Last August, before anyone had seen the kick-ass teaser trailer, before most people knew who Sam Worthington was, and when everyone online debated how much money Fox was going to lose on Avatar, I got to visit the London set of director Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans. Going in, I thought the movie was going to be pretty big. But when I got to the set and saw the size and scope firsthand, I realized this was a movie I couldn’t wait to see put together, and I left London excited and impressed by what Warner Bros. showed us.
If you’ve read my previous set reports for Watchmen or Observe and Report, you know I try and avoid writing about spoilers and other things that might ruin watching the movie. But if you want to know what visiting a movie set is really like and what I observed while there, continue reading after the jump:
Before going any further, please watch this teaser trailer. If you’re not excited after seeing this footage…I’m sorry for you.
The first thing to know about visiting a movie set is they are never the same. On some set visits you can sit around half the day waiting to do interviews, and on others you might be done with everything by lunch and leaving early. You need to be prepared for anything and everything. Thankfully, the set visit for Clash of the Titans was non-stop from beginning to end.
Another thing about set visits is even if you get flown to another continent, you’re not there for long. For Clash of the Titans, I left Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon, arrived in London 8am Thursday, was on set all day Friday, and on Saturday at 7am I was awake and walking with a few other online reporters to the local Tube station to catch our flight back home. It’s pretty much blink-and-you’re-done.
When we first got to set, we were invited to a small screening room to check out a sizzle reel from the first six weeks of filming.
This has been a new thing on set visits as more and more productions are showing early footage to visiting journalists, and it’s an easy way to get everyone excited. Like the other set visits that have done this, by getting to see some of the footage before doing the interviews and talking to the department heads, we got a much better understanding of the look and feel that Leterrier was going for. And since you’ve all seen the teaser trailer, you know we were all impressed.
On top of the few minutes of footage, we got to see some pre-viz sequences, some test footage, footage of building the sets, all the actors in costume like Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and Sam Worthington training to do some of the fight scenes.
The one thing I noticed about the footage was the camera was always moving. Rather than letting someone give a speech with a static shot, the camera was always zooming in or moving around an actor while they were doing something. Whilst the footage was rough and unfinished, the shots we got to see were fantastic. Whoever cut it together did an awesome job because I walked out of the screening room excited.
While all the footage was very cool since none of us had seen any of the costumes, one of the shots blew me away. The shot had Sam Worthington and his group walking on the top of a mountainside like Frodo and the fellowship in Fellowship of the Ring. The group was walking and in the background you could see tons of clouds below them. When you see this in the movie you’re going to think it’s a fake CG shot. But it wasn’t. It took the production a few days and they got the shot at the last possible second, but they were all at a very high altitude and on a real mountaintop getting the shot. And it looked awesome. That’s the scope and size they’re going for with this film.
It was also the moment I realized Clash of the Titans is Lord of the Rings with Greek Gods.
After getting to see the footage, we did our first interview with producer Kevin De La Noy. He talked to us about the differences between the original film and the new one and a lot more. You can read or listen to what he had to say here.
From there, we did an extensive walking tour of all the sets they were filming on and we started to see the size of the production.
The first thing we did was visit the art department and we were shown concept art of all the various sets: Olympus, Argos, the sea of clouds, and a few others. The walls of a very large office were filled from end to end with artwork, and I really wish they had let us take some pictures! Imagine getting to see the entire movie from beginning to end in pictures. That was the room I walked into.
What’s also great about getting to see the art department firsthand is most of the art is the type of stuff that ends up in a production book when the movie comes out…except you get to see it all firsthand. At the art department we also learned they filmed the big Medusa action sequence at the start of production since that’s the sequence that needed the most time in post due to the amount of visual effects required.
From there we walked over to the main stage and got to see some very cool stuff like Cheron’s ferry that crosses the river Styx (it takes 3 guys to control him), and the bottom part of the boat that was filled with fake gold coins. The boat was huge, and it looked like it could hold dozens of damned souls without a problem. While some movies are loaded with green screen and CG, Clash of the Titans had a lot of practical sets and props, which only made me more excited.
And while the art department and some of the sets were impressive, it was going through the the prop warehouse, the armory, and the costume department when I realized how huge this production really was.
In the armory, the first thing we were told is four people created 1,600 items and we got to see a ton of the creations like Zeus’ sword, Apollo’s sword and staff, Medusa’s bow, Calibos sword (which gets cut in half during a lightning strike), an army of shields and countless other items. We also learned that movie productions steal from other movies as 10% of the armory items came from Troy.
But what was great about the armory was getting to feel the difference between the real props and the stunt props. What you might not know is productions that use swords and weapons usually will create two versions of the prop for filming: one of them is real and heavy, while the other is light as a feather and made of to hit people with. After all, you can’t have your actors running around with sharp heavy swords and trying to hit people, so you give them fake weapons that look real for the camera.
