The film is a spectacle to behold. The cinematography is astounding.
One of the most anticipated films of the fall 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, 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, 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. 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. 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 onscreen as striking and awesome visual images. For example, New York City is vividly recreated to painstaking detail that recalls those thrilling days of yesteryear when spaceships, robots, cheezy pulp, and B-movies were fresh and new in the psyche of popular culture.
Playback St. Louis was fortunate enough to interview Jude Law at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con press conference and press junket. The affable Law shed light on his involvement with the film, of which he is extremely excited to be a part.
What attracted you to the role?
This was very much a type of role [that] I really wanted to play at some point in my career. It was like fitting into a skin that was very familiar, to have a huge backstory that existed before in other forms in other characters, whether it’s Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon.
How did you become involved in Sky Captain?
I got involved really early on. About two years ago, [Producer] John [Avnit] wanted to show me this teaser trailer, and I was just blown away. I loved its references. It was very clear he was a filmmaker who had a sense of style and rhythm. His composition was beautiful; it used pretty advanced ’90s technology to create a very retrospective look. I loved that kind of duality about it. Rather than creating a super real world or a world of the future, he was going back with advanced technology. I loved the clear references in that trailer, whether it was Fritz Lang, Citizen Kane, or The Third Man. Then [Conran] let me read the script, and it was clear that this guy was also an incredibly good writer. 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, 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 eager to get on board.
You seem to have worked well with Conran.
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 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. 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 an ideal way 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?
John [Avnit] needed help rallying 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. 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. It was basically my enthusiasm; I wanted to help out as much as I could. In the end, the part I played best as a producer was on set, enabling Kerry to do what he needed 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.
You got to work with Gwyneth Paltrow again. What was it like to work with her?
We first worked together five years ago [The Talented Mr. Ripley] and enjoyed ourselves. When 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. Gwyneth and I got that tone the first time we read it through. Once we knew it worked, we 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.
Would you like the film to have a sequel?
I hope so.
Rob Levy is Editor-at-Large for Playback St. Louis.