The Island - Production Notes

Last Update: 24 July 2005

Island Formation
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ISLAND FORMATION
 
When the filmmakers first embarked to "The Island," they might have thought
they were creating a futuristic, science fiction actioner about human cloning that
bordered on the impossible. However, following recent revelations in the news,
producer Walter F. Parkes only half-jokingly acknowledges, "It turns out we were
making a contemporary thriller."
 
In fact, reality is so quickly catching up with what was once unimaginable that
the timeframe was moved up from the late 21st century in which screenwriter
Caspian Tredwell-Owen had first set his story. Director/producer Michael Bay
states, "We needed to bring it way back to, say, 20 years in the future. It's a
much scarier premise if it's right around the corner, and it makes it much more
accessible."
 
Parkes adds, "We're living in a time when scientific advancements are happening
at hyper-speed; it's a geometric progression, so the story became less
astounding the further we pushed it into the future. Given the developments
we've been hearing and reading about in the news, it's entirely conceivable that
this could happen in 15 or 20 years or so. We're not saying it's going to happen
to this degree...but it's technically possible."
 
Caspian Tredwell-Owen asserts, "Human cloning is going to happen, it's
inevitable. Someone is going to do it--legally or illegally--it is just a question of
who does it first. Science is fueled by curiosity, but to a certain extent, it is
also fueled by demand, and the demand is there. We can already grow human
organs in bits and pieces outside of the body, but what if you could have a
duplicate, an exact match, who could give you any organ or part of his body
without any apparent ramifications?"
 
When the original screenplay for "The Island" was brought to the attention of
producer Walter F. Parkes and executive producer Laurie MacDonald, they had
already been trying to develop a very different story about human cloning.
Parkes offers, "What immediately intrigued us about this script was that,
instead of taking the perspective of a researcher or outside observer, 'The
Island' took the point of view of the clones themselves. That struck us as a
great way to tell the story in a much more emotional and personal way, because
on one level, this is about science gone awry, but it is also about seeing the
world through these innocents' eyes."
 
"We felt strongly that the reveal had to happen through the eyes of our main
character, Lincoln, because the audience would be so closely tied to him," says
screenwriter Alex Kurtzman. "Through Lincoln, they will know early in the first
act that something feels wrong...and today's audiences are very savvy, so they
will probably jump to the worst possible conclusion. But, that said, the
revelation happening from Lincoln's point of view is stunning."
 
His partner, screenwriter Roberto Orci, agrees. "Seeing it through his eyes is
the reason it comes as a shock, even if you think you know. The first half hour
or so of the movie commits itself to this other reality, and you might expect it
to continue in a linear way and assume you know where it's going, but you
don't. That was all Caspian, and it's brilliant because the audience shares in
the discovery."
 
The original screenplay first came to director Michael Bay on a very direct route,
via DreamWorks principal Steven Spielberg. Bay recalls, "Steven called me up
one night and said, 'I am sending you a script; you have to read it tonight.' I
didn't get it until about 11:00, and it was 140 pages long, but I read it in one
sitting and finished it about 3:00 in the morning. I really liked it, and called
later that morning and said, 'I'll do it.'"
 
Parkes says there were several reasons Michael Bay was the only director
considered to helm "The Island." "He has the focus, the drive, the creativity,
the confidence, and the technical expertise to handle a production this size, so
it was a perfect match. This movie came with huge production challenges--many
locations, hundreds of extras, massive sets, digital effects, physical
effects...just about everything. There is a very short list of directors who are
capable of dealing with all of that without being buried by it. I mean, there are
a lot of people who understand digital effects or know how to do a chase scene,
but the challenges can be so great that they get in the way of the sheer
exuberance of the scene itself. Michael can do it all--he literally knows
everybody's job on the set--and he just exudes a certain kind of energy from
the director's chair...not that he ever sits down," Parkes laughs. "In a lot of ways,
he's like a big kid with a wonderful sense of playfulness. It set a tone and
brought great energy and excitement to the set, which I think translates to the
film. It's a very infectious thing."
 
"I think Michael is a great director," producer Ian Bryce states. "He's a gifted
artist with an amazing eye; he really knows how to shoot, and he shoots fast.
In many respects, he's a producer's dream, because he comes in prepared and
ready to go, and he can get through an enormous amount of work in a day. For
me, it was a terrific experience working with him."
 
From the moment he came onto "The Island," Bay knew he had to balance two
different approaches to the film. "I wanted to make a fun, enjoyable summer
movie, but there is also a very human core to the story that deals with the
whole question of, if we could have a clone, would we? We definitely did not
intend to beat people over the head with it, but I wanted to give audiences a
taste of the moral question...and then take them on a ride."
 

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