Quint vibrates on the set of DJ Caruso's EAGLE EYE starring LaBeouf, Monaghan, Chiklis & Dawson! Plus Y: THE LAST MAN tid-bits!
Published at: March 25, 2008, 5:23 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a little rundown of my time on the set of DJ Caruso’s DISTURBIA follow-up called EAGLE EYE. The flick is an actioneer starring everybody’s favorite Shia “The Beef” LaBeouf. (PS Keep an eye out for Y: THE LAST MAN details direct from DJ Caruso and LaBeouf!)
The story is very Hitchcockian where we follow an average youngster who receives a phone call out of the blue that propels him into a race to clear his name as the government, thinking he’s a terrorist, closes in. In this film he’s coupled with a single mother, played by the lovely Michelle Monaghan, whose son has been taken.
Leading the hunt for the two is Michael Chiklis and an FBI agent played by Rosario Dawson.
That’s only a little more than I knew going in. Since one of my two days visiting the project happened to be when they were shooting the end of the film, I’ll have to be a little delicate so I don’t ruin anything.
I saw many different sets on my visit, most of them built in the Howard Hughes Spruce Goose Hanger in Playa Vista, where Oliver Stone had his Ground Zero built for WORLD TRADE CENTER and Jon Favreau had the caves where Tony Stark builds the Mark One armor. These are giant stages.
On these stages I saw the main villain’s lair (yes, lair), I saw an exact replica of a floor of the Pentagon and I saw a secured room, I’m guessing somewhere within the Pentagon, where the biggest scene of the day was located.
But that’s getting a little ahead of myself. My first day of visiting was a location near Dodger’s Stadium in LA. I got there a little ahead of the always radiant Tamar from Paramount, so I hung out in base camp (in a supermarket parking lot) for a few minutes.
Within 120 seconds I was approached by Deb Wuliger, Spielberg’s Unit Publicist. I’ve talked to Deb a few times, the first on the set of WAR OF THE WORLDS (click here to read that report) and then last October when I had that weird stop at Amblin while they were filming INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (click here to read that one). I suppose since Spielberg is producing EAGLE EYE (he also originated the story) that explains why she was the Publicist on this one.
As we caught up, LaBeouf walked by, saw us and came over. Last year I bumped into LaBeouf a lot, from the TRANSFORMERS set (right here for that one) to DISTURBIA’s screening in Austin and then immediately after at ShoWest.
He briefly said hello and then ran off to set. Deb and I talked INDIANA JONES and she thought people will be surprised by LaBeouf's character in the movie. I told her that there’s excitement for the film, but people are a little worried because there have been a series of remakes, reimaginings, prequels, sequels and spin-offs of the stuff my generation and the one directly before mine grew up with… and most of those have been disappointing. There’s a worry that INDY 4 will be another one for that pile.
She said, with all respect to Mr. Lucas and his contributions to the new Indiana Jones movie, it is Spielberg’s film and not Mr. Lucas’.
Tamar arrived and we headed up to the set.
I can’t say much about this part, but I will say it’s a quiet moment between Michelle Monaghan and Shia LaBeouf.
They were about to get a shot off when I arrived, but I got a chance to head over to DJ Caruso and say hi. I first met DJ back when he did SALTON SEA and brought it to Austin. He’s a genuinely good guy and we talked after that about me coming by to watch him work. A few years back I dropped in to visit him on the set of THE SHIELD when he was guest directing, but other than that brief encounter this is my first time to see him actually work.
One person I hadn’t met before this particular day was Michelle Monaghan. Good God, y’all. There are some genuinely cute people in this world. I don’t just mean good looking, but inside as well and Monaghan struck me as one of those people, always free with a laugh and a smile to anybody, not just her co-star, her director or some weirdo reporter sitting off to the side. Anybody on the crew, from a gaffer to the boom guy to a PA… everybody got the same treatment.
We had a little time to talk after they got a few takes off the ground and I brought up KISS KISS BANG BANG. I loved that flick and so did she, appreciative that it’s gathering quite a following. She had good things to say about Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, especially Kilmer. I told her how I loved seeing him go back to comedy in that role. He was so damn good at it… REAL GENIUS, TOP SECRET and then he kind of lost himself in more serious parts, but his real talent, I think, is comedy. That’s what I loved about KKBB. She geeked out about TOP SECRET a little before having to return to work.
In another moment of quiet in-between set-ups I found myself flanked by LaBeouf on my right and Caruso on my left, so I picked this time to bring up Y: THE LAST MAN, a series I’m quite fond of. I thanked Caruso for inviting me onto this set, but that if he gets Y going, he won’t be able to keep me from living on that set.
He laughed and pretty much said bring it on. Let’s see if that’s still the case when he begins shooting… Anyway, I asked him about an early draft of the script that circulated. It was written by series creator Brian K. Vaughan and even though it had great moments, it really crammed everything into one two hour movie. That meant we lost Hero, Yorrick’s sister, and we lost all the side-characters that give the story it’s identity.
