In the wake of the film's record setting box office Knoll discusses the effect he's currently the most proud of, Pirates 3 and working with George Lucas and Gore Verbinksi
When you have a major hand in creating a film that makes $132 million dollars in three days, it would seem that you'd have time to sit back and revel in many self congratulatory moments.
Not if you're John Knoll.
As the visual effects supervisor on the recently released Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Knoll is currently hard at work at ILM putting the effects together for the third film in the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. With a career that started working on films like Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi, Knoll, though highly accomplished, seems to be continually expanding his artistic and visual effects range.
Did you have any idea that Pirates was going to do what it did last weekend?
John Knoll: Well, no, I had some hopes because I thought it was a very entertaining picture. I really enjoyed it quite a lot and I thought, "I think audiences are going to really go for this. I hope it's gonna do really well." And it exceeded my expectations.
In making Dead Man's Chest what was the toughest part of your job?
John Knoll: Probably the toughest part of it was the schedule. It was a very large amount of work to do and it was a very short post period for us. So we were finishing more shots per week than we were were doing on Star Wars... I think it was almost double...
John Knoll: And they were pretty hard shots, too. It was not simply a matter of cranking out easy stuff.
Of all the effects that you did on the movie do you have one that is your particular favorite?
John Knoll: I'm not gonna narrow it down to one particular shot but I am very pleased in how Davy Jones turned out. That was a very important character to gore at the beginning of the picture. He's a major character, delivers a lot of dialogue, his performance is extremely important. We're gonna see him in close-up, in daytime, nighttime, in the rain... in all kinds of conditions and he's just gotta be fantastic. So we poured a lot of effort into it and I'm very pleased with how that turned out.
What aspect of working on Dead Man's Chest did you most enjoy?
John Knoll: I really enjoyed the onset work with the crew. I think that we had a really talented group of people working on this. The production crew, the director of photography, the operators, the special effects, the art department. That was a very enjoyable experience and they all did just a great job. And the actors were a joy to work with. Bill Nighy was fantastic and he took a really great leap of faith that we weren't going to make him look silly. There he was, kind of feeling silly in this kind of silly gray suit with tracking marks all over it, and everybody else is in their fantastic looking pirates costumes. (Laughs) He's this guy who's in a goofy looking Devo suit and trusting us that in the end, he's not gonna look like an idiot. He really was very good natured about it. I think he delivered a fantastic performance. I think he made us look great.
How is Pirates 3 going? What are you currently doing on that now?
John Knoll: Well, we're in the early phases of that. There's some new scenes where were doing a lot of "look development." Trying to figure out what these shots are really going to look like in the end. Getting the techniques nailed down on it. Kind of in the early phases on that. Davy and his crew will be back for Pirates 3, so fortunately we kind of know how do those shots now, so that should be fairly straight forward. Gore and the writers have not run out of ideas, there's a lot of kind of really challenging stuff for us to figure out.
In doing Pirates 2 and 3 so close together, does that create a problem for you? Is it any easier?
John Knoll: A little bit of both. I don't mind going back to back on them, it's the short post schedule that's the hard part. I would love for the third one to be a July or August release and not an end of May release. It just means there's going to be a lot of overtime and weekend work.
Having worked with George Lucas and Gore Verbinksi so closely, what are they like? Are they similar? Different?
John Knoll: Well, every director is different. I really have enjoyed working with both of them quite a lot. Gore has got a really great eye. He's got a very strong technical background. He's definitely my ally in my quest to kind of stamp out bad movie physics. He cares about the things that are realistic... that the motion of characters and objects is realistic. He's got a good grasp of science and physics that are underlying everything.
What are you currently working on now? Are you doing any work on Prince Caspian?
John Knoll: Me, I'm on Pirates. There are other shows happening at ILM. There's Harry Potter 5, Eragon, Evan Almighty and The Spiderwick Chronicles, those are the big ones, I think. Pirates is too big of a show for me to do anything than just this show.
Of everything that you've done, from Star Wars to now working on Pirates 3, is there one movie, or even a visual effect that you've created, that you're the most proud of within your body of work?
John Knoll: Well that changes every show. I always kind of like the thing I just did. Honestly, the thing I'm the most proud of at this moment is Davy Jones. A pretty big challenge was laid at our feet and I think that the crew rose to that challenge, and I think the work that they did was really outstanding.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is currently in theaters worldwide from Walt Disney Pictures.