Mankind has long been fascinated by the possibility of life beyond Earth. Science fiction literature and films have served to not only entertain, but to address our questions, hopes and fears about extraterrestrial life. Such speculation has captivated our collective imagination and inspired the development of new technology to explore the farthest reaches of our universe and the very real possibility that we are not alone.
In the thrilling new sci fi drama “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” Keanu Reeeves stars as Klaatu, an alien who comes to Earth with a chilling warning: unless people get the message that war and avarice do not work, humanity is doomed. His arrival triggers not only fear and suspicion but also a global upheaval as international leaders and scientists try to discover who he is and what his presence signifies. This contemporary reinvention of the 1951 classic is timely, intelligent and enormously entertaining.
As part of Twentieth Century Fox parent company News Corp.’s corporate mandate to become a carbon-neutral company by the year 2010, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” was chosen to be the studio’s first green production. “For the first time ever, I found myself working with a studio to find ways of being more efficient in the work we do in the art department and less wasteful,” says Brisbin, whose team typically uses “mountains and mountains” of paper in printing, especially location photo stills.
For this production, the art department transitioned to a digital approach, posting photos on a website that could be accessed by other departments as needed, thereby cutting down additional printing and paper waste. Meanwhile, Brisbin’s scenic painters, construction crew and set dressers used recyclable materials and biodegradable products whenever possible in the creation of sets and props. When it was necessary to use lumber, it was sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
Costume designer Tish Monaghan’s team also adapted from paper printing or taking Polaroids to using digital photography for wardrobe fittings. Efforts were also made to use more environmentally-conscious solvents and dyes, and to recycle garment bags and hangars and other items that are often thrown away after filming. When principal photography wrapped, all of the wardrobe that was purchased for the film (or re-purposed from another show) was either given to Fox to be utilized by future productions, or donated to men’s and women’s shelters.
Much attention was also focused on fuel efficiency through the use of hybrid vehicles, substituting biodiesel for fossil fuels in the generators, and strict enforcement of the “idle-free mandate” – if any member of the crew found themselves sitting in their production vehicle for more than three minutes, they had to turn off the engine. Energy-efficient appliances were also used to conserve electricity.
“Everybody on the crew dug into it with zealousness,” says visual effects producer Jeff Okun of the collective effort. “It’s really exciting to be involved in making a movie about saving the world, and at the same time, taking steps to make sure we leave a zero footprint.”
As re-conceived by screenwriter David Scarpa and director Scott Derrickson, the premise for the 2008 version of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is rooted not in man’s violence against man, but in mankind’s destruction of the Earth’s environment. “I’m a tremendous fan of the original film,” Derrickson says. “It was so interesting and original and progressive for its time – in the visual effects, in the way it commented on the Cold War tensions of that era, in the idea of seeing humanity from an outsider’s perspective. It’s a truly great film, but most modern audiences haven’t seen it. I feel like people deserve to know this story, and this was a fantastic opportunity to retell it in a way that addresses the issues and conflicts that are affecting us now.”
“There is nothing the original film says about the nature of mankind that isn’t every bit as timely and relevant to this generation of movie audiences,” Stoff believes. “It’s the specifics of the way we now have the capability to destroy ourselves that have changed. The evidence that we are doing potentially irreparable harm to the environment is pretty irrefutable. The challenges that we face today are no less daunting, and if we fail at them, no less lethal, than the ones that we faced before the end of the Cold War.”
“In re-imagining this picture, we had an opportunity to capture a real kind of angst that people are living with today, a very present concern that the way we are living may have disastrous consequences for the planet,” says Reeves. “I feel like this movie is responding to those anxieties. It’s holding a mirror up to our relationship with nature and asking us to look at our impact on the planet, for the survival of our species and others.”
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” opens December 11 in theaters nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.