Stormbreaker Director On Locations

Submitted by A Gent on Fri, 07/21/2006 - 16:00

Geoffrey, does working for the small screen equate to shooting a feature?

"It really does. To my mind when you're a director you're telling a story whatever medium you're in. With TV there always used to be the tyranny of having to have lots of close ups. Well now with 40 or 50 inch screens TV is becoming more like film, and some of the high end TV is absolutely as good as some feature films. And in terms of approaching it as a director it really is exactly the same. You're always mindful when you're doing something for the big screen that you have to have big screen moments, but apart from that the discipline is, I would say, the same."

Didn't you shoot many key Stormbreaker scenes on the Isle of Man?

"We did, and it worked well. It was doubling for Cornwall. Obviously the chase at the beginning was meant to be Port Tallon. And all the stuff when Alex goes into that complex and he looks down and sees Darrius Sayle at the bottom, that was actually filmed at the Isle of Man incinerator. We were there for the best part of a week. And the exterior was also the Isle of Man incinerator which we replicated. So there was actually only one building but we made it look like we had half a dozen or so."

You actually shot a motorbike chase on the famous island TT route then?

"Exactly, it was all very motorbike friendly. On the coast road we painted our own white lines in to make it look faster on camera, we did about a mile of those, and a lot of that was where the TT is held every year."

Do you find with a location like that it becomes harder to find an unspoilt bit to film?

"With everything you do you just have to approach it for your film and make it work for your film. Certainly the incinerator I've never seen before, that was a real find. I'm not sure whether they've filmed in there before or not, but that was like a million dollars worth of set, it was on such a scale. We made it look like Alex was coming into it from above, like it was a subterranean facility. When he looked like he was on ground level we had to get to the top of the building and look down."

You also made use of some familiar London locations, didn't you?

"We had an amazing location manager, Jane Soans, and she seemed to be able to talk her way into anywhere. She got the co-operation of the police, the City, the horseguards and God knows what. Her whole thing is if you don't ask you don't get.

We managed to close the Albert Bridge for the whole of a Sunday. And on another Sunday we closed Piccadilly for four hours in order to film the horse chase. We caused all sorts of chaos. We had to put our own vehicles in, we had about 60 cars, taxis and buses in there, because obviously you can't let a horse charge up through normal traffic. We got tremendous co-operation. I wonder if, because so many kids read the books, that the people in these positions of authority knew the books and were therefore quite willing to help out."

Bill Nighy delivers another scene stealing performance here, even eating a biscuit he manages to get a laugh.

"As soon as you cut to Bill Nighy you start laughing, don't you? That biscuit scene was amazing, funnily enough, because the laughter it got drowned out what was happening next. You go from the munching of the biscuit into boots marching in the training camp, but the audience laughed and drowned that out. It was literally a last minute idea on the set, I asked the prop man if he had any biscuits, and of course you give Bill a comedy moment and he gives you so much more than you expect."

Damian Lewis plays your bad guy, and has to hang upside down from a helicopter on a couple of occasions. Was he literally hanging upside down?

"He was. We did that in Pinewood with the green screen behind him and we added the backgrounds later. He was up and down, up and down for about three hours. When we brought him back and straightened him out his face looked fairly odd for a while, like his skin had sagged. But he was game for it, he was another trooper. You couldn't really wish for a nicer cast than we had."