Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my final report from the set of THE MIST. It’s already halfway through the day, the time has really flown by.
I just got back from lunch and over the next 20 minutes as the crew and cast trickle back in, I’ll be catching up on this report.
Firstly, at lunch I sat down at the table next to young Nathan Gamble. You might remember my Swear Jar story from Friday’s report. When I walked by his seat at lunch he got really excited and pointed at me. Then I hear words that no grown man wants to hear come out of a 9 year old’s mouth. “Mom, mom! That’s the man…” followed by, “ …that gave me two dollars yesterday.” And there was his mother, looking at me.
Kraken told me my face was beet red as I talked to the kid’s mother, who was all smiles about the situation. Phew… I thought I was in trouble for a moment.
When I first got here today they were setting up the scene, which again saw the Bread ‘n Cakes section, so video village and the guest and cast chairs were moved to aisle 7, next to all the sodas. A little more cramped.
Darabont sat next to me after he figured out the blocking and let the crew set up the lights. He said he really liked last night’s report, but wanted to correct something. I can’t count. I estimated 30-40 people, including the speaking cast, but there were actually 100 people in front of the cameras yesterday, 70 extras and 30 speaking cast. Now that’s corrected so I don’t have to worry about Darabont’s hired goons coming after me to set me straight. Here’s a pic of Friday’s crowd:
The scene today takes place immediately after the loading dock sequence that takes poor Norm the bag boy away from us. David (Tom Jane) pushes through the swinging double doors that connect the loading dock to the market. He’s wearing a grey t-shirt and an unbuttoned shirt over that, both smeared with Norm, the Bag Boy (Chris Owen)’s blood.
Amanda (Laurie Holden) spots him and runs up, worried about the blood. He said he’s fine, it’s not his blood, but he doesn’t want his kid to see him like this. “He’s scared enough already,” so he asks if she’ll watch him while he deals with something.
Keep in mind the big loading dock tentacle sequence just happened and David has to deal with the newfound knowledge of monsters in the mist.
Darabont wanted this to be a really long shot and it ended up covering nearly 8 pages of script. During rehearsal Frank told his cast to “Save the acting.” He needed the rehearsal mainly to block out the scene (meaning figuring out where he was going to place his actors) and give his cameramen an idea where the main moments will be.
When they shot, they had the surviving members of the Loading Dock scene hanging out at the double doors, which was also the beer corner of the market, luckily for them. There was manager Ollie (Toby Jones), Jim (William Sadler) and Myron (David Jensen), the last two decked out in mechanics overalls. They were drinking Buds, trying to calm themselves after the big tentacle mishap in the store room.
There was actually some discussion between Darabont and Denise Huth (producer) about the beers because Bud wasn’t able to offer any sealed cans with non-alcoholic contents. There were plenty filled with actual beer, but that wasn’t going to work.
The issue was that Ollie is given his beer in the scene and has to pop it and take a chug. It’s important to see this because he gets chewed out for drinking later in the scene, so he has to be both given the beer at the head of the scene and take a drink.
Darabont’s solution was to just have Sadler hand him his beer, with another option of having Toby Jones pretend to crack an already open can filled with water below frame and just add in the sound effect in post.
The little things that go into making a movie.
Anyway, David walks past them, has his conversation with Amanda and changes his shirt, grabbing a black t-shirt off a little rack at the rear of the store, next to the beer.
He approaches the group. Sadler is a little beat up, his lip split and a little smear of blood under his nose. In the loading dock sequence… well, he’s responsible for what happens to Norm and David gets really pissed at him, smacking him around. I’m actually told Jane knocked that scene out of the park, mixing hysteria and anger very well.
Sadler apologizes to David when he comes back to the group, putting on his new shirt. “I’m sorry ‘bout Norm. Ain’t makin’ no excuses. Just sayin’.” David nods a bit of forgiveness, but quickly moves on the topic at hand.
They have to tell the people. Ollie thinks what they have to tell the mass will be a bit difficult to swallow. David expects Jim to back him up. Jim’s local and his word will carry more weight. “Yeah, sure. We can’t let people just walk out, like that lady with the kids at home.”
David suggests quietly telling a few key people at first, getting some solid support. Ollie throws a glance at Norton (Andre Braugher). They grabbed a really good shot of this, with Ollie in close-up and a rack focus as he looks to Norton, bringing him in focus in the background. I love these types of shots and they seem to getting a good amount of them in the flick.
Ollie suggests Norton, getting a chuckle from the mechanics. “The windbag?” Ollie’s point is that, while not local, Norton is a big time lawyer in New York. “He could be sitting on the bench one day and that counts a lot in this town… any town.”
David agrees to talk to Norton. Ollie stresses the urgency of the situation. “Do it quickly, David. We have to discuss how to stop these things from getting in here.”
The mechanics are confused. The loading dock door was closed, right? Ollie motions to the front of the store and in a hushed voice says, “Yeah, but the whole front of the store is plate glass.” The oh-shit look on Sadler’s face was great. “Jeeesus…”
Notice Greg Nicotero up there? Acting all director-like, yet still with a cup of blood in his hand?
