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Sarah Michelle GellarSarah Michelle Gellar - "The Return" Movie (2006) - On The Set Report
Thursday 9 June 2005, by Webmaster
Quint visits the set of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s UNTITLED SUPERNATURAL THRILLER!!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a little tale of a visit to what is now officially called ROGUE PICTURES’ UNTITLED SUPERNATURAL THRILLER STARRING SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR... formerly REVOLVER, but word is they had to change the title after Guy Ritchie put dibs on it for his new flick starring Jason Statham and Ray Liotta. Some good stuff below, squirts, including a tiny bit about Richard Kelly’s SOUTHLAND TALES... So read on!
ROGUE PICTURES’ UNTITLED SUPERNATURAL THRILLER STARRING SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR is quite a mouthful, so for future reference this will be the Film Formerly Known As Revolver... Shit, even that is too long... Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to avoid calling the movie by either of those names or my fingers will end up breaking in half from the strain.
So, I knew this film was shooting in and around Austin for the last couple months, but didn’t really know much about it. One day, out of the blue, I got contacted by a local studio PR representative company called Moroch about visiting the set. I was told they were shooting out in Granger, TX, about an hour’s drive outside Austin, but I didn’t know if I was going to be seeing interiors or exteriors, I didn’t know who was going to be there... I didn’t know nuffin’ as they say in Washington. On top of that, they were shooting days and I was on a total night schedule, getting to sleep at dawn...
But what the hell? It’s a movie set and I’ve learned something from every set I’ve ever visited, so I stayed up all night and headed off at the butt-crack of dawn out into the boonies outside Austin.
Granger is a tiny town, half dead from the word around the set. I was told to turn onto a particular street and follow the signs to crew parking, however when I got to that street there was a Granger Sheriff’s cruiser blocking the turn. The Sheriff was standing next to a truck and someone who was obviously a PA with a walkie on her belt and a headset permanently fixed to her ear. Being that both my registration and inspection stickers on the Orca (what I’ll call my car) were very much expired I didn’t feel like pulling up to the officer and asking where I should park.
So, I parked in the Downtown area, which was about 2 blocks long with no people on the streets, one other auto (truck, natch) parked in a non-marked parking space and a bunch of empty looking structures, hoping I wasn’t in any sort of tow-away zone.
I walked up to the PA lady who was whispering with an older man... looked gruff... maybe a career grip or teamster of some sort... I ended up standing next to them for about 2 minutes without saying anything. When people are whispering like that on a film set, that means someone is rolling somewhere. I saw there was a camera inside the truck pointed through the windshield down a deserted small town street, but since the PA was whispering not more than 4 feet from the camera, I figured they weren’t shooting with it... but I waited anyway.
After a few uncomfortable minutes of just standing there a call of "Cut!" was heard, then repeated by the PA. Two guys got out of the truck leaving one guy still in the truck, fiddling with the camera. Apparently they were shooting after all (a splinter unit I found out later, getting footage of the empty small town road from the POV of someone inside the cab). I got directions to base camp from the PA and walked the quarter mile down to production.
I found base camp (outside an old silo, believe it or not) and proceeded to ask tough looking crewmen where I could find the publicist, getting a "What the fuck is a publicist?" type of response out of no less than 2 of those I asked. Fortunately for me, the last grip I asked that question to was standing within earshot of Joan, the publicist I was looking for. Joan was a very nice lady, one who has been in the business for many years and has worked with some huge people. She told me a story she remembered with vivid detail from the shooting of SEA OF LOVE where they had this group of bit players and extras for this one scene... from them came this man with a line or two that really got people to take notice of him. That man was Samuel L. Jackson, turning heads even then. I prefer his small roll in COMING TO AMERICA to his tiny role in SEA OF LOVE, personally, but that might just be me.
Anyway, Joan led me over to the monitors, under tent cover which I welcomed as a shield from the sun. It was one of the first truly uncomfortably hot days in Central Texas that day. While there I was introduced to Jeff Silver, one of the producers of the film. He sat me down next to him, watching the monitors as they were getting ready for a take.
The shot had Sarah Michelle Gellar (brown hair, wearing cowboy boots, blue jeans and this pink-ish silk-ish kinda tank-top-y shirt) entering a phone booth inside the silo, which was hollowed out and made into a dingy looking southern shit-hole bar. While inside the phone booth, she looks closely at the reflective chrome of the pay-phone (I’ll get to why in just a second), takes a slow step back, then grabs a switchblade from her boot. After a moment, she flicks the switchblade open and slowly cuts her left bicep. She sways on her a feet a little bit, then slumps against the back wall of phone booth, slides down and ultimately ends up crumpled up on the floor.
I found out from Jeff Silver that Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character has been having visions of the violent death of a girl that looks exactly like her. The visions start showing her pieces of the day that lead up to the death of the girl and Gellar becomes obsessed with putting the puzzle pieces together.
I don’t know how much of a spoiler it is to the story, but beware of the below if you want to be completely spoiler-free. This could be a huge twist or something we know in the first 10 minutes. I don’t know. But you’ve been warned.
The film has something to do with reincarnation, I was told. I assume Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character is the reincarnation of the girl in her visions. Silver told me a little bit about the lead up and conclusion to the bit of action I mentioned above. Apparently, Gellar’s character is outside of a restaurant that they shot in Downtown Austin when she’s struck with this vision. Everything I told you about happens... she walks through this bar (called The Red Bar) and into the phone booth, cuts herself, collapses. Then Gellar’s character awakens in the bathroom of the fancy eatery she was outside of before the vision. She’s dazed and has a cut on her arm, on the exact same spot the "Red Bar Gellar" cut herself. They were going to do a post-trick for the cut. The make-up man applied the gash on the arm and Gellar mimed the cut straight across it. In post they’ll digitally erase the make-up until the knife cuts across it, revealing the gash as the knife slowly crosses the skin... so the cut will be a physical effect. I first heard about this when watching the commentary by Paul Verhoeven on THE HOLLOW MAN and I really love this sideways use of digital effects. Nine times out of ten, a physical effect will look more realistic than a digital effect, especially when there’s gore in any amount involved.
