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Set Visit: Next

09.06.2006

I really thought I had seen everything when it came to on-set visits. But my recent visit to the set of the science fiction action thriller NEXT (release date: September 28, 2007), which is based on a Philip K. Dick short story called "The Golden Man", definitely proved me wrong. If the film, which is about a man with the unique ability to see future events and affect their outcome, is half as dynamic and unpredictable as the visit was, moviegoers will definitely be in for a real treat. I was already jazzed about the fact that I was going to meet the stars of the film, heavyweights Nicolas Cage, Julianne Moore, and Jessica Biel, but it wasn’t even the icing on the cake.

To help you fully appreciate what a unique visit this was, let me start right from the beginning. I drove to San Pedro, California, the home of many cool looking piers, complete with giant ships and tons of miscellaneous cargo equipment. The day was beautiful and sunny, but with a cool breeze, with the sky clear and blue. I was greeted by the publicist for Columbia Pictures, who promptly took me past a heap of security and onto the dock where they were shooting. The first thing I noticed, was a multitude of cameras, some on dolly tracks, others on cranes or being handheld. Our view was straight down the middle of the action, between two large cargo containers, where a white helicopter sat, its blades running going full force.

There were various crew members running around, so I waited and talked with some of the other reporters. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw two dark military helicopters on the horizon, coming towards the set. As they got closer, one proceeded to swoop down towards the white copter on the ground. The grey door slid open and two gunmen dressed in tack uniforms with M-16’s started to shoot at the parked chopper.

That’s when all hell exploded, as the group of us found ourselves facing a barrage of gun toting terrorists, who were all shooting their guns in our direction. I wasn’t even worried, until I saw that other crew members were running behind the cargo containers for cover. In a mix of bullets, squibs, explosions, and flaming sparks, I did think at one point “should I really be standing here?” I mean, after all, the publicist wouldn’t put me in the line of fire, would she? (Maybe she read my last review!) Before I could answer the question, a large horn sounded, everyone stopped shooting and I heard, “Cut”.

Forget Universal Studios Tour, I was in the middle of a frigging war between terrorists and military men and it was…the coolest thing I had ever seen! The energy from the scene was so palpable, so real, that my heart was racing a mile a minute. And not knowing that it was going to happen, only made it a million times sweeter. I looked about ten feet in front of me; the ground was littered with empty shell casings, and I thought…”I love the smell of napalm in the morning!” (Can you blame me; the terrorists were pointing the guns and shooting directly at us!)

It really was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen and did give me more of an appreciation for all the fantastical elements that go into an action sequence of such magnitude. The director of this film is DIE ANOTHER DAY and XXX: STATE OF THE UNION’s Lee Tamahori (who walked around the set in a very distinctive Hawaiian shirt checking everything!) and he is definitely upping the ante in terms of action; it was highly impressive to watch his work live.

There were a few other scenes, a close up on the stationary helicopter when it’s attacked and the aftermath of the whole sequence, where military guys clear the way for Cage and Moore to cross over to a large nearby ship that awaits them, all of which were cool. But for sheer adrenaline and ambush factor, they paled in comparison to the first thing I saw. Not that the whole day wasn’t a totally cool experience, I’ve just never encountered anything as staggering as that before; it was something I will never forget.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore is an actress with amazing range. Her ability to go from indie films like SAFE and BOOGIE NIGHTS to bigger budget fare like HANNIBAL and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK has made her one of the most sought after actress working in film today. Her collaborative work with Director Paul Thomas Anderson alone is something to be hailed. Like in HANNIBAL, Moore once again plays an FBI Agent in NEXT, a role she freely admits was not hard to play. Her candid and honest answers were a refreshing change, a truly rare and unique interview to say the least. So with her dog Cherry in tow, Moore talked about playing an FBI Agent for the second time, the challenge of playing a role with not that many challenges, and going from indie films to big budget movies and back again.

So you’ve played FBI agents before…

One! (laughs)

Did you draw on any of those experiences to play the character in NEXT?

Certainly the gun training. I mean the funny thing is that with HANNIBAL I did extensive research at Quantico and stuff. The nice thing was cause I’d already done it (she laughs), I didn’t have to do it again. And this is all fun; I think we took many more liberties with in a movie like this then we did in HANNIBAL.

Is there any stretching yourself as an actor in this film?

Umm, no. (laughs) You know what? Its fine to actually play somebody who doesn’t…the nice thing about playing a character who is the pursuer is I don’t have the responsibility of making my character the emotional center of the movie. With this, I’m almost the bad guy; I’m the person who is pursuing the emotional center of the movie who is Nic. So I’m going after Nic, so for me, I had a lot of permission to be the bad guy, be like well I don’t care, well let’s go get him, it’s just sort of fun to do because it’s a different way to approach things.

What has been the most challenging part of your role so far?

The challenging aspect has been to make the dialogue sound reasonably normal. (laughs)

Do you have many scenes with Nic and what was it like working with him?

We have a few. We have a good time together, you know? We had a scene that we got there at seven in the morning and sat on set for an hour and a half trying to figure out how we are going to say it, how are we going to work it out so that it seemed reasonable for his character and my character. But he’s a lovely person to work with.

How does your character find out about Nic?

It was because he rose to the top of a gambling fraud wish list, that’s how I know. If you’re in the FBI you’re tracking criminals.

What appealed to you about the character?

I thought it would be kind of fun to play sort of the bad guy, a little bit.

So compared to other roles you’ve done, is this a lot easier for you?

Yeah, I mean it’s not backbreaking work by any stretch of the imagination. I mean, it’s a very specific kind of movie. It’s an action movie with a sci-fi kind of edge and its very, very plot driven, but it’s a lot of fun. I also think it’s kind of timely, you know it’s dealing with terrorism.

Are you going to be in Paul Thomas Anderson’s next film?

They are shooting it now, no.

What’s it been like zigzagging from big budget plot driven films to more character driven indie films?

It’s good, you know, I mean nobody wants to see the same thing all the time, so it’s nice to have the opportunity to do both. You can’t make a living doing independent films, you have to do commercial films literally to make a living and the film I’m doing after this, I think I’m maybe making scale on. But you know, you have to go back and forth just as a practical.

What film is that?

SAVAGE GRACE. It’s based on a true story on a book that was published in 1985, about a woman named Barbara Daly Baekeland.

What has been your most challenging role to date?

I don’t know, they all have different kinds of challenges.

What was it like working with the Director Tamahori, versus someone like Paul Thomas Anderson?

Well, when someone has written something, they have a different relationship to it. And Lee’s been terrific…

(At this point there is screaming noises outside and we clearly see a few men armed with guns doing a scene.)

…hey, wait a minute, that’s my boyfriend, don’t shoot! (laughs) That is funny. It’s a different kind of film, clearly, as you can see.

(Julianne exits and says “Don’t get caught in sniper fire!” – too late!)

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Source: JoBlo.com

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