This’d be a good time to talk about a few things relating to David and Norton… and Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher.
If you’re not familiar with the story you need to know a little about these two characters’ history. David and Norton are neighbors who are not on good terms. There was a lawsuit filed against David by Norton that was resolved in David’s favor. The big storm that kicks off the movie results in David’s boathouse getting demolished by an old tree from Norton’s property, one that David has demanded be removed more than once.
In the aftermath of the storm, David and Norton begin an uneasy truce, trying to keep on friendly terms. Norton’s car was crushed in the storm as well, so he catches a ride to the store with David and Billy.
Now for Andre Braugher playing Norton and Thomas Jane playing David… I wasn’t really a fan of the decision to cast these two when I first heard about it. When Marcia Gay Harden was announced as Mrs. Carmody, I could easily see her doing a great job with it, even though she was nothing like what I had in my mind when thinking of Carmody, so I can see outside of the box casting working well.
Thomas Jane isn’t a bad actor, but he’s been very one-note in his recent work. I don’t really feel strongly for him one way or another, usually. However, I know he has it in him to change up and be really damn memorable. Look at his work in BOOGIE NIGHTS. I’ve seen him give a pretty decent range so far. I like what he’s doing as David… he’s a good fit with the everyman aspect of David’s character, so I’m pulling for him in this movie.
Braugher was a bit of a curveball when cast. But through it all, I had faith in Darabont as a director. He’s never let me down with his casting and I didn’t expect it to begin now.
But I needed to be won over with Braugher and this scene did it for me. Besides the fact that he’s an out of towner, him being Black adds a dimension to the character that wasn’t in King’s original novella. There’s a race angle now to go along with his outsider angle… but that’s not what won me over. Norton has to be a good asshole or the character is ruined. And I finally got to see a scene where Norton turns on his asshole persona, a scene where he’s pushed a bit and pushes back. And Braugher did a great job. Just seeing this scene made me eager to see more.
I could tell this was an important scene for Braugher. I didn’t have much interaction with him, just a few words the previous day, but I’d never seen him practicing his lines until this scene. He was a few chairs away from me, the sides (pages of the script being covered that day printed out on smaller paper) in his hands. He went over and over the lines, trying different inflections and pacing.
David gets Norton to break away from his group at the Bread n’Cakes section (remember from yesterday’s scene with Carmody?) and pulls him down to the meat area (butcher area), in-between the Bread and Beer sections. Ollie, Jim and Myron approach, too.
They try to tell him about what happened, but Norton resists. Norton takes it all in and pauses for a second before saying, “Gentlemen, I’m sorry… But I’m just not that stupid.” David says he should come back to the loading dock, to see the blood and a piece of tentacle, all that’s left from the fight in there.
Norton refuses, saying this is just a banana peel and they expect him to slip on it so the hicks can have a laugh at him, pointing to the mechanics. Myron almost starts a fight at that remark (“Who are you calling a hick, prick?”), but he’s restrained.
Ollie innocently asks what reason could they possibly have to pull a joke on him and Norton’s anger starts to really poke up here. Pointing at poor little Ollie he says that they’re not particularly crazy about out of towners here and they’re just backing up David who he believes is trying to get some sort of revenge on him for filing the lawsuit.
Jim says he has it all wrong, but is quickly cut off by a very rage-filled Norton, voice now sharp and raised. “I’ve seen YOU talking behind my back” and knows that Jim doesn’t think well of him.
He starts to walk away, saying, “And I thought you were really being kind to me today…” and how he’s GLAD his tree demolished David’s boathouse, but David steps his path and puts a hand on his chest, pushing him back against the rack, shaking the coke bottles.
David’s getting pissed now, too. “I know you’re scared. I am, too, but there are other lives at stake. My boy’s life. Get your head out of your ass. I’ll drag you back there if I have to.” They arranged it so Norton would try to break out of David’s pin and David would push him back against the shelves, hard, and continuing with “My boy’s life!” sounding really angry.
Norton responds with even more anger, shouting “GET YOUR GODDAMN HANDS OFF ME!” pushing David away and nearly knocking over a rack full of chips. In fact, in one take he did knock it completely over as the other manager, Bud Brown (Robert Treveiler), drawn by the commotion, rounds the corner, which meant the rack fell on him, spilling bags of chips all over the place.
He roughly rights it, screaming at Norton and David to stop it.
That was my favorite take. Everything seemed very real, the reactions completely believable, the chaos beginning to poke its head out a bit.
Nortin, being a lawyer screams threats of lawsuits at David, saying that he has been assaulted and everybody around is a witness to it. He calls David crazy and Ollie interrupts in that meek way of his. “He’s not. I wish he were, but he’s not.” That quiets the commotion long enough for him to call out to other people in the store. “Everybody in the store… can you come back here? This concerns you all.”
Bud notices the beer can in Ollie’s hand. “Do you want to lose your job,” etc etc. Bud says he’s going to be taking down names, trying to become the voice of authