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Set Visit: Interview with The Island director Michael Bay



Our visit to the set of this summer’s would be blockbuster THE ISLAND continues. Last time we toured the massive set of Centerville as it was being readied for shooting. Now, the small band of journalists, myself included, were taken over to where director Michael Bay was filming a scene with Ewan McGregor. If you’ve never been on a movie set, imagine a human hive of activity. Now imagine the sound of money being spent, as the precious seconds tick away. But, it didn’t feel like we were walking into a pressure cooker. The crew was moving like a well oiled machine, with no time to stop laying the tracks in front of the train.

The scene was fairly straightforward. Ewan and some of his fellow workers are riding an elevator, when they are given an update about the latest lottery winner, that lucky clone that will get to go the “The Island.” Ewan’s character, Lincoln Six-Echo will discover soon enough that “The Island”, is not a place you want to go. 

The video playback in the elevator features an excited Michael Clarke Duncan jumping for joy over his chance to leave their underground habitat. During a break from filming, Michael Bay came over to discuss the film, the script, and the involvement of Steven Spielberg in the project. He was in good spirits, not only because shooting was moving along, it was his birthday as well.


What’s the challenge of this film?

Shooting it in 84 days! (LAUGHS). It’s a big mama to shoot, developing the world to shoot, being judicious with the effects, and trying to shoot a lot of different stuff practically.

What initially appealed to you about the script?

A lot of sci-fi is about a bunch of mumbo jumbo sometimes…sometimes. But this has a real human core to it

. Originally the script was written 80 years in the future, that was just too far out. And then Spielberg was talking to me about how MINORITY REPORT was a little too far out, you bring it a little closer, it makes it a lot scarier.

What do you think of the news that’s going on with cloning right now?

This movie kinda deals with it in a way…it’s like we all eat meat, but we don’t want to think about what goes on at the slaughterhouse. We show you the positives of what could be done with cloning. They doctor who created this feels that he’s created the Holy Grail of science. He’s doing good things, in 2 years he’s gonna have this facility up for children. He could cure leukemia; he can cure a lot of things. So it makes you think, if you could have a clone, would you?

Would you want to clone yourself?

No, that would be a disaster!

Are there any sci-fi films that inspired you for this?

I like sci-fi movies, I love things like ALIEN.


Well, THX you wanna go home and shoot yourself! We don’t wanna make it as oppressive as that.

Does the movie deal with what it means to be a human being, what that definition is?

It deals in the fact that we all wanna live longer, we all wanna find the Holy Grail of life…as you see nowadays with all this, what is it, human growth hormones, and what not.

I was up at the Microsoft thinktank when we were working on this film, coming up with some concepts. They were talking about how they feel…this is Microsoft saying this…they figure in 10, 15 years we might be able to extend our lives 20 years. That’s exciting.

Were you actively looking to work with Spielberg?

No, he just called me up one night and said, read this, because it’s a spec script, that’s coming out tomorrow, read it, I wanna buy it for you, if you like it.

(NOTE: The film is a production of Steven Spielberg’s company Dreamworks)

Does the faster schedule make it more expensive?

Yeah it does, but as you know…studios are shutting down movies when the budgets are just too high. I think there were six movies that shut down right before this one was fully greenlit. There was the Fincher movie BENJAMIN BUTTON, there was the Antoine Fuqua movie where they spent 30 million bucks, shut it down. You gotta really play ball with the studios…

You always fight about the budget. But now more than ever, because studios are owned by these corporate giants. The movie industry, they feel, is not a profitable industry. When you talk about GE, what they own Universal? The movie industry is a blip on their radar. It’s not worth it to them to make a 5% profit, when they can make 15-20 somewhere else.

Do you think you’ve grown as a director on this project?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying the cast. You grow every time you work, you know what I mean?

How are you guys going to stand out from the other summer films?

I think ours is a lot sexier. It’s surely original; thank God it’s not a redo of something! I think it’s a cool concept. I think it’s got some gritty action.

What’s next for you as a director?

(LAUGHS) Dude! I haven’t even finished yet!

Does the hectic schedule make you wish you could do a small Dogme movie?

Yeah, yeah. I swear to God, I really, really, really wanna do something small. I got this great thing…it’s really fun and dark, dark comedy.

Do you think you’ll try that next?

I really want to. I always get suckered into these things! (LAUGHS)

Is there fear for you involved in trying to do a huge movie like this?

There always is…every movie…if you’re cocky, you’re gonna fail miserably.

How do you deal with that?

You think every movie you’re gonna do is gonna be a flop. You just gotta go in, and you just gotta do the best you can. Keep that fear, because that fear, I think makes you do a better job.

At this point we had to wrap up the interview. But, we were ushered over to the video village to meet Ewan McGregor and view a PROMO REEL of scenes from the movie. The first scene was the one that Eric Brevig discussed (in our first set report), where Ewan meets his clone. Even at this early stage, the effect was convincing. The interaction between them was spot on.

Then we were treated to scenes of some clones being birthed, which is downright nasty looking. Just think about…oh, I can’t even use the example, it’s too gross. This was followed by a montage of action scenes. A good chunk of them were clips with no sound, just an intense drum beat running over them, which was fantastic. It would be the perfect teaser trailer. With that, our set visit came to end, but work on THE ISLAND carried on.

You know, I like Michael Bay’s movies, but for whatever reason, he’s one of those directors that people love to bash. I’m surprised that people aren’t burning him in effigy outside the movie theatres.
But I figure that he must be doing something right, to have movies that consistently draw in audiences, and to be able to pull together some of the top talents in Hollywood to make massively expensive movies on a tight schedule. Directing these kinds of movies is simply not something that anybody can do. Of course, anybody can lob an insult.

Hey, I would love to direct movies. But could I do what he does? Could I handle the pressure, and then have the time to have a nice, relaxed chat with some visiting journalists? There’s a lesson to be learned here, especially what he said about fear.







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