Collider Goes to the LAND OF THE LOST

     April 19, 2009

Written by Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub

When you get invited to the set of a movie, you never know what’s going to happen or where it’s going to take place. I’ve been flown to Vancouver and Atlanta for set visits, I’ve also just had to drive a few miles to do much the same thing. Thankfully, going to visit the set of director Brad Silberling’s “Land of the Lost” required almost no effort. That’s because Universal decided to film a lot of the movie on their huge soundstages on their studio lot, and I live really close by. So when I got the invite last June to see how they were putting the movie together and watch some filming, I was extremely happy to just have to drive a few short miles.

But before I jump into what I saw and did, I just want to make sure you’re all familiar with “Last of the Lost”.

The film is based on the original classic television series created by Sid & Marty Krofft. The remake stars Will Ferrell as Dr. Rick Marshall, Danny McBride as a redneck survivalist, Anna Friel as a crack-smart research assistant, and Jorma Taccone as Chaka! Here’s the synopsis and trailer in case you missed it:

Will Ferrell stars as has-been scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, sucked into one and spat back through time. Way back. Now, Marshall has no weapons, few skills and questionable smarts to survive in an alternate universe full of marauding dinosaurs and fantastic creatures from beyond our world—a place of spectacular sights and super-scaled comedy known as the Land of the Lost.

Sucked alongside him for the adventure are crack-smart research assistant Holly (Anna Friel) and a redneck survivalist (Danny McBride) named Will. Chased by T. rex and stalked by painfully slow reptiles known as Sleestaks, Marshall, Will and Holly must rely on their only ally—a primate called Chaka (Jorma Taccone)—to navigate out of the hybrid dimension. Escape from this routine expedition gone awry and they’re heroes. Get stuck, and they’ll be permanent refugees in the Land of the Lost.

Anyway, when we went to the set last June it was day 74 of the production and everyone seemed extremely excited to have us on set.

The first thing we got to do was walk around a workshop where the costume designers were building and maintaining the huge army of Sleestak costumes needed for the movie. While I was nervous that the production was going to rely too heavily on CGI for the Sleestaks, I was really happy to see it was mostly practical effects and costumes. In fact, they had a whole army of Sleestak costumesin the workshop and they let us touch everything and see how it was all made. I have to say, they looked amazing and the level of detail was impressive. We were also told on some days they had 30 Sleestaks working, so you can imagine how many costumes they had to keep maintained and organized.

From there we got to go inside the actual soundstage and we were all immediately blown away by the scale and scope of the production.

I’ve been on a lot of soundstages. I’ve seen a lot of movie sets. The stage they were using for “Land of the Lost” was one of the coolest I’ve been on.

Not only was the level of detail all around the stage top notch, but it was MASSIVE. From one end of the stage to the other, everything was part of the set. They had built a huge staircase on one end and also on the other. They had walls that looked like they were alive with plant life and on the far end from where we walked in we could see a Sleestak Temple (or the Temple of the Skulls).

As we walked through the stage and up the stairs, we were able to see the Sleestak heads up close (I counted 12.) In the center was a huge drop and they told us it was the crematorium.

The best thing I can say about the work done on this stage was that everything looked lived in. It was as if a real culture was living and operating on the Universal lot and the production had gotten permission to film there. It was really that impressive.

After spending a bunch of time walking around and taking in all that they had built, the journalists on the set visit and I walked back outside and into a small tent the production had put up for us to do our interviews in.

While on some set visits you are lucky to speak with a few people, Universal made sure we got a lot of people and over the next few hours we spoke with:

· Sid & Marty Krofft– LOTL Series Creators/ Producers (here is the write up)

· Will Ferrell– “Dr. Rick Marshall” (here is the write up)

· Danny McBride– “Will” (here is the write up)

· Anna Friel “Holly”

· Brad Silberling– Director

· Mike Elizalde– Spectral Motion

· Bo Welch– Production Designer

· Dennis McNicholas– Writer

· Bill Westenhofer– VFX Supervisor

While I’ll be posting a lot of the interviews tonight and over the next few days, if you’d like to hear any of the interviews right now just click on their name for the audio.

One of the best things I learned about the production came from the interviews we conducted.

As I’ve said many times, while I like CGI, I always prefer practical sets and effects. I know that’s not always possible, but when you can go practical, it’s always better. Look at the special effects from the 70’s and compare them to a lot of the CGI from the 90’s. I think the older stuff that’s model based and miniature looks a lot better.

So when we were talking with everyone from the production, they told me they were only doing a week of green screen and the rest was real sets and real locations, that’s when I knew the movie was going to at least look good and feel real.

After a long time in the tent and after speaking with most of the cast, we all went back into the soundstage to watch some of the filming.

Since the Sleestak Temple was elevated and above the action, most of us stood at the top of the stairs and watched Anna Friel’s character of Holly do some stuff. I’d love to tell you what we saw…but it’s a massive spoiler that I’ve been asked not to write about. All I can say is we saw something near the end of the movie and it’s definitely going to get a big laugh in the theater when you all see it.

After a little while, we then went back outside for some more interviews and some food.

Since the day was running really late, a lot of people had to leave. But we had yet to speak with director Brad Silberling, so a few of us waiting around and eventually made our way to Brad’s trailer and got almost 30 minutes with the director. Either tonight or tomorrow I’ll post the transcript, but I’ll say he was extremely nice and seemed to really have his shit together about what he wanted to accomplish with the movie and how he wanted the action to look.

While I didn’t get to see as much filming as I sometimes do on a movie set, overall it was a really cool experience because I grew up with “Land of the Lost”. When I was a kid if you had told me I’d get to see them filming a movie based on Dr. Rick Marshall and the Sleestaks I would have never believed you. And having Will Ferrell – a comedian I really love – as the main character, I think this could be a really great comedy and a fantastic summer movie.

“Land of the Lost” invades theaters June 5th. And I’m on the ever growing world of Twitter.

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