INT: Doug Liman

Few directors have had as interesting a career trajectory as Doug Liman, who started out in the 90s with two acclaimed independent features—the low budget yet still "money" SWINGERS and the RASHOMON-cum-hipster opus GO. However, just when Hollywood had him pegged, the new millennium saw Liman pack up his indie cred and make the successful jump in to big budget action fare like THE BOURNE IDENTITY, MR. AND MRS. SMITH, and the new teleportation thriller JUMPER. (In theaters now!)

Liman was excited by the possibilities JUMPER has to offer audiences, as well as the challenges involved in bringing it to life—from the geographically extensive filming to the state of the art "jumping" effects, and all the scientific baggage that came with it. He also opened up about potential sequels and a couple intriguing future projects. (None of which is another BOURNE movie, sadly.) And due to his tight schedule, I only got through a fraction of my planned questions, so we’ll have to wait until next time to hear Liman's thoughts on Sam Jackson’s diverse hair potential and, more importantly, how Michael Rooker continues to be so awesome.

Doug Liman

Starting with the trailers through to the finished film, you really made well on your “anywhere is possible” tagline. What was that like in terms of filming? I mean, you were obviously on location around the world, but I almost find it hard to believe you went to all those places—at least in terms of scale and budget.

Well here’s the key. We did go to all those places and it’s why the film doesn’t feel fake the way those other superhero films do, you know? Obviously, I couldn’t train Hayden Christensen to teleport, but everything else we did real.

Yeah, I didn’t feel a lot of green screen or anything like that.

And not a lot of computer generated people and not a lot of computer generated scenery. We really went to these places.

It definitely shows.

The way I was able to do that and kind of afford it was that some of the places we went to we went with big footprints. So, like, we had to use military helicopters to shoot the Sphinx. And that’s not cheap. And getting the permission that it took in Egypt meant that there’s a lot of red tape and a lot of crew people waiting on the ground for the crazy, slow bureaucracy—the Egyptian military state—to allow us to finally shoot. But at the same time, the scene with Hayden in the Arctic was like a crew of four. And Hayden did his own makeup.

So it balances out.

Yeah. And it was so ridiculously cold that Hayden’s wardrobe froze and a local person lent us their cooking oil so that he’s drenched in cooking oil and not in water because it was so cold. And these local kids were like “Our cooking oil is going on Anakin Skywalker.”


So the arctic maybe cost us $20,000 to do.

That’s crazy.

And the surfing scene I went and shot that with a prototype Red camera off the coast of Massachusetts where I went out with Hayden and one other person. And if you look on the website for the film, you’ll see pictures of Hayden carrying the Zodiac inflatable boat across the beach to the water. It’s like, he’s not only the star of my movie; he’s one of the crew members.

That's one way to save some money.

It’s just the attitude, you know. Basically anywhere we went we worked with local crew. Otherwise the studio would’ve just said, “No it’s too expensive.” And they would’ve been right.

That was probably the biggest challenge of this movie. By the time you figure out how to navigate the bureaucracy of Egypt…

...everything else is a little easier?

Yeah. It’s like, “Okay, now I know how to shoot in this country. Now I know how to get things done.” Then its time to move on to Prague and start a whole new bureaucracy. And by the time you figure out Prague, you gotta movie to Japan. And we never figured out Japan.

How long did filming last for the movie?

It was about a year from beginning to end, because of these insane locations.

So if shooting on location was the most difficult thing, can you talk about how “easy” the teleportation effects were?

You know, I wanted this film to be based in some kind of reality. And yeah, the fact that Hayden Christensen can teleport is ludicrous, but so is Matt Damon’s amnesia in BOURNE IDENTITY. So just because something happens that’s unexplainable, doesn’t mean that the rest of the rules of the universe have to get thrown away.


So I was like, “Okay, who knows how we can teleport? We may never understand it.” But you know Hayden Christensen’s character is certainly not a physicist who has any desire to figure out what’s going on. All he knows is he can do it, so what the hell—he’s gonna use it.

And so I didn’t start from a place of looking for a conceptual artist to come up with the coolest looking jump. I just started with the physics of it, and really sort of the boring minutial stuff that your readers won’t care about. But the end result of my paying attention to the humidity differences between his starting point and his arrival positions, and the temperature differences, light vs. dark, what objects are in the space, what’s in the atmosphere, is there dust, is there sand to be picked up—all that results in a jump that feels really honest. And one of the reasons it feels honest is it’s really fucking fast. It’s almost too fast to see, but it has an impact in the world around it. It has a duration that lasts a little longer, so that really the effect is more about the after effect of the jump more than the jump itself. From a physics point of view, that is what you would see—the aftershock and not the effect.

And there are some physicists who work on that stuff—trying to teleport little particles and what not. And that’s something you researched I guess.

It is. And we came up with a storyline that ultimately we decided to save for a sequel, if we ever do one, involving those scientists. Cause I’m definitely interested in looking at it. We have our version of teleportation, where Hayden Christensen can go anywhere on the planet, or possibly the universe, in the blink of an eye. And then you have the real teleportation that exists today in labs like the CERN in Switzerland, where they can make a particle go fifty feet. You know, how do those two worlds meet? That’s something I’m definitely interested in pursuing.

Since the original book is part of a trilogy, are you planning on making anymore JUMPER movies after this?

I don’t want to jinx the movie before it comes out, but there were so many fun things to do with this and so many places to go on a character level that is just touched upon in the first movie. But this is meant to be a complete movie and even if there never is a sequel… I mean, THE BOURNE IDENTITY was never intended per se to be a franchise...

Well, we know how that turned out…

Even there the idea was to make a self contained movie. But if you love the character why not do another episode. In this particular case, I’ve got three characters I love.

It was announced a while back that you were working on a movie about an expedition to the moon with Jake Gyllenhaal. Can you elaborate on that project or compare it to something to give us a little context?

Well, there’s two projects I’m currently developing and I don’t know which one will go in to production first. Or maybe something else will sneak in, who knows. The Jake Gyllenhaal-Moon project is a retelling of the Apollo program within the present day. You know, what if a group today decided to mount a private expedition to the moon—not just to go, but to establish a colony using the blueprints of the Apollo program. Like we already did it. You don’t have to start from scratch. And in fact the parts are all sitting in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, waiting to be stolen.

So, why not?

Exactly. So it’s kind of science fact. And it’s an action film, an action adventure film on the surface of the moon.

Very interesting. And what about the other project?

The other project is the Valerie Plame story. You remember her—she’s the CIA officer who the Bush Administration exposed her identity.


They punished her for her husband telling the truth about there being no plans to build nuclear weapons in Iraq. And it’s with Nicole Kidman. And ultimately it’s…you know, I’ve been trying to tell THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Basically, I tried to tell it with BOURNE IDENTITY and I’m still trying to make a movie as good as that movie.

[laughs] Well, it sounds fascinating.

It’s somewhere between THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and SYRIANA.
Source: JoBlo.com



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