On Wednesday, August 17th, MovieWeb was proud to kick off Chapter One of Warner Bros. Poseidon Journals. Poseidon Journals are going to be a weekly update of the making of Poseidon that will be chronicled by a different website for each new chapter. As all the sites are different, all the coverage will be different and as a result you, the reader, are going to get an inside look at the making of a major summer release as it still in production. In addition to each website's weekly chapter update, each site is going to sit down with a different actor/ and or crew member and discuss a different aspect of Poseidon. On top of that, this content is going to be further supplemented by exclusive footage that is being shot around the set. Lastly, each website that is taking part in this will be linking to each other's set visit reports. A link to the previous and next week's reports will be posted along with each journal entry, and eventually, all the reports will be featured on the official Poseidon website at a later date. So without further adieu, we at Movieweb sincerely hope you enjoy the Poseidon Journal - Chapter One.
Movie PictureThe StoryMovie PictureMovie PicturePoseidon is actually a remake of the 1972 classic, The Poseidon Adventure. In this updated version, an ocean liner capsizes from an enormous rogue wave, and the people on the ship who have survived are led by Dylan Johns (Josh Lucas) and Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russel) as they try to find a way out. This film is being helmed by Wolfgang Petersen who is no stranger to sea faring epics having left his indelible mark on The Perfect Storm, Das Boot and now Poseidon.
Movie PictureStage 15 - Entering the World of PoseidonMovie PictureMovie Picture I was ushered into Stage 15 (where Karate Kid II, The Goonies and The Lost Boys were all filmed) on the Warner Bros. lot by Unit Publicist Rob Harris and Tiffany Duersch. I was immediately informed that the enormous spectacle to my left was the "Upside-down Nightclub." This massive part of the ship looked eery in the way it had been designed. It took me a few seconds to orient myself to what I was looking at, and when you consider that the actual "Nightclub" in a ship is probably pretty close to the same size, it really gives you pause for the size and scope of this production.
Placed in front of a large monitor, I got to witness a scene between Kurt Russell and Mike Vogel. In this part of the movie, the ship has already capsized. Robert Ramsey (Russell) and Christian (Mike Vogel) are the only characters that can be seen in today's shot. In the completed movie, we will see that the rest of the cast is also with them. To add a bit of underlying tension, Christian is secretly engaged to Ramsey's daughter, Jennifer (Emmy Rossum).
After watching the scene a few times, I was introduced to Brian Machleit, a stuntman and stunt rigger on the film. He explained to me that many of the sets are placed on a "gimble", which "oscillates" in any direction. Machleit explained that there are 15 stunt people and at one point the production had 8 stunt riggers between the 1st and 2nd units. Although he stated proudly, "The cast is doing a lot of their own stunts." He said the trick when you working on a film of this size is to "stay ahead of what they're trying to shoot... so that when they get there they can see what they want to see." He even explained that "the bridge of the ship was put on a gimble." In trying to create the feeling of being on a large ship for today's savvy moviegoing audience, Machleit explained that one at point the production was using a total of 5 sound stages simultaneously. He then described Wolfgang Petersen as "amazing to work with." Other films Machleit has worked on are Fantastic Four, The Aviator and Training Day.
Next, I met Barbara Huber, the Associate Producer and also Wolfgang Petersen's assistant. "I'm doing double duty, " she laughed. She informed me that at 11 am, on all of the Director's sets, soup is served. The reason for this snack is because Petersen feels that at midday, a few hours before lunch, this helps to keep the crew energized before they have a proper meal. Everyday the soup is served at 11 am and everyday, Wolfgang Petersen rates it on a 1 to 10 scale.
I am informed by Producer Kimberly Miller that the production is currently at the halfway point of an 84 day shoot. At that moment, a jovial Wolfgang Petersen walks over, we are introduced and he gives me a hug.
"What's the rating for the soup today?" I ask.
"A nine." He smiles and then is quickly whisked off to attend to the myriad of duties that hang over a Director every moment they are on the set.
Kimberly Miller and I talk about the film and she explains that what sets this story apart from a lot of other films are the lack of "fantastical" elements the characters display. "It's what you or I would do," she explains about their situation. "They're not superheroes." She then went on to explain the logistics of flooding the "Upside-down Ballroom." "We prepped the windows blowing in for 4 months!" she said. Ninety thousand gallons of water were used for this scene. It was captured by 10 cameras and on top of that Production knew they could only do it in one take. "It came off flawlessly. " Miller noted. Being on such a long shoot, with so many big action scenes, I asked her if this was like other movies where the days seem to pass and blend into one another. "You don't lose track of days," she started, "each day is new and exciting. I love seeing the words on page come to life." She then explained that Poseidon is the first "full" movie she has worked on with Wolfgang Petersen and that their relationship in films started as Troy was released.
