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Return of Quint's set reports from Stephen King's THE MIST!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the first report from my return visit to the set of Stephen King’s THE MIST. I had four reports run from my last visit. You can read these by clicking on the following links:

The drive to Shreveport from Austin was a bit more hectic this time around. The heavens were wide open and it was a rain-filled crazy drive that resulted in a very late arrival, just before 4am. The call time was 7am. Fuck sleep, eh? This is THE MIST!

I got to set a little after they started. As tired as I was from the 6 hour drive and the even less sleep, it was nothing compared to Darabont. He’s at the end of the shoot, after a long day on location yesterday. They were plagued by technical problems and the shoot is running a little late. He looked beat. Sharp, of course, but dead tired. I had planned to come out and see nothing but the pharmacy sequence. Fans of King’s novella will know why I was crazy excited to come back for that. And I will see them film some pharmacy stuff, but today they’re catching up, grabbing some final Market stuff. Once again, I begin typing up this report sitting in the “Breads ‘n Cakes” section, behind Darabont in video village. It’s eerily similar to my experience last month, except now there’s a mixture of excitement and exhaustion in the air. They crew are on the last lap of a quick, but complex shoot. What I’m going to see on this 3 day visit will all be from the last act of the film, so I’m going to have to tip-toe a little bit more than I did in my first reports, which covered parts of the movie that take place in the first half of the story. Here I’ll avoid the big beats when I can, especially character deaths, but if it’s in King’s original story I won’t feel too badly about discussing it. So, if you haven’t read the story, beware… there may be some spoilers for you in these reports. The very first shot upon my return involved a character pounding on the front doors, screaming to be let back in and something coming out of the mist and snapping him up. The It, of course, was not there. The stuntman was rigged with cables and was jerked back, quickly, disappearing into the mist. This was done 3 times and the take that I think will make it in had the stunt double disappearing into the mist before gravity took back over and he began his descent back to the earth. In other words, he was just yanked up into the mist and as far as we know he kept going up, into the gaping maw of whatever the hell grabbed him. Everette Burrell, the grand poo-bah on-set representing Café FX, who are handling the CGI for the flick, asked exactly how much Darabont wanted to show of the creature and what it’d look like. Darabont thought for a bit and hit some ideas back and forth before deciding the shape should be very undefined, but massive. “Like an iceberg in the mist.” Everette mimed some flailing arms, ie tentacle appendages and got a thumbs up from Frank. They grabbed some reference plates, repeating the camera motion without the stunt man in the frame, for the VFX peeps. I’d heard that B stage, where the loading dock was on the last trip, was the home of the pharmacy set, so I took a quick trip over there to see what I could see. B stage was home to more than one set. To get to the pharmacy I had to walk past David’s (Thomas Jane) study, the set built as a single room with comfortable looking couches and easels set up. David’s an artist and his work is all around the room. There’s a cool, geeky artist whose work is being used, but I’ll let that be a surprise for when you see the finished flick. The pharmacy set took up the most room on the stage, though. It’s built like a kind of idealized ‘60s pharmacy, with the little soda fountain/diner counter just past the front doors, the actual pharmacy in the back and rows of shelves overloaded with tacky trinkets in between. There was a lady spraying up cobwebs, the set probably 85-90% dressed at the time of my first visit. From the outside the webs looked strangely like haunted house cobwebs, like stretched cotton balls. From the inside they looked much less hokey. It’s the type of web that’s… chunky, you know? It’s not an elegantly spun piece of beauty, but a thick and lumpy mass. Walking into the pharmacy was like walking into an Animal Planet nightmare, realizing you’re in a funnel web spider’s domain. In the story, someone gets hurt really badly, and a group ventures to the pharmacy next door, braving the 15-20 feet in the mist. The door was left open and the mist has gotten inside. When they shoot, the interior is going to be misty, concealing the nightmare around our group. The webbing wasn’t built up near the door, but the deeper into the store you go, the crazier it gets. I counted at least 6 bodies, drained husks of people, tangled in the webs. My favorite was a guy that was sitting at the diner counter, bent over onto the countertop, but completely encased in webbing so only the vaguest shape hints that the mass was ever a man. Most bodies were strung up on the ceiling or in corners, sometimes the arms or legs bent in unnatural positions. A neat little addition that I didn’t expect was the clumps of spider egg sacks. They were balled in the corners, where beams met the ceiling and also attached to the cocooned bodies. My understanding, though, is that we’ll be seeing a different birthing process for the little spiders… but that’ll, hopefully, be for another report. And I’ll go into more pharmacy whenever they start shooting in there.

