Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow : Cast Interviews

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What were the challenges of playing a character when you have to react in a fantasy where everything is on green screen?
I think as actors we pretend all the time we’re used to a fake room, a fake set. It was a bit strange But I think and Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow had it worse because they had things coming at them that they were freaking out about.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
So it was like acting in a childhood fantasy?
There was one moment where I had the bubble on and the eye-patch and I was just sitting on a box. I wasn’t in a plane, I wasn’t anywhere. I was in a room full of a hundred people and I had my accent, and I had to act really cool and I was just sitting in almost on a cardboard box pretending that I was hitting them. At first I felt very silly but I think it’s great to get back to what’s fun about this business and creative try things that aren’t safe, and be silly again and be bold in your choices. It was refreshing.

Do you know the back story of how Frankie lost her eye? Were you involved in creating that look?
She always had one eye (laughs). But I did love that about her and we have talked about a back story. If this works well there will be a prequel possibly.

How surprised were you when you saw the film?
I’ve seen pieces. When I was first asked to do it, Jude and director Jon Avnet came to visit me and they brought this five minute secret thing that nobody had seen and they showed it to me.

Did you see drawings too?
They showed me this five-minute thing so I had an idea of what it was going to look like and things like that. And Kerry Conran had actually worked out this thing is was almost like you could watch the movie and these other animated things moving and these planes and it was a very weird process.

Did you decide to do it because of your Frankie character or because it was such an extraordinary odyssey?
As an artist I it was something original and never been done before and it was kind of a brave place there’s a bit of everybody going in and trying for something and I miss that spirit of things a lot when you films these days it’s very much you just lose that sense of fun and adventure and lets try to do something that hasn’t been done before, so to be a part of that was exciting. But, I did like my character.

You said that you lose that sense of fun and adventure? How does that get lost?
I think so much of things get analyzed and criticized and how much they did at the box office or whether it’s reviewed this way. There are a few great movies that are really pushing it and are being made for the sake of being made. Feels that don’t feel safe they don’t feel like okay this is that character and here’s your main character and here’s the side story and here’s a few little twists that make it different. But that’s it – you’re not taking an art form to a new level you aren’t trying for something bold or different because of how much the studios and how much the business of this industry that’s effected the art that we all get caught up in -- so it’s those rare few that push past and you just try something and somehow there’s the money or someone gets people behind it you say okay let’s do something we’re not sure of.

Will your son see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?
Yeah, yeah.

Does having a son influence the kind of roles that you play or the projects you pick?
Sometimes. But it’s been more about time right now. Because he’s so young right now. I was happy to do Sky Captain.


How did you get involved in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?
I got involved in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow when Jon Avnet, the producer, was tracking me down to give me a tape. But he needed to be in the room with me to play this tape, and he couldn’t send me the script until I watched the tape because it was a revolutionary new thing, and he needed to explain it to me.

It was all very mysterious, so we kept trying to meet up. Finally, I was in London, rehearsing a play, and I went to Jude and Sadie’s office with Jon, and they played me what was the first six minutes of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but with other actors that Kerry Conran, the director, had fashioned into a trailer.

The look of it was so incredible that I immediately said I would do it, To which they replied, Wait. Read the script, and I said, I don’t have to read the script. I’ll be in it.

What was your reaction when you saw it?
I had such a strong visual reaction. I had never seen anything like it. It had so much style and so much action, and it looked really beautiful, like a painting. I thought, The world is ready for this kind of thing.”

What is your role?
I play Polly Perkins, a super-ambitious newspaper reporter. She’s very fearless, sneaky, and will do anything to get her story. Well, when I first got the idea of what the look of the film would be—and I love that period—the late 1930’s is so stylish, with really beautiful silhouettes. I also love the acting of that period. It’s all so very stylized.
I used variations of that acting style in my performance as Polly, and so it was a lot of fun to do.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
What’s it like working with Jude?
Jude is so fantastic! He is such a skilled actor. He’s been acting since he was a kid. Having done tons of theatre. He is a properly trained British actor. Jude’s looks are just sort of something else on top of his immense talent. He has a great sense of humor, and this ageless leading man quality, a sort of infinite debonairness.

And you’ve worked with Jude before so there must be some familiarity.
Jude is one of my favorite people. I mean, professionally, he’s just amazing. Jude was a great friend to me during the filming of “Ripley.” I had a hard time personally during the making of that film, and Jude was a really solid, good friend to me.
It’s just easy. We like each other. We’re friends. We have a good chemistry. I would work with him over and over and over again.

