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December 14, 2009


What it was like to make The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker

Now that it's awards season, The Hurt Locker is going to be all over the press again for the next couple of months. It's already won the Boston and LA Critics awards (best film and best director) and will probably be all over the Golden Globes nominations that come out tomorrow.

Reuters has a great piece on the origins and production of the movie--starting with screenwriter Mark Boal, who was an embedded journalist with an Iraq bomb squad in 2004, through getting funding, deciding to film in Jordan (it was a lot cheaper than Morocco) and finding a crew willing to work there, and writing scenes on the fly during the shoot, based on what was going on in their locations.

But the best details are about the incredibly difficult conditions they worked in. The star, Jeremy Renner, was wearing that crazy armored spacesuit in July in Jordan, and they couldn't use the suit's built-in air conditioner because it made too much noise.

One action sequence was "the week from hell," Anthony Mackie said. "Jeremy and I were just laying out there baking in the sun for hours and hours. Thirty pounds of gear, laying on your stomachs, 115-degree heat bouncing up off the sand and into your face. We were covered in flies. As uncomfortable as it looked on film is how uncomfortable it was in real life."

"I think we all had a nervous breakdown or two or three," Renner said.

Hey, at least it was a 44-day film shoot, and not an 15-month tour.

The article also points out that the cinematographer was Barry Ackroyd, who also shot United 93. Neither movie is a documentary, but both had a really appealing and appropriate documentary-like feel that was largely created through how they were filmed. Ackroyd gets a little too jerky with the handheld camera now and then, but overall I like his style a lot. He's also the cinematographer for Green Zone, a fictional Iraq movie with Matt Damon coming out next year. (It's directed by Paul Greengrass, who also did United 93 and the last two Bourne movies, which used way too much of the jerky handheld, in my opinion.)

Green Zone was shot in Spain and Morocco, so hopefully Ackroyd didn't keep passing out with heat stroke like he did during Hurt Locker.

So after all that, the movie only brought in about $12 million domestically. And I thought it was one of the indie hits of the year. By comparison, Precious has made $36 million so far. Hurt Locker will probably get re-released early next year if it gets a Best Picture nomination, so it should eventually make a lot more.

Another little note: I somehow missed that Kathryn Bigelow used to be married to James Cameron. Their marriage was from 1989-1991, right after he split up with Linda Hamilton, but, interestingly, before they collaborated on Strange Days. I think she's got about a thousand times better chance at winning a Best Director Oscar this year for Hurt Locker than James Cameron does for Avatar--and she'd be the first woman ever to win.

Here's the Hurt Locker trailer, and the Green Zone trailer.

categories: Movies
posted by amy at 1:34 PM | #

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Hunh! Funny---one of the things I was impressed by in Hurt Locker was how little shakycam there was. From about 20 minutes in, I kept thinking about how nice it was to see an action movie where all the tension is expressed in clean, clear camera movement.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastard at December 17, 2009 7:22 PM

Yeah, I mean, it was very occasional. I've come to think of too much shakycam as a characteristic of a not-that-great action movie, when those movies are probably using it as an attempt to create a sense of realism.

Posted by: amy at December 17, 2009 11:46 PM

Have you read David Bordwell on "intensified continuity"? He really nails how much of that style is just fast cutting through the same few setups.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastarrd at December 18, 2009 1:26 PM

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