I went back to A stage and caught Darabont blocking the next scene with his cast. This is a big scene where our core group has to get out of the store. You have David (Thomas Jane), his young son Billy (Nathan Gamble), Amanda (Laurie Holden), Irene (Frances Sternhagen), Dan (Jeff DeMunn), Myron (David Jensen), the old guy who was going on and on about the mills on my last trip and Ollie (Toby Jones). David, wielding a mop handle with one hand while holding his son in the other, screams for someone to move the damn ice machine that is barricading the entrance. This might be a good time to mention the difference in appearance, the face lift the market has gotten since I left. The windows are now cracked. There are easily a dozen spots where something has impacted the windows, hard enough to cause circular shattering. It’s still holding together, but barely. One pane is completely covered with plywood and one pane is cracked so badly the survivors have had to duct tape the cracks to keep the window whole. Plus there are hundreds of bags of dog food stacked up, like sandbags in WW1 trench warfare.

Anyway, our group converges on the door. There’s a moment between David and Ollie as they discuss something very big that has just happened. Wish I could be more detailed, but if you don’t know why the group is leaving the store, then I really do think it’s best you let the movie tell you how they get to this point. If you’ve read the book, then you know why. After a beat, Ollie and David unlock the two doors and yell, “Let’s go!” as they throw open the doors and run out into the mist. They spent a few hours getting coverage of everybody in the core group and reactions of those around them, including getting a really nice shot on the B camera. It was outside looking in with David seen through the glass doors on one side and Ollie on the other. When they throw open the doors, Ollie screams as he runs towards the mist, right past camera. It was a really nice shot. It seems today they were picking up missed set-ups and pieces of scenes. The next set-up jumped back a little bit. The core group in the store, led by David, come to the decision that it’s better to brave the mist than to stay in the store. But they have to be covert about it. The sequence was little Billy sleeping, curled up next to his father, a bag of sugar for a pillow. David is also sleeping, but is awoken by Amanda gently shaking him. “It’s dawn.” She’s surrounded by those who are planning on making a break for it, too. Humble, likable Ollie tells David he’s packed 5 grocery bags and stashed them at the registers. They all whisper conspiratorially, especially when David outlines the plan to try to make it to his car. “The doors are unlocked, so whoever gets there first open the doors and everybody pile in as fast as you can. Let’s go.” They got much coverage of this, from close-ups on Toby Jones, Nathan Gamble and Laurie Holden to the reverse, which has my favorite shot of the sequence. The shot begins the scene. It starts on the front of the market, looking down a long aisle. Glass is cracked, shelves are a mess. The camera tilts down to show a couple of people sleeping on the floor. The shot continues moving, panning right and racking focus to Thomas Jane’s sleeping face. Laurie leans in and wakes Tom Jane up, both in profile. Loved that movement. The scene continues mostly on Jane, in an extreme close up. He kept getting caught up on “My landcruiser’ sup the center lane of the parking lot.” Maybe it was a last minute script change or just one of those sentences that unexpectedly tongue-tie you. But he kept tripping up on that line. Jane did one take where he just kept starting that part of his scene over again and did that about 4 times before he spat it out. Every single take after that he got it out perfectly, sounding much more natural than he did before. Strangely enough, as low-energy as it seemed at the beginning of the day, the steam was picking up. There was a playfulness that was catching with the cast and crew. Maybe they were just giddy that the day was in its final hours, but the energy was undoubtedly up. Sam Witwer (playing an army man, Wayne Jessup) was joking around with William Sadler… If you remember, Witwer was the guy I had that incredibly geeky STAR WARS conversation with on my last visit. He said hi at lunch, but came to sit and chat in between takes. He was geeking out again, but this time about working with Darabont and how great the movie’s looking. Then he talked up Laurie Holden who was passing by and they both told me how great the other was… Then Witwer leaves for the next set-up, but comes back to point at Sadler a couple feet away. “Laurie’s great, but Sadler… completely annoying!” And Darabont danced. The last sequence of the day is even further back in time. This is another thing that’s kind of in a gray area, so I can’t go into much detail, but the energy reached a fever pitch. The extras in the store, the survivors, reach a kind of oneness, a mob-mentality takes over. Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) whips up those in the store with her religious fervor and it comes to a boiling point in this scene. It’s a pretty emotional scene, with “the good guys” reacting to the craziness around them. The extras were all shouting and it was like a cockfight, people screaming over each other. After a few takes of that, everybody was more than wide awake. Funny, since that was the last shot of the day. Tired or not, everything Darabont got today looked fantastic on playback. All the layered character work you come to expect from Darabont is there… and in a movie with giant monsters! How about that? Much like the last trip, Darabont gave me the okay to take some pictures for you folks. You’ve seen a few of them in the article so far, but now I’m going to leave you with a tease, a glimpse of the madness in the pharmacy. Enjoy!


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