Alex McDowell Blogs On AICN With Exclusive Photos Regarding The Owlship from WATCHMEN!!!
Published at: Aug. 6, 2008, 4:28 p.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here with a wonderful exclusive from the film WATCHMEN - yes, that pesky bit of brilliance we all hope is imminently upon our horizon. Here we have Alex McDowell's Blog on WATCHMEN - a bit of fun - you should check it out and be caught up with the fun of it. The theatricality of it all. I love that they're doing this - I can't believe they're doing this - in addition - YAHOO has a new Video Production Blog!
A mysterious discovery in New York.
In April 2007, shortly after I first met with Zack Snyder and started design work on Watchmen, we received a mysterious call at our Warner Brothers offices from a location scout in New York. He’s found a house he thinks we need to see, and there’s only a short time to see it before it’s going to be demolished.
The next day we fly to NY, taking the cab directly to a brownstone street in Chelsea where we met our contact in front of an abandoned and boarded-up building. He pushes open the peeling front door that has a lock that has been repaired more than once.
Ahead is a long hallway with a dark wood staircase to the right, and a tiled floor leading to a kitchen at the back of the house. It is clear this had once been a wealthy household, but that a single and single-minded person had more recently occupied it. In the kitchen a small table sits in the centre of a wide floor. Remnants of canned food, and a box of sugar cubes are scattered on the counter, alongside a one-cup coffee maker. From the kitchen a butler’s passage leads us to a book-lined study. On the walls are a few pieces of tattered artwork, Audebon prints of birds, mostly owls, and on the floor are white feathers blowing dustily around a desiccated snowy owl. There are remnants of engineering models and drawings scattered through the room. Through an arched opening and half-opened pocket doors we see a dusty, living room, large couch, yellow peeling walls, shuttered widows to the street. On the bookshelves in the study we find books of aviation and exploration, ornithology and mythology, with pages that fall open to Merlin, Archimedes, and Hera.
Our guide pushes against a shelf and a vertical section of the books swing open to a swirl of dust revealing decrepit stairs that lead down into darkness. Zack and I follow them through a brick and plaster basement and to another door, half hidden behind a broken closet.
Our feet hit metal steps that descend through the jack-hammered concrete floor of what looks like a subway maintenance office and down into a flooded subterranean chamber. It’s barely lit but for dirty daylight washing a rotten brick shaft from the street fifty feet above us, and a faulty fluorescent that lights lathes and electronic equipment, corroded electrical blade switches, rusted rail track and a wire-glass enclosed room with a door wedged open to reveal a drawing board, more engineering books, and a sewing machine.
The scout tells us that the tunnel and chamber was once a spur of a forgotten subway, an underground maintenance area for the cars, built in the 1920’s. In 1955, the tunnel suffered a collapse that flooded this section of the system, and the lower portions of the track were abandoned. 100 yards from the repair yard the tunnel now opens up directly to the East River.
Clearly someone had broken into the chamber from above, probably in the sixties, and build the steel stair that connected directly the basement we’d stumbled into.
We could see that the abandoned equipment and gantry crane had been repaired and used as an engineering shop. From the paperwork lying on the work surface, it looks as if this space had been used actively until around 1977, and then abandoned again. Blueprints show working drawings for something that looks like a flying craft, not entirely unfamiliar. It had clearly worked too – we see broken brick and heavy scrapes in the ceiling of the tunnel where it had been steered too close and collided with the walls.
As our eyes adjust to the grey light, we make out a thick plastic sliding door behind which are glimpses of shadowed figures, with the remnants of a rubberized costume still clinging to their limbs, and helmets with electronics spilling from goggles and neck and pointed owl-like ears.
And there, in the center of the old subway maintenance room, under a gantry crane and apparently floating on heavy concrete plinths, is a huge swollen shape, mostly covered by a rotten tarpaulin. Approaching the craft we see circular glass lenses, peering from under the oily fabric like two owl eyes, with a vertical panel running between them, stacked with three broken lights, something that looks like a camera, and a rusted weapon that drips fuel onto the dirty water pooling between the rail tracks.
We approach the unfolded access steps where a thick umbilical of cables snakes through the open hatch into the interior, and glimpse screens and dials and a pilot’s seat rotated towards the hatch. An 8-track player is strapped incongruously to the control panel, and a book ‘Under The Hood’ is wedged into the webbing on the walls.
We are starting to climb the mechanical stairs when there is loud cracking sound from upstairs, and the scout shouts for us to leave. As we race up the stairs and out into the street we hear behind us dull sounds of collapse, and walk quickly away.
Months later I am standing with Zack in a large brick and concrete chamber, with flooded tunnel and rusted tracks, steel stairs leading up through a jack-hammered floor to our right, and shadowy masked figures looming behind thick plastic on the concrete landing. In the center of the chamber, below a heavy steel gantry, is the swollen shape of the flying craft, lights and blinking screens visible through the dusty 4 foot diameter lenses, the interior a cross between military jet and space shuttle. Nite Owl in full costume stands in front of the Owl Ship as the searchlights glare, the engines rotate to vertical, steam expels from below the ship and it begins to rise.
Probably only a handful of the audience of Watchmen will see the extent of the detail that we have lovingly copied into this set from the Brownstone house and underground Chamber that we saw that day, but it is all there, and it makes me happy.
February 2008, Vancouver
These photos are all we were able to grab as we ran from the collapsing building. They were lying amidst the blueprints and sketches in the chamber, and appear to show the flying craft, mask and suit from their heyday in the 1970’s, the remnants of what we saw in the gloom of the tunnel in that day in Spring 2007, in New York.