One of the most anticipated films of this fall’s film season is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. First time director Kerry Conran’s film is like none other released in recent years. It combines elements of film noir, traditional sci-fi films and art deco and blends them with lots of action, contemporary sci-fi gadgets and computerized digital effects.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is its cast, which is a veritable who’s who of young Hollywood, including Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi and an amazing technologically advanced cameo from a long dead master thespian
Set in the 1930s, Jude Law plays Joe Sullivan, a Sky Captain who becomes involved in the investigation of disappearing scientists from around the world. He is joined by his ex-love, reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow). It is not an easy assignment; they have to ward off dastardly flying robots, unleashed upon New York by the brilliant yet evil Dr. Totenkopf.
The film is a spectacle to behold. The cinematography is astounding. Not since Brazil or Blade Runner has a film been this incredible to just look at. It is simply unworldly. Director Kerry Conran has created a precise and intricate backdrop to spin his yarn of technology, daring do, grave peril, love and hope. Most of his sets and backgrounds are digitally created, appearing on stream as striking and awesome visual images. For example, New York is vividly recreated to painstaking detail that recalls those thrilling days of yesteryear when spaceships, robots, cheesy pulp and b-movies were fresh and new in the psyche of popular culture.
While attending Comic Con in San Diego, Ink 19 was fortunate enough to interview Jude Law at the convention’s press junket. The affable Law shed light on his involvement with Sky Captain & The World Of Tomorrow.
What attracted you to the role of Joe Sullivan ?
This was very much a type of role that I really wanted to play at some point in my career. It was very much like fitting into a skin that was very familiar, to have a huge back story that existed before in other forms in other characters, whether it’s Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. Therefore it was something I wanted to fit into.
How did you become involved in Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow?
I got involved really early on. About two years ago John (Avnit) who I’d a few times before wanted to show me this teaser trailer (made by director Kerry Conran). And I was just very simply blown away. I loved its references. I thought it was very clear that he was a filmmaker who had a sense of style and rhythm. His composition was beautiful. All I got about the early stages was that it used pretty advanced ’90s technology to create a very retrospective look; I loved that kind of duality about it. I love that rather than creating a super-real world or a world of the future he was going back with advance technology. It seemed like the right way to do that. I loved the clear references that were there in that trailer, whether it was Fritz Lang, Citizen Kane or The Third Man. Then I was like ‘where is the script?’ [Kerry Conran] let me read then script and then it was clear that this guy was also an incredibly good writer. above and beyond the visuals. What was clear was also that at its center was a really great cinematic relationship that you could put into any genre and it would work. I would call it African Queen meets Buck Rogers. It’s that kind of relationship. You know if you can create two good characters and a history of the world around them and a dynamic between them you can put them anywhere and people will want to watch. There was a humor in all the obvious references to world domination, gadgets and gizmos and I was just eager and keen to get on board.
You seem to have worked well with Kerry Conran as well.
Kerry was so clear from the get go in his own humble, incredibly shy sort of way, so strong with what could be created and he was so eager to draw us into that. We knew exactly what this was going to become. It was only really when I saw it that I realized a leap of faith we’d all made. There was nothing there [laughs]! I mean how did we know? What was clear was this guy’s world. It was a matter of going along with that.
You went from working with Spielberg to a first time director. That is quite a leap of faith.
Yeah, but again it’s interesting. First of all I really enjoyed the opportunity of changing the kind of challenge. The film I had before this was Cold Mountain, so the idea of going from extreme locations, real locations, real temperatures, to a world in which we have to create everything, imagine everything, was to me an ideal way to me of reinventing the process of what it means to create a character, what it is to complete a role within a whole piece. I always think experience obviously counts for a lot and success counts for a lot. But at the same time if you meet someone who is clear and collaborative and brave and talented, then you want to work with them just as much as someone who is a tried and tested genius.
How did the producer credit come about?
Because it was such early days [producer] John Avnit needed help rallying around it a team because there was no agreement with Paramount to enable this vision to be realized. I’d been developing stuff on my own for a couple years. Stuff that is coming out or about to come out and be made. It was also something I was very keen to do because I felt it was a world I loved very much, a world I recognized and felt I could put a lot into and assist with. Whether it was putting in favors with cast members and friends like Gwyneth and making sure they saw the trailer and read the script or whether it was being able to sit with someone like Kerry and throw in ideas knowing that I wasn’t throwing ideas of a completely different genre. It was basically my enthusiasm to be honest. I wanted to help out as much as I could. What was interesting was that, in the end, the part I played best as a producer was on set, enabling Kerry to do what he needed to do to keep the floor running. One hard thing with inexperience is recognizing a lot of its energy. If you have worked on a film you recognize that it is keeping spirits up and everyone knows what is going on and who is doing what. In the midst of course, we are all learning. I felt the best thing I could do on it was keep a relationship with all of the crew who were naive as I was as to what was going on and making sure that Kerry felt like everyone was behind him and for him. We obviously were in great hands with John Avnit who is a great producer.
You got to work with Gwyneth Paltrow again. Can you describe what it was like to work with her?
Working with Gwyneth was a lot of fun. We first worked together five years ago (The Talented Mr. Ripley) and enjoyed ourselves. When I first became involved in this project and we began to talk about casting Polly, no other name came up. It was perfect from the get go, she came in and was very enthusiastic.
How did you establish the film’s tone of simplicity and innocence?
Funny enough that was really in the script. The blueprint was there. Because Gwyneth and I knew from the get go…we just kind of got that tone the first time we read it through. Once we knew it worked, we actually spent the whole time trying to embellish it and Kerry kept adding little moments…More was more in this case. We could really run with this. The reason we went to Gwyneth is because we knew she would get that tone and because important that the two of us get it and not fight for it or fight to find it throughout the making of the piece. But I think the majority of it was already there on the page.
Would you like the film to have a sequel?
I hope so.
Law is currently in theaters with Michael Caine in a remake of Alfie.