Vertigo Leg 1: 2005, US

May
26
2001

Day Off - Toronto

Paul McGuinness called me this morning and asked if I would be interested in going to look at the set of an action movie being shot here, called "K-19; The Widowmaker". We drove out to the studios about a half hour outside the city center and were given quite the in depth tour which turned out to be fascinating. The film is the true story of a Russian nuclear submarine which went horribly wrong somewhere up by Greenland in 1961. Were it not for the bravery of captain and crew the whole thing could have blown up causing a huge environmental disaster and probably world war three whilst they were at it. Much of the action takes place inside the submarine, which has been faithfully recreated on this soundstage. It's an extremely authentic and wildly impressive replica, built in six or seven obsessively detailed and highly claustrophobic life-size set pieces. The captain is played by Harrison Ford (ah, so that's what he's doing here...) and another crew member is played by Liam Neeson. They were shooting today, so we got to see them performing which was very exciting. We also got to explore the sets which weren't being used and were told all the stories of how the research was done and how it was all built and put together. Climbing through these sets was a bit of an obstacle course, as the submarine was so small and cramped. It was also quite comical, because although everything looked extremely authentic, nothing felt like it looked.... Great big cast iron taps and dials which looked so cold, hard and solid turned out to be just warm painted wood. (This is, apparently, just as well due to the ubiquitous low ceiling heights throughout the submarine. In one sequence we watched being filmed today, Liam Neeson walloped his head on one of the overhead pipes.) Shortly after we arrived the cast broke for lunch and we were introduced to everybody. It turns out that the cinematographer is Jeff Cronenweth who worked with U2 on Rattle & Hum many moons ago, along with his genius father Jordan Cronenweth, the man responsible for lighting Bladerunner and other cinematic greats. We also got to meet and chat to Harrison Ford, which was a personal highlight, particularly as he said how much he enjoyed the U2 show and how great it looked. The production team eats lunch in the screening room so they can use the time to look at the previous days rushes. We were allowed to sit in on this and so saw everything that they shot yesterday. This included a lot of fire sequences, which was fascinating to watch. Its all extremely claustrophobic, but looks really beautiful, in a brutal kind of a way. It'll be really interesting to watch this film when it appears next year and see if I recognise any sequences from today. It sounds like a very powerful story of disaster averted, with an ironic twist in that the real life submarine is still rotting and leaking radiation somewhere in the shallows off Murmansk....

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