Anyway, we got to lift and hold whatever we wanted and you really couldn’t tell the difference between some of the weapons unless you actually picked them up and felt the weight. If you are a collector of movie props, you would have had a serious geekgasm getting to hold all the stuff that got passed around. I did.
Moving from the armory, we ventured to the prop room and were shown all the other various items that were created for the movie. Like the other departments, it was so much stuff that it was almost overwhelming. Since I knew I’d forget the items…here’s just some of what I wrote down: Solomon’s staff, soldier packs, Turkish brother packs, satchels, royal goblets, Poseidon’s Trident, Andromeda’s Shackles, Danae’s Coffin, ferry coins, Medusa’s Arrows, witches eye, and we learned some of the packs that you’ll see in the film were originally created for Troy. Again, it can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult to take in and appreciate all the craftsmanship that goes into creating these props.
Like the other departments, I was blown away walking into the costume department. It was like a huge department store except it was loaded with 3,000 costumes for 285 extras. Imagine rack after rack of costumes. Walking around the warehouse, we learned 50 people were responsible for creating the costumes and each extra had their own unique costume! We were also told each person has their own unique hair and makeup. Again, most movies would not do this and it’s just another example of how huge the production was.
While I could keep going with the set report, let me take a moment to sort of put this all in perspective. On most set visits, the visiting journalists spend a ton of time sitting by a monitor or waiting at a location to speak with the actors or the director. You’re often waiting hours and doing almost nothing. The set visit for Clash of the Titans was like a tornado. Every time I blinked I was standing in a new department and talking with a new person. I even wrote in my journal “this set visit is non-stop“. And we hadn’t even watched any filming yet!
Finally, after visiting every area of production, we ended up in a tent that was constructed for all the set visits the production was doing. In the tent we got to speak with Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, and Mads Mikkelsen. Click on any of the names to read or listen to what they had to say. All three are great interviews and you’ll appreciate how honest they all were when talking about the production and their characters.
After a short coffee break, we were finally off to where they were filming. Again, while some movies build a small section of what they need, and some movies do a lot on green screen, the set that Warner Bros. built for Clash of the Titans was MASSIVE. The sequence they were filming took place in the city of Argos and to make it so Louis Leterrier could film wide shots, they built to scale a pretty large portion of the city.
When we first got to set, we were given free rein to walk around and examine the streets and vendors. I walked up and down the alleys and I felt like I was in a real place. Vendors had different items (some had fruits, other clothing, some had pots and pans). The corners were filled in. If you didn’t see the movie cameras and the people standing around with modern clothing, you’d think you’d have stepped back in time.
Another thing that impressed me was the way the production made the city look lived in. On the corners of the main square were posts attached to walls with fire to illuminate the city. The area around was burned in like the flame had been going for years. Again, the little things that no one will see.
After our walkabout through the set, we finally got to speak to Louis Leterrier on the steps of the city. While he was being pulled in five directions and all the departments needed his input, he was beyond gracious and he still had that infectious enthusiasm for the project. Here’s what he had to say.
Following our interview, we were escorted to an area behind where the cameras were so we could watch some of the filming. Since what we saw was part of the finale, all I’ll say is the city is under attack from….something. If Louis Leterrier manages to pull off what he was going for, it should be one hell of a battle.
While I’d rather not spoil what or who was in the shot, I will tell you about the way Leterrier was filming the sequence: On 4 huge cranes around the city set up like an X (meaning a crane at each end of the X), he had cameras flying in and around. The way he was filming it, the action should look awesome on screen and now that the movie is in 3D, I cannot wait to see what the finale will look like.
Now the only negative about watching part of the finale get filmed is…they had to film the same part of the movie again…and again…and again. So while I would have liked to have seen more filming and other sequences, we only got to see this one part filmed over and over for at least an hour. So when they asked us if we wanted to stay and watch more filming or leave for our hotel in London, we all agreed it was time to go. Also, it was 6pm and we’d be on the go for 10 hours. Add to that, in 14 hours, most of us had to go back to America.
While some remakes feel forced and unnecessary, I’m 100% on board this Clash of the Titans remake. With an all-star cast featuring Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, Danny Huston, Polly Walker and Pete Postlethwaite, director Louis Leterrier’s movie looks to be the kind of blockbuster that everyone is going to enjoy – especially action fans. Also, there is an entire generation (or three) of moviegoers that don’t know the original film and will never realize it’s a remake. And after they see the size and scope of the new one…they won’t care.
While you can never tell how the final film is going to turn out when you do a set visit, you can at the very least get a gut feeling while you’re there. My visit to the London set of Clash of the Titans made me feel like the property was in the right hands and I can’t wait to see the final product.
Clash of the Titans arrives in 2D and 3D on April 2nd.
For more Clash of the Titans coverage, check out these links: