really interesting information is contained
in this article about the upcoming feature RED
PLANET. Apparently, the space-suits of the astronauts
are laden with logos very cool.
I always thought that the all powerful hammer
of advertising would reach into space, and this
movie seems to predict this. 11/5/99
whole galaxy of stars on Mars
By GARRY MADDOX, Film Writer
It's day 40 on the set of The Red Planet and
there's a hitch. One of the five astronauts
strapped inside the Mars landing pod has lost
communication. Benjamin Bratt, of Law and
Order fame, is having trouble hearing his
instructions. In real space, major problem.
In a studio, surrounded by a director and
more than 60 crew working on the latest Hollywood
film to shoot in Sydney, it's a minor hiccup
in a vastly complex production.
him to turn off his helmet fan," someone
calls. That seems to solve the problem, so
the director, Antony Hoffman, briefs his astronauts
- played by Val Kilmer, Terence Stamp, Tom
Sizemore, Simon Baker and Bratt - for a shot
in which their tiny pod heads for the surface
of the red planet.
their blue, logo-laden spacesuits and helmets,
the astronauts brace and rock as the crew
films the next stage of their mission. It's
no small mission - in 2050, with Earth dying,
the sole hope for humanity is that Mars can
support a colony. And when their equipment
is damaged, the astronauts have to depend
on each other for survival. Sounds like Mission:
film is Australia's contribution to the new
space race - the Hollywood rivalry to bring
Mars projects to the screen. The Red Planet
is backed by Warner Bros and Village Roadshow,
the combination behind such hits as The Matrix
and Analyse This. Brian De Palma is also making
to Mars for Disney and James Cameron is
working on both a Mars
television drama and IMAX film. Given
his Oscars claim to be "king of the world",
he's no doubt aiming to be "king of the
solar system", too.
Australian producer, Andrew Mason, plays down
the competition. "Yes, there are other
films and television projects set on and involving
Mars, but there have been in the past and
there no doubt will be again. It's not going
to be a damaging coincidence. A Bug's Life
and Antz both made money." Fair point.
Deep Impact and Armageddon both found an audience,
Red Planet, which is due for release next
March (now June-Bert), came to Australia
after a week of filming in Jordan, a late
change from Iceland after the film-makers
discovered grass growing on the planned location.
There were three weeks of filming in Coober
Pedy before the production moved to various
studios and warehouses in Sydney - a byproduct
of heavy bookings at Fox Studios.
with a budget that Mason says is "slightly
less than The Matrix" (which was reportedly
about $100 million) it's clear that Hoffman,
a South African who made his name with big-budget
commercials, has not shirked a challenge on
his first feature film.
heat in both Jordan and Coober Pedy made it
tough for a cast wearing elaborate spacesuits
that take 30 minutes to don. Even with helmet
fans and cooling vests underneath the suits,
one of the actors reputedly fainted twice
in 50C-plus heat and there were also problems
with claustrophobia. In the outback, there
were dust storms and strong winds. Even at
Fox Studios, a crew member sweeps red dust
from a truck. Mason admits the film has had
its difficulties, including the late change
to Jordan and "pure physical difficulties"
in Coober Pedy. But he says production has
settled down at the halfway stage of the shoot.
to Australia's Simon Baker, every film has
its own environment, its own challenges. In
that sense, he says, it's no different from
Ang Lee's Ride With The Devil, the American
Civil War film that he worked on last year.
Sizemore, the American actor who comes to
The Red Planet after Saving Private Ryan and
Martin Scorsese's Bringing Out The Dead, agrees
it's all relative.
hung together and we're making a hard movie,
but it's been worth it," he says. "Any
movie takes some coming to terms with whatever
it is you have to do if it's difficult."
Saving Private Ryan, we had to come to terms
with the sea for a month. Tom Hanks and myself
started out in the Irish Sea every day, soaking
wet, running up a beach. That wasn't easy
either, but that also was worth it. I don't
know what it is about me and hard movies,
but I've been attracted to a couple of them."
Mason says Hoffman wanted to use real locations
instead of shooting the entire film in the
studio and relying on post-production effects."
obviously has some big red expanses. Jordan
gave us some dramatic height that isn't present
[in the outback] - some big cliffs."
Even though the film is Hollywood in both
scale and ambition, Mason stresses the international
nature of the lead actors. "There are
six key roles and there are three Americans
[Kilmer, Bratt, Sizemore], an Australian
[Baker], a Canadian [Carrie-Anne
Moss] and a Brit [Stamp]. That's
a reasonably eclectic group."
that there's virtually a production line of
Hollywood films in Sydney, Mason says the
novelty of having stars in town seems to have
worn off. He has found that Australians don't
hassle the big-name actors - even those, like
Bratt, who fraternise with Julia Roberts in
their spare time. "In LA and lots of
other places, people would be coming up to
them all the time. But it doesn't happen here
... There's no mobbing of people."
production takes a break. As the caterers
finalise their own challenge - lunch for 150
- Kilmer strips off the top half of his spacesuit
and clunks to the catering tent, past befeathered
dancers on a break from rehearsing Moulin
Rouge on the next soundstage. Other crews
are shooting a commercial and a Channel 9
his trailer, which still carries some of that
Coober Pedy dust, Baker
says it is more than just an adventure film.
The journey to Mars becomes a virtual survival
mission which forces the characters to deal
with such issues as God v science.
character is a biologist who wants to make
the new planet habitable:
"They need to globally warm Mars ...
to create an atmosphere."
is delighted to be filming in Sydney after
a series of Hollywood
films, notably L.A. Confidential and Judas
Kiss, but points out that he was cast out
of the States. No-one knows him here, he says.
He recognises the economic benefits of the
production, "but I baulk at [people]
saying it's great for the Australian film
industry. The Australian film industry is
film-makers say they will spend almost $40
million and employ 360 people in NSW. For
the State's economy, the latest space race
has its advantages.