Caruso agreed with me 100% and said that once the writer’s strike was over (this was before the end) they’re going to completely rework the script, keeping as much as the book as they can. In fact, he’s going to structure it as a trilogy, with the first movie encompassing issues 1-12, not trying to get the whole 50-something issues into one movie.
I said that was great, but he had to promise me something. “Please, for the love of God… use a real monkey for Ampersand.” He laughed and said, “What fun would it be if we didn’t use a real monkey?” He said there is no way he’s going to have a CG Ampersand.
LaBeouf piped up saying that he looks forward to the monkey scratching his face off and shitting on him, which seems to confirm that he’s the number one choice for Yorrick. I know he’s getting a bit over-exposed now, but I think LaBeouf is actually a good pick for the character.
Anyway, I had to get my Y: THE LAST MAN geek conversation out of the way before I could focus on what was going on around me.
I also got to chat a little with DoP Dariusz Wolski. Strangely enough I had just read a story in AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER about his work on SWEENEY TODD the week before. He also shot all three PIRATES films, DARK CITY, CRIMSON TIDE and THE CROW. His eye is fantastic and the footage I saw looked up to his standard.
Let’s talk about that footage a bit. I was shown a “sizzle reel” that the poduction had cut. I think they said I was seeing it before the studio. I don’t know how the studio reacted to it, but I hope they use the 3 or so minute piece as a basis for the trailer.
The footage opens with LaBeouf getting a call in an office-looking area. It’s a woman he doesn’t know telling him he has something like 7 seconds to get down. Understandably, he hesitates, not knowing what’s going on and suddenly the windows blow inward and he’s on the run.
The mysterious woman on the phone tells him to get to a car in a certain place. He gets there and Michelle Monaghan is there, freaked out. She was also brought to this spot by the mysterious woman after her son disappeared. She thinks LaBeouf is responsible. The rest is action. Car chases (real metal on metal crunches that look great), running, guns, etc.
It really does give you the impression that this is a huge movie. The action is major. I was also shown one of these action sequences by Caruso’s incredibly crush-worthy assistant, Emily. It was on a laptop, but even on the smaller screen the scale was impressive.
It was a car chase through a construction site, with those giant claw cranes hanging about. Billy Bob Thornton and Rosario Dawson are the pursuers. It starts as a hardcore chase and suddenly the cranes enter into it, dropping shit on cars as they speed through, picking up and dumping some of the unmarked FBI cars and finally grabbing hold of the car Shia and Michelle are in. They hang out as the car is swung over the ocean and dropped… them with it.
The look was a little TRANSFORMERS, but not as stylized with the bleach-bypass process. Looked really sharp, actually. Kind of a middle ground between the look of the PIRATES movies and a big Baystravaganza.
It was around this time that I grabbed some hot chocolate at craft service and bumped right into yet another familiar face. If you read my set reports for THE MIST closely, you might remember a guy by the name of Ralph Nelson, a set photographer. He did all the onset photos for RETURN OF THE JEDI and the rest of the prequels. He and C3PO had a bit of a love/hate relationship. They love fucking with each other and hate it when the other gets the last laugh. Read more about it here. You’re going to have to scroll down.
Anyway, there he was on the set. We caught up and he said that someone had pointed Anthony Daniels to that story and he commented upon it on his website, but I never saw that post. I wonder if it is out there. I didn’t get to see any of Nelson’s work on EAGLE EYE (although I tried to get an exclusive pic for this article… guess it just wasn’t meant to be), but I’m sure it’s top quality like the rest of his stuff.
The scene that I can’t talk about is a quiet scene, like I mentioned and a serious one… there are children in the immediate vicinity and after one of the takes Michelle and Shia break out in laughter, breaking the sweet tone, and Michelle laughingly drops an F-bomb. A split second later she slaps her hands across her mouth and mumbles “Oh, no!” through her fingers.
“What?” asked Shia. “I said it in front of the kids!” Those with headphones busted out laughing and Shia called out, “Quint, that’s going all over the internet, right?” Yes, it is now. Michelle Monaghan drops f-bombs in front of children. Fact.
Let’s move on to the Spruce Goose hanger and my second day. This was later in the week and it was a scene between Rosario Dawson and Michael Chiklis.
Now we get to what the headline was referring to. I was an official vibrator on the set. Unfortunately my talents weren’t utilized by either Ms. Dawson or Ms. Monaghan, but I still contributed, without pay. It was exhausting, time consuming work, let me tell ya’.
The scene takes place in a sound-proof room and the very first shot I was there for required my impressive skills.
The first shot was on video, looking into the room through a giant window. It’s the POV of the security camera. In the scene, the main villain is trying to eavesdrop on the conversation between Chiklis and Dawson. She has a vital piece of evidence, a recording that might prove LaBeouf and Monaghan’s innocence.
The baddie uses the Pentagon’s own system to eavesdrop, looking in via a security camera. Apparently, Dawson is aware that their security might be compromised and ensures the room is secure, going so far as to unplug the phone line.
The recording is played via a cell phone on a table. Also on this table is Chiklis’ coffee cup. This is where I come in.
When I checked out this set up, standing on a grated floor just behind the video camera, Caruso came up and handed me what appeared to be a remote control for a toy race car, then held up a portable flat screen monitor which had the video from the camera displayed.
They were trying different zooms, some faster, some slower, all going past Dawson and onto the surface of the coffee in the cup. Caruso asked them to stay on the cup and told me to pull the trigger. When I did the liquid’s surface rippled, like the water when the T-Rex was attacking those poor little bastards in the jeeps in JURASSIC PARK.
If I pressed down all the way, the ripples went crazy. If I fluctuated between all the way and barely held down, the ripples changed as well. Neat.
Caruso called for a take and I handed the remote back. He refused and told me he’d give me signals. We both looked at the same monitor and he’d time it as the camera zooms in. “Faster… slower… slower… in and out…” Yeah, it sounded dirty, but that’s why they put me in charge.
A couple minutes of this and they had what they needed and I retired as “On Set Vibrator.” I only consult now.
The idea is that the villain will be able to translate the audio vibrations and know that the cover is blown. If that sounds crazy sci-fi to you, this type of technology is being used by the military right now. They have computers that can do this in the here and now.
In fact, I talked with producers Alex Kurtzman and Peter Chiarelli at length about that very aspect. They were very adamant that every piece of technology deployed in this movie could exist or does in fact exist in the world today.
While I was there, they set up for real film camera coverage of this very scene within the sound-proof booth. There’s a lot of exposition in this scene and it took Dawson a few takes to make it sound natural, but she did in the end. Lines like “All the threats we’ve been tracking, all the chatter… it might be fake…” look good on paper, but it takes some crafting and charisma to make it sound natural.
Everybody seemed to be having fun and when the cameras were rolling Chiklis and Dawson put on their serious faces, demeanors completely changing. One bit I remember pretty clearly was Dawson giving Chiklis a little shit about missing his mark a little on an earlier take and Chiklis feigning shock, then following it up with “I’m a mark-hittin’ motherfucker!”
Before I left, Deb wanted me to briefly chat with Michael Chiklis and Rosario Dawson. Chiklis came up first and first thing we talked about was THE SHIELD. I’m a new convert. A couple months back I was at Costco and I saw they had the first 4 seasons for $16.99 each, so, having heard much good word about the series, I picked them all up and mainlined ‘em.
Big fan. He chided me for not being any further along than the 4th Season, though. “You haven’t gotten to Forrest (Whittaker)’s stuff, then. It’s great.” He talked about the series’ final season and said that it isn’t going to end “like the fuckin’ Sopranos.” He didn’t seem pleased with the Sopranos ending…
Chiklis then went on to say that even though he had known Caruso from his directing efforts on THE SHIELD, the reason he got the gig on EAGLE EYE was because of Caruso’s son. “Ah, because of FANTASTIC FOUR?” Chiklis was quick to shoot that down. Almost in a “Oh, God no” tone.
Apparently Caruso and his family were at a basketball game and his kid got a hold of DJ’s cell and randomly selected someone from his dad’s contact list and dialed. That someone was Chiklis. When Caruso apologized for the late call, they began catching up and finding out what the other was up to. Of course, that lead to a “You know, what? You’d be perfect for…” and Chiklis got the gig. He told this story like a kid who was given a scratch-off lotto ticket and won $50. He was definitely passionate about the story, telling me how kick-ass the movie is going to be.
We talked a long time… so long in fact that when we finished and Rosario was up, they were both called back to set. I did get a wave and short shouted conversation over about 15 feet as she walked to the set. “I haven’t met you before, right?” “Nope,” I said. “First time.” “I talked to an Ain’t It Cool guy at Comic-Con, I think.” “Yeah, we’re everywhere.” Then she did a “Bum-bum-buuuuummmmm” followed by a little bouncy dance and a laugh.
Before I left, Kurtzman showed me around to the rest of the sets, including the Pentagon, which, with permission, was recreated exactly. At least one floor was exactly the same, down to the portraits, soda machines and office decorations. It certainly felt weird stepping from a large, dusty space into a compact and immaculate floor of the Pentagon. My butt-hole tightened a bit, I’m not afraid to admit. I felt like a schoolboy going to the principal’s office.
Anyway, there’s an aspect to this flick that people have no clue about yet. It’s either going to make it a million times more interesting to you or turn you off. I bet it’s the former. At least it was for me. This one isn’t so much the straight up Wrong Man action suspense flick.
It’s hard to make any definitive statements, of course, but from what I saw this one has a chance of being a lot of fun. It’s on a scale much bigger than anybody anticipated, it has a quite a fun cast and everything I saw looked great. The real trick will be seeing it in context as a finished film when it's released on the 26th of September, but for now I’m optimistic.
With that done, I only have three more big visit stories to catch up on. Sheesh… Look for two of them (a trip to the Narnia edit bay, which didn’t involve going through a wardrobe, strangely enough, and my tour through one of the all time geekiest places known to man) to hit this week.
Til then, this is Quint signing off.