Let me talk about the Red Bar for a second. I told you above that it was a realistic Southern dive bar, but let me go into a little detail. Yes, the Red Bar is red. Matter of fact it reminded me quite a bit of something you’d come across in a David Lynch film. I don’t think that was lost on the filmmakers and production designers as there was only one neon beer sign, which was, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Also scattered about were bottles of Chango Beer, Robert Rodriguez’s invention that pops up in a lot of his movies, most notably DESPERADO and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN. One of the dangers of shooting in Austin, I guess. You’ll get a Chango in your movie. hehe What you might not get from the film is how The Red Bar smelled. I like to call this scent Three Day Old Soggy Rotten Broccoli. So, when you see the movie and see the Red Bar you can experience it just a little bit more than those around you.
They got a decent amount of coverage for this scene... outside the booth, above the booth (there was a platform with 2 cameramen and the camera itself tied to the ceiling in case of any accidents) looking down and a low angle of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s boots and droplets of blood for a cutaway shot whenever Gellar cuts herself. The DP, Roman Osin (who looked amazingly like Jay Chandrasekhar’s character in CLUB DREAD with his crazy hair) was controlling the zoom with this nifty little remote control device right outside the booth. This device is used so he could zoom in on the knife as it switchblades out, for an insert shot presumably.
When the crew was changing camera position, Jeff Silver ran off to chat with Sarah Michelle Gellar, leaving me to admire the stuffed Armadillos and Chango bottles scattered around the bar. He soon returned with little miss Gellar in tow.
We were introduced. I’ve never been bitten by the Buffy bug, but I never disliked her in the role. Matter of fact, I really like her performance in CRUEL INTENTIONS. However, Harry’s online war with her husband was running through my mind, all the terrible things that were said about Prinze Jr. kept repeating in my brain and I was sure I was going to pay for Harry’s offenses (not that I disagreed with him, but that’s another story).
Lucky for me, Gellar was a complete sweetheart. She started with some playful sarcasm about the town of Granger having a huge night life and the most famous rave underground in Texas. Completely disarming, very kind and sweet. We talked for about 5 minutes, going from Texas fire-ants to SOUTHLAND TALES, Richard Kelly’s next flick in which she’s starring, as a porn actress no less. She told me she had just gotten the proofs for the very first graphic novel that acts as part 1 of (I believe) 6 that are prequels to the story we will all see in theaters. A lead in, as it were. Going off my reaction to hearing that, she turned to Jeff Silver and said, "Well, if my trailer is broken into we’ll know who did it..."
Matter of fact, she disappeared for a few minutes and reappeared with a big purse just as they were ready to get the next shot up and running. She was standing in her place, behind the camera as the crew was putting final touches on the lighting. She looked over to me, then ran to her purse. The A.D. called "Rolling!" and she grabbed her purse, ran back to her spot, rooting around in it the whole while. The sound man responds, "Sound rolling" followed by the Production Assistants shouting "We’re rolling" both inside and outside the Red Bar. Gellar fished out the SOUTHLAND TALES graphic novel and waved it teasingly in front of me for a moment, then haphazardly stuck it back into the purse at her feet just as the A.D. called "Action!" She then did the scene just as she did a dozen times before, nary a trace of the teasing grin left on her face.
The cover of the graphic novel was predominantly blue with the title SOUTHLAND TALES in white and the whole thing was printed on glossy computer paper, seemingly. Other than that, the damn thing’s still a complete mystery to me. Believe you me, if I thought I stood even a slight chance of getting away with it she would have finished the scene and returned to a much emptier purse.
I also met the director, a fellow by the name of Asif Kapadia who spent most of the time next to the camera. Apparently, he very rarely sits at monitors in another room, preferring to always be near the camera to give split second direction to either the cameramen or the crew. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but being that my visit fell in the last few days of production he was understandably busy and I didn’t talk to him for long. While they were shooting the phone booth they had part of the crew setting up another shot in another part of the silo, behind the bar set. They had constructed a fake brick wall with a barred window built into it for an over the shoulder shot of the male lead (played by Peter O’Brien) as he is released from prison picking up his belongings all BLUE BROTHERS style... But no Frank Oz this time out.
Joan introduced me to O’Brien and he was a very nice bloke. Strangely he looked quite a lot like David Wenham. I say strangely because in real life O’Brien is married to Miranda Otto and in fact was a new father at the time I met him, having just gotten back from seeing his baby for the first time if I remember correctly.
Well, that’s about it. I had some lunch then drove back home. On the way back I got caught in the most hellacious traffic I’ve been in in quite a long time. Going on 30 plus hours of consciousness it was the last thing I wanted to do, but I eventually made it back home. I hope you guys enjoyed the report. I have no idea if this Untitled flick is going to be good or not. I haven’t read the script. The concept could make for a good movie, but it could just easily be fumbled. I’m pulling for it to work, though. Rogue Pictures has done very well so far and I’d love for them to be the Pixar of genre labels.
I’ve got a few things in the pipeline, squirts. Now that I got the WOTW set reports and this report out of the way I might be able to concentrate on the continuation of another line of set reports as well as getting to a specifically horrific set that I recently visited up in Vancouver. ’Til then this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu.