to everybody, so you're very efficient as a unit with him," Huffam says. …

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