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June 2013

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director's chair Andrew Niccol — The Host H By Iain Blair A sci-fi romance... with VFX. Efilm colorist Mitch Paulson handled the DI. 8 OLLYWOOD — Born in New Zealand, writer/director Andrew Niccol moved to London in the '80s and began his career directing TV commercials before making his movie debut in 1997 by writing and directing the Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller Gattica. He went on to write the influential The Truman Show (which won him an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay) and The Terminal, and to write and direct Lord of War and In Time. His latest film, The Host, which he also scripted, is based on the best-selling novel by Twilight Saga author Stephenie Meyer, and once again explores ideas about identity and love in a sci-fi scenario. A love story set in the future, where Earth is occupied by the Souls, a species who inhabit and then erase the minds of their human hosts, leaving their bodies intact, The Host follows the adventures of Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), one of the last surviving humans who fights back, risking her life for the people she cares about most — Jared (Max Irons), Ian (Jake Abel), her brother Jamie (Chandler Canterbury) and her Uncle Jeb (William Hurt) — proving that love can conquer all. Here, in an exclusive interview, Niccol talks about making the ambitious film, his love of post and sound, the appeal of sci-fi, and why he always prefers using visual effects to create his imagery. POST: You seem to love doing sci-fi projects. What's the appeal for you? ANDREW NICCOL: "I write other things but it's true that I've had the most success with sci-fi, and I love the fact that it's like a Trojan horse. Meaning that if you have serious ideas, sometimes it's easier to slip them by people if you wrap them in a futuristic setting. So people tend to think, this has got nothing to do with me, when it actually has everything to do with them." POST: What sort of film did you set out to make with The Host? NICCOL: "I tried to be very faithful to the novel and I was very drawn to the book's idea. I love the story's ambiguity, which is a dirty word in Hollywood as they want good versus evil, with no shading in between. And I loved that these aliens — the Souls — might be better for our planet than we are. Yes, they steal our free will, but they've eradicated war and disease and hunger, and healed the planet. It's a great idea." Post • June 2013 POST: How closely did you work with Stephenie Meyer? NICCOL: "She was very involved, but I was pleasantly surprised since I had no idea going in what to expect — and after a few days of working with her, I said, 'Thank God you're normal,' because it would be so easy for her not to be normal, given all the huge success she's had. But, she was very flexible and collaborative. "For instance, in the novel, the Seekers — the aliens who go around searching for surviving humans — are all dressed in black, and when I suggested they wear white because of their pure intentions, she agreed immediately. So she was very open to any changes I wanted to make. She could have been a mon- NICCOL: "We shot on location in New Mexico and Louisiana for about three months, with all the cave sets built at Celtic Studios in Baton Rouge. Shooting in the desert is always tough, but the locations we found were just stunning." POST: You've never worked with DP Roberto Schaefer (Neverland,The Kite Runner) before. What did he bring to the mix? NICCOL: "He's worked with Marc Forster a lot and he has this indie side I really needed, because we had a tight budget. So I wanted a DP who could work fast and who had also shot big action movies, and he had the best of both worlds. We also share a similar sense of composition, which speeds up the process a lot on set." Andrew Niccol on set: "I like to edit very closely behind the actual shoot, as I like the flexibility of being able to change things, so I work on the edit on weekends." ster, but she's great and just very agreeable, even when disagreeing with you." POST: What were the biggest technical challenges making this? NICCOL: "An unexpected one is that since Saoirse plays two characters, she's in almost every scene, so I was desperately looking for stuff to shoot that she wasn't in (laughs). Otherwise I'd work her to death. Then Stephenie had written scenes like the wheat field in the cave, which was a huge undertaking. We had to wire every strand by hand. She wrote 'river in a cave,' which sounds good on paper but which took a lot of engineering and design to create." POST: How long was the shoot and how tough was it? POST: Did you shoot this digitally? NICCOL: "Yes, on the Alexa. I did In Time with the great Roger Deakins, and just assumed he'd want to shoot film, but he asked me to look at a test he'd done with the Alexa, where this actor had one candle, and the detail was amazing and the noise was nonexistent. Once a DP like Roger makes the switch, all the producers will follow suit. So yes, film is dead." POST: You had also never worked with editor Thomas Nordberg (Alexander, Beastly). How was that relationship? NICCOL: "I like to edit very closely behind the actual shoot, as I like the flexibility of being able to change things, so I work on the edit on weekends. He came on location with us

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