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June 2014

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14 Post • June 2014 director's chair H OLLYWOOD — Doug Liman first made his name directing the low- budget 1996 comedy Swingers, before proceeding to redefine the action spy thriller with the hugely successful The Bourne Identity, followed by another global smash, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and the sci-fi thriller Jumper. Now Liman returns to the sci-fi genre with the new Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow, which unfolds in a near future in which an alien race has hit the Earth in an unrelenting assault, unbeatable by any military unit in the world. Cruise stars as a military PR officer — who has never seen a day of combat — sent off on a suicide mission and killed within min- utes. The twist? Trapped in a sort of Ground- hog Day time loop, he now finds himself forced to live out the same brutal combat over and over, fighting and dying, again and again. But with each battle, he becomes able to engage the adversaries with increasing skill, alongside a Special Forces warrior (played by Emily Blunt). And, as they take the fight to the aliens, each repeated encounter gets them one step closer to defeating the enemy. Here, in an exclusive interview, Liman, whose credits also include Fair Game and Go, talks about making the 3D film, his love of post, and working with Tom Cruise. POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? DOUG LIMAN: "Not so much just a sci-fi alien invasion film as a love story set behind enemy lines — in this case, sci-fi enemy lines with this alien invasion taking over Europe. And I was very interested in how a relation- ship works when one person has a super- power, like Tom has in it, and could I create a female character that could not only be his equal, but in some ways his superior? Going back to Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I've always been interested in very strong female characters." POST: What most surprised you about working with Tom Cruise? LIMAN: "Just what an incredible actor he is. With all the super-stardom you can forget what a talented actor and comedian he is, and he's also unbelievably hard-working and collaborative." POST: Edge of Tomorrow is the first motion picture to be shot at the new Warner Bros. Stu- dios Leavesden in the UK. What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot? LIMAN: "I think most directors go into making a movie with a bit of ignorant opti- mism, and I'm no different. But this was so much more difficult than I ever anticipated going in. There were just so many areas — from the story to all the action to all the CGI — that were so complex. And doing a big action film where you don't get to use as your stakes the mortality of your hero? So you have to find alternatives? That was so hard. And then as I was far more interested in the human characters than the aliens. I wanted them to wear these real exo-suits that were very heavy, so that further complicated pro- duction as often we needed cranes and cables over each one. So the level of planning and rehearsal that'd go into creating the sim- plest little gesture was so complex. And then the CG component added a whole other level as we had major characters that all had to be animated. That was probably the area that surprised me the most — just how chal- lenging it all was, as you're basically casting, wardrobing, and performance-directing those characters, and you need to apply the same attention to detail as when you're directing Tom and Emily." POST: This was shot by Academy Award- winning director of photography Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha). What did he bring to the mix? LIMAN: "He brought an amazing style, humanity and texture to the movie. I didn't want it to look like one of those plastic- looking video-game movies that Hollywood loves to release over the summer. I wanted to set it apart from the pack and Dion's style is far more evocative of the classic war movies that I love. At the same time, it gave me the flexibility to create really cutting-edge, dynam- ic action." POST: Did you shoot film or digital? LIMAN: "Film, which was very exciting for me as I wasn't sure I'd ever get that chance again." POST: Did you shoot 3D or post-convert? LIMAN: "We post-conver ted, and the advantage for us was that we had a lot of time. I had a great team, between my VFX super Nick Davis and stereographer Chris Parks, so we were turning shots over for 3D a year ago, and the results are fantastic. When 3D doesn't hold up in post-conversion is when it's an after-thought and rushed." POST: All the visual effects were obviously crucial. How early on did you integrate post and VFX with the production? LIMAN: "Right from the start. We began designing the aliens way in advance, as we had all this practical action, and I pity the director who goes to Tom and tells him that his digital double will be doing all the fight scenes. So that meant we had to, early on, design the whole way the aliens were going to kill the humans — even before we'd finalized the alien designs. So all the action was shot in a very traditional way, where we were flying people around, reacting to creatures that aren't there. And in order to even design all the action sequences, you needed to know the aliens had these tentacles that could move at supersonic speeds. Sony Imageworks did most of the first two acts, then Framestore Doug Liman — Edge of Tomorrow This Swingers director returns to the sci-fi genre Doug Liman (with camera) directs star Tom Cruise. Green screens hint at the 1,000 VFX shots to come. By IaIn BLaIr

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