Is this the first time you’ve been attacked by robots?
This is definitely the first time I’ve been attacked by giant robots. It was a source of constant amusement to me. I never thought I would be doing a film entirely in front of a blue screen, watching an orange ball stand in for a giant robot and -reacting to it! It was very funny.

Tell us about the relationship between your character and Jude’s character?
There’s a classic dynamic between Sky Captain and Polly. She’s always bossing him around, telling him what to do, and he’s always fed up with her. Polly is immediately unnerved by Franky because she’s very strong, very beautiful, and very together. She has a lot of power in all of the ways that. When Angelina Jolie came to set, it was like a breath of fresh air. She’s so beautiful and professional, she had her son with her and she was such a good mother. She’s serious about what she does. A typical day on set would be spent on this soundstage. It was just a huge cavern of blue. We were surrounded by blue, and there were these orange dots on the wall so that the computer could line up and calculate every thing.

What were you excited most about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?
I always thought I was the person that would never be in an action-adventure film. And then I saw this, and I read the script. I was so excited by the possibility of doing something completely new, a reinvention of the genre, and I felt so honored to be a part of it because it looks so amazing, and it’s such a great story.


How did you get involved with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?
I was approached by Jon Avnet two years ago with a six-minute tape he hadsent by this young guy who had put it together with a bunch of friends. , They tweaked and added to it on his computer at home. What I watched was the most exciting and inspiring retrospective piece of cinema I’d ever seen. I couldn’t understand first of all whether what I was watching was old footage put together with new footage, or new footage made to look old.

What was your reaction?
It had this feeling that reminded me of classical serials of the ‘40’s and the ‘30’s And I wanted to get on board immediately. Jon Avnet came to me both as an actor, to play Sky Captain, and as a producer. So I read the script, and not only can this guy create this incredible world, which is reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, but he can also write.

He’d written this fantastic story, set with a backdrop of robots and crazy professors and zeppelins, but at its heart was a story of this bickering couple who had at one time shared a great love together, and who were now on this final adventure, if you like, or this next adventure, forced to clean up what had gone on between them.
It reminded me of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen, and Harrison Ford and Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Was that what attracted you to the project?
What was appealing was not just this world that Kerry had created, but this relationship, seeing these two people bicker, yet also ultimately fall in love again.

What I then realized was it wasn’t like any film I’d ever seen before. It also had to be made like no film had ever been made before. I’m sure there have been other people who have made films similar to this since, or, indeed, are doing it at the moment. But at the time, we had certainly never shot a film like it.

The entire film was shot on blue screen.
The whole thing had to be made on blue screen. With the exception of key props that you pick up and actually use, very few environments, certain scenes, my cockpit, the cockpit of my P-40 War Hawk everything was to be added afterwards.

Now this wasn’t because we were creating a kind of comic strip world, or a half-drawn world, but because of the style and the tone of the visuals; Kerry wanted to create that. It meant that he had to be left to do everything once we’d filmed.

What was it like filming on the set?
Now, the process was very complicated. He made a very basic animatic, almost like a comic, cartoon of the whole film, which we then watched. And out of that, we created the environment in blue blocks in a huge studio on "L" Street in London, and were free to block it and set it and do whatever we wanted in that set, in a way, like a theatre, like an empty space in the theatre.

As an actor, what was it like to work without a set and props?
So it was very freeing, liberating, in a funny way. It was just like make-believe, but we would then be able to go back and they would be able to build the world around us, color it and shade it, light it and light us, add the robots, add the airplanes, add characters.

We would watch back simultaneously what had been done as an animatic and what we had done in the blue screen and just make sure that our physical actions were still within the walls and were within the guidelines that we had been given.
I suppose one could say that my friendship with Angie and Gwyneth, and indeed, with Giovanni meant that we had a direct line when we were trying to round up a cast, but all three were, if you like, top of our list.

What is the story behind Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?
The villains that Sky Captain is up against are mechanical monsters, both earth-bound, sea-bound, and sky-bound, who are robbing the world of major mineral resources, power sources. That leads me to uncover a professor who was notorious and renowned in his heyday of beinga living genius, but also a madman, who is also known to be uncovering a doomsday device. His name is Professor Totenkopf and he’s the guy we’re looking for.

The romance that Polly and Joe had is in the past. Did Sky Captain cheat on Polly, and did Polly sabotage Sky Captain’s airplane? Neither will ever absolutely admit that one did the other, and that’s at the heart of their argument.

It was like being kids playing in a kitchen, pretending that the sofa’s a boat and the TV’s an alien. It was absolutely taking that kind of make-believe to the nth degree.