Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with Day 3, my second to last day on the set of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella THE MIST.
I’m still in the hotel, about to head out to set, but I thought I’d address a couple questions I’ve gotten about the project. The most common seems to be in relation to Frank Darabont’s involvement in the special effects-heavy 2nd Unit, directed by Greg Nicotero.
This isn’t a situation where Darabont only wants to focus on the character work of the story, letting the “lower brow” creature stuff be done by the gore guys. My understanding is that Darabont gets a huge kick out of this stuff and is even going out of his way to direct some sequences other directors might leave to 2nd Unit because it was such a cool part of the book and he wanted to realize it personally.
He spent last week, before I arrived, shooting the entire Loading Dock/Store Room sequence and Nicotero is getting the specific moments usually not involving the main actors, which is necessary if they’re going to shoot this movie on such a tight schedule.
What I’ve seen of Darabont’s collaboration with Nicotero is usually Greg coming in with a small monitor and grabbing Frank in between shots and running his taped rehearsal of the shot by Darabont, getting his notes and ideas. I also know Darabont watches the dailies every night, including 2nd Unit footage, and if he has a problem with a shot they’ll redo it.
Yes, Frances Sternhagen is playing Mrs. Irene Reppler.
I had one email asking me if Darabont is using music on the set to add to the spooky atmosphere. Not so far, but then again the mist just rolled in yesterday, at least for what I’ve been here to see on main unit. The spooky stuff is just beginning to happen.
Speaking of spooky stuff, I noticed driving to the set today that the exit I take is 19A. Nineteen being Ka, central to the Dark Tower series. And even creepier, there’s a Holiday Inn right off the exit with a giant rose painted on it. Is Stephen King controlling the universe?
Before I get to what I saw today, I have to bring up some bit of coolness. When I spoke with Darabont today he flat out said he was reading the talkbacks and saw a demand for pictures, so he said I could take any pictures I wanted (as long as they didn’t need actor’s approval to be shown) and that he’d give me some set photos from the man-god still photographer, Ralph Nelson.
So, you’ll see at least a dozen pics in this article and tomorrow’s final article, courtesy of the all-seeing eye of Ralph Nelson, my own shitty little digital camera and Frank Darabont.
You’re going to get an incredible look at this set. You’ll know the market inside out by the time I’m done with you, plus you’ll get an extra special treat at the bottom of this page. This kind of access is uncommon and I thank Darabont, his producers, Dimension and the actors (for giving their approval) for allowing this to happen. Now back to the report!
I almost missed the big earthquake scene. They got the first take right when I got to the stages, but I was outside when the bell rang and the lights started flashing alerting anyone outside that they were rolling. I could hear it, though.
They ran a great rumble though a few speakers around the set. When they turned it on the rumble was like when Sauron explodes at the beginning of FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING… if that’s not too geeky a reference. But it was turned up enough to rattle the pants legs, even standing outside.
When I got in the place was a mess. Shit was knocked off shelves, ceiling tiles had fallen, people were panicked.
Thankfully they did a second take. I got to watch the playback, but it’s a different experience watching it all go down live and in the flesh.
The playback was great, but one of the florescent light fixtures wasn’t swinging, so they ran again.. Remember when I kept talking about monofilament in the previous reports? Well, they had many filaments strung across the light fixtures, so a pull on one end or another would cause them all to swing.
They had 3 cameras running for this sequence. The setting is directly after the events I wrote about in Day 2. The Mist rolls over the super market, Marcia Gay Harden as Mrs. Carmody whispers, “It’s death…” and WHAM! The building shakes. We don’t really know why, but everybody called it the earthquake.
The C camera is on the Mustached Man (who yesterday was claiming the mist was from an exploded chemical mill) in an aisle. A Camera was a high angle on the carnage, looking down on the whole thing and B Camera was eye level with the crowd, focusing mainly on Thomas Jane as David protecting his kid, Billy, played by Nathan Gamble (a 9 year old actor, who was just in BABEL).
I’ll get to my favorite shot last. They didn’t have the place on a gimble, so they STAR TREK’d it, having the crowd of… I don’t know… 30-40 people, including our main cast, act it out while the cameramen thumped the cameras, causing a jerky motion.
A Camera caught the swinging light fixtures as the crowd below dropped to the ground, grabbing onto something solid or stumbling on their feet. One of the light fixtures snaps and the florescent casing goes crashing down, A Camera tilting to follow it all the way.
B Camera was on Jane as the earthquake starts. He has his kid in his arms and crouches protectively just as the florescent casing crashes down no more than a couple feel away from him.
C Camera, my favorite angle on this, had the Mustached Man stumbling. It was a low angle and when the florescent lighting fixture comes down, one end barely misses his head and smacks into the shelf, sending groceries spilling to the floor before the rest of the casing falls and hits the floor.
The post-earthquake scene is a powerful one. Everybody is confused. What is the mist? It’s dangerous, but why? Is it a “pollution cloud” like mustache man thinks it is? If not, what is it?