"Large movies... complicated movies, that's what an art department looks for." Production Designer Bill Sandell explained about his fourth movie with Wolfgang Petersen. "They're also complicated in bigger ways. They haven't built sets like this in Hollywood for years. Since back in the 1930s or 40s. We had 300 extras on a ship... this is old time filmmaking." He went on to say that early in the filmmaking process, he "coughs up designs and ideas to show (Petersen) what he his in (Petersen's) head." Then the designing begins. Sandell further explained that as the production continues his job is to "shepherd the set through." He says that once a set is built "Wolfgang doesn't change much at all."
Movie PictureStages 21, 16 and 19 - Putting Together the Rest of the SetMovie PictureMovie Picture I was then taken over to Stage 21 where I got to view the "Propeller Shaft" of the ship, and another stage floor, surrounded by a blue screen, that was also on a gimbal. Rob Harris explained to me that these sets were for a "transitory scene between the ‘Upside-down' and ‘Right side Up' ballrooms." Just looking at the 3 set pieces that I have seen, it appears that Petersen has almost built an entire ship much the same way Stanley Kubrick practically built the Overlook Hotel for The Shining.
Next, we walked over to Stage 16 and saw what used to be the "Upside-down Lobby" of the ship. They are currently building a swimming pool that stunt people are knocked out of when the ship capsizes. There are bloody, fake bodies scattered about, an elevator hanging upside-down, yet still connected to the rail and lots of destroyed furniture hanging overhead. I am then told that Cinematographer, John Seale (who also worked with Petersen on The Perfect Storm) is using a lot of "reality lighting" on this film.
The final set I visited was on Stage 19 where the "Right side Up Ballroom" used to be. They are currently building a ship deck in the middle of it, and passed that is a stage (that was part of the Ballroom) where Stacy Ferguson aka Fergie, from The Black Eyed Peas, is going to be singing a song. As we leave the stage, I looked up into what used to be this ballroom and I am struck by how detailed the set is. It feels like I am on a ship, so much so that I keep having to orient myself when the surroundings change position from stage to stage.
Movie PictureEmmy Rossum - The Actress Takes on the World Wolfgang Petersen Has CreatedMovie PictureMovie Picture After lunch, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Emmy Rossum. This 18 year old actress was exactly how you hope a star would be. From giving her time to do the interview (when lord how many other things she has to do), to offering up refreshments from her trailer, it isn't surprising that she is where she is today. "She's 19, a little rebellious but very loving." Rossum states about her character, Jennifer Ramsey. "She's very compassionate. A little feisty but feminine and vulnerable too." Next, I asked her what is was like to work with such screen legends as Richard Dreyfuss (who plays Richard Nelson) and Kurt Russell. "Awesome! I count my blessings that I've had the opportunity to work on the movies that I have with such great actors. It's so exciting." As for working with Wolfgang Petersen, "I was really excited to get a chance to work with him. He is one of the kindest people I have ever worked for or even met. Ever. He is so caring and professional and so intelligent."
CLICK HERE for our full interview with the actress!
Movie PictureLeaving the ShipMovie PictureMovie Picture As I left the Warner Bros. lot I actually got a little lost trying to negotiate my way off the studio grounds. As I backtracked, I passed by a few other offices that had the word Poseidon painted on them. At that point it hit me how interesting it was to see such a large production so in synch with one another. Even at the halfway mark of this shoot, on what has to be a difficult and complicated production, I never got the impression that anybody involved, from the crew, to the actors, to the producers, all the way on up to the director were in anyway even close to being burned out. On the contrary, the set felt alive. As if everybody was pushing themselves because they all believe in this movie 100%, and they totally see and trust the singular vision of Wolfgang Petersen. With the ability to make such large movies seem so personal, I not only look forward to seeing how the final film is realized on the big screen, but I am excited to see to the other chapters that will make up this Poseidon Journal.
Take a look at some MovieWeb exclusive video footage from the set of the film. This footage has been approved by director Wolfgang Petersen himself.
( Simply look under the 'Special Media' heading on the left side of the next page and click on the "MovieWeb Exclusive: On the Set" link. )