People’s inherent kindness or fearfulness or craziness rise to the surface at this point.
Carmody starts quoting from the bible, something about the 7th Angel “such as not seen on earth, the mighty quake… it’s the end of days!” Sally, the cute bag check girl, tells her to stop it. Carmody, seeming genuinely trying to show the girl the truth of the situation holds the bible out to her. “It’s true!” There’s some confusion, people yelling back and forth, panic just under the surface of the crowd.
At this point a young mother, sharply dressed with short-cut dark hair, played by Melissa McBride, speaks up, saying she can’t stay in the store, she has to get home to her children. Mrs. Carmody desperately tells her it’s death to leave, Ollie agreeing, but in a less fanatical way.
McBride, lower lip trembling and eyes watering, says it doesn’t matter… “I can’t stay here.” Her little daughter, 8 years old, is looking after her younger son. She was only supposed to be gone for a few minutes. “She sometimes forgets she’s supposed to be watching him, you know?” Her voice breaks as she thinks of her kids.
Bloody Nose (Jeff DeMunn) calmly tries to tell her it’s better for her kids if she stays out of the mist, but she’s past the point of being able to consider that option.
“Isn’t anybody going to help me? Won’t somebody… won’t somebody see a lady home?” Her voice really cracks here, her eyes desperately searching the crowd, all now attentively watching her and dead silent.
She looks to Ollie (Toby Jones). “You?” Ollie doesn’t break eye contact. His mouth is open slightly, like he’s searching for something to say, but all he can do is slightly shake his head. It’s not a “No” really, but it is a “I don’t know what to do” gesture.
The distraught Mom looks to a couple more people. “You?” No luck. She turns to Norton (Andre Braugher). “You?” His eyes widen and he looks away, down to the ground, avoiding her gaze?
Finally, she turns to David, still holding Billy. “You?” He responds, “Ma’am, please… I got my own boy to worry about.”
The woman gives a defiant, but obviously terrified, last statement. “I hope you all rot in hell.” Her voice isn’t raised, but the obvious pain stabs deeper than anger would have. Everybody in the store looks ashamed as she strides for the door.
Ollie, meek as he is, tries to stop her from going, almost begging her not to. She pushes him out of the way. Bloody Nose, still close to the door, puts a hand out and she dodges, opening the door and stepping out.
Before she closes the door behind her, she looks back at those in the market, every single pair of eyes on her. She lets the door close and turns to face the mist. She strides into it, disappearing completely into it after 4 or 5 steps.
This sequence was incredibly powerful, McBride getting applause from the cast and crew at the end of a particularly touching and heartbreaking take.
And this would be a good point to point out that there was no greenscreen set up. They pumped the exterior of the market full of mist, so when I say she disappeared into the mist… she really disappeared into the mist. Here’s a shot of the storefront, with the mist outside the windows:
You can see the stage lights at the top there.
They got a ton of coverage of this sequence. They started with both cameras on McBride, naturally. I heard Darabont say he wanted to get her stuff first because it’s so emotional and he didn’t want her to be spent before her close shots.
A later shot focused on the group watching her and we get to see each person’s reaction. Ollie’s close-up is wrenching. He wants to help her so bad… Toby Jones is really knocking this out of the park so far and he’s hardly said anything. It’s just the way he’s holding himself, expressing his character though his expressions and body language.
There was a great shot that had McBride’s face in profile on the right side of the frame. Giant face, chin at the bottom, top of the head at the top and in the background is Norton. He’s out of focus as she went through the “You? You? You?s” and then she turns to him and right as she says, “You?” to him they rack focus to him, his eyes widening as he hangs his head.
I love that. It’s near the back of the store and for a Stephen King geek, I can’t get enough references to Castle Rock.
We broke for Lunch around this time and I paled around with Eric Powell a bit. I have a few of THE GOON graphic novels, which Powell created, and I’m going to give them a read. I like the guy, though. His sense of humor is very much in line with mine. He was visiting the set as a friend of Darabont’s, so were always sitting together watching playback.
During lunch I sat with Darabont and Powell and we talked about all sorts of geek stuff, from Berni Wrightson (who did a lot of design work on THE MIST, including the tentacles mentioned in the previous reports), Alan Moore, Frank Miller, 300 and Stephen King.
We talked a little about the spiders that pop up later in the movie… my god these things are so creepy as a concept. I saw a maquette of one, but I’m told it’s not final… it was very eerie. Darabont said they were very much inspired by the Zanti Misfits from Outer Limits in that they have some human features… in this case, a grinning mouth with human teeth.
After lunch they got more coverage, this time featuring only the crowd, including a bit focusing on the young army man, Jessup (Sam Witwer, who I discovered loves good bad movies, like me… we had a nice discussion about the classic DUNGEONS & DRAGONS at lunch). He might have a suspicion or two… know a little more than the rest of the people in there… and his face shows that.
They set up the light to fall one more time and got one last bit of coverage on the earthquake. C Camera is on the ground, the sunglass stand falling in front of it, sending glasses spilling across the ground. B Camera was on the crowd reacting to the quake and A was on Marcia Gay Harden, who began quoting the scripture just after the quake stops, as she’s rising to her feet.
The next set up had both A and B cameras outside, in the mist, looking in to the store as the Mom leaves, pausing to look back in the store before walking past the cameras and into the mist. The cameras moved in on DeMunn’s bloody face, his expression sad as he watches her disappear. .
For some unknown reason Darabont brought out a giant balloon with Brooks & Dunn’s names/logo on it. It was about 3 feet in circumference. After that last take he asks everybody to stay in their positions. He then brought the giant balloon out and threw it at the mass.
Poor Jeff DeMunn was standing, back to everybody, still looking out the window, keeping his position. It took him a few seconds to register the laughing behind him as everybody bounced the ball up in the air, like at a concert.
It didn’t take long before the balloon caught a sharp edge somewhere and popped, but it was fun while it lasted.
Little Nathan Gamble came over and watched playback with us in the Bread n’ Cakes section for a bit and we learned all about his Swear Jar, where he gets $2 from anybody who swears around him. Apparently, Thomas Jane already owes him $6. The consensus seemed to be that he was going to clean up.
Matter of fact, he had a take shortly after this where he had to cry. It was a steadicam shot following Jane as he tries to comfort Billy (this is after he watched the distraught mother walk into the mist) who is hysterical and asking for his mother. Jane walks him down an aisle, away from the crowd and to the back of the store.
After the take, the kid came back and sat next to me. I saw an opportunity, so I pulled out $2 and handed it to him. He looked confused, then I said, “You did a very good job on that take… asshole.” It took a second for him to register it, but then he smiled and pocketed my money.
I’m happy to contribute to the kid’s college fund.
A new Jar was brought out, this time with THE MIST logo (red and white with the outline of a spider above the words “Stephen King’s THE MIST”), except it now read STEPHEN KING’S THE FOG and below that it was a sign that informed me there was a $5 fine for referring to The Mist as The Fog.
Apparently, HAROLD AND KUMAR 2 is also shooting in Shreveport and one of the Producer’s Assistants was killed in a bad accident. She left behind two kids and the idea is they’ll fill this jar and donate the money inside to them.
The last scene for the day was another progression, the beginnings of the people inside the store coping with what they’ve seen and the very early stages of the society that develops within the store, the groups that start to form.
We had to move out of the Bread n’ Cakes section and camped out at the front doors as Norton, A Biker, Mustache Man and a few other took over the bread section, talking about what’s going on, Norton in the lead.
He’s saying that he’s sure whatever is happening is just temporary. “It’s obviously some kind of natural disaster…”
The biker says, “There ain’t nothin’ obvious about ‘bout this sumbitch from where I sit.” Mustache Man says, “Nothin’ natural, either.”
Mrs. Carmody snuck up behind them and speaks up, causing Norton to turn towards her. “It’s judgment day. There’s nothing more obvious and natural than that.” The biker sighs and says, “Aw, fuck me.”
Carmody, in sickly sweet condescending voice says, “Oh, I won’t have to, young man. You already did that with a life of sin and dissolution…”
Norton cuts her off and moves between her and the group, successfully excluding her. Pretty much going, “Anyway, this cloud will dissipate…” Carmody backs away, bumping into a bookshelf… with a decided slant towards one author…
The crew arranged it so Salem’s Lot was hanging over, which put it in the shot. Darabont thought it might be too obvious and started moving books around, eventually saying, “This’ll be Stephen King’s cameo in the movie!” He turned around a paperback of CHRISTINE, featuring a photo of King on the back cover, which was in the lower left-hand corner of the frame on A Camera.
Frank’s first words to his cameramen were, “Don’t focus on the damn thing!” He wanted it to be there, but not rubbed in your face.
There was take done where Frank didn’t call cut right away and Braugher went right on, improving as he went. “This cloud… it won’t stay forever!” Immediately, the Mustached Man throws in a cryptic, “It will.” Norton says, “How do you know that?” Mustached Man responds with, “I used to work at the Mills!!!” which, of course, his character has been raving about for 2 days now. Norton shouts back, “WHAT THE FUCK!!!” and everybody cracks up. Yay for blooper reels.
The A Camera during this set-up follows Amanda (Laurie Holden) as she walked down an aisle, aspirin in her hand. I think she also grabbed a bottle of fruit juice. She walks by the group as Carmody is on her high horse and kind of smirks at the situation before walking on.
They set up a reverse of that shot before wrapping for the day.
Now, the shot I promised you before I crash and get my 6 or 7 hours before my last day onset. Ladies and gentlemen… I give you the first ever shot of the tentacles from THE MIST. The below shot gives away a character death, not like it wasn’t very obvious anyway, but I was avoiding mentioning the specific character. Oh well. Good-bye, Normie…
Not bad, huh? See ya’ tomorrow for the final day’s visit and another half-dozen pictures from the set! (PS Thanks to Kraken for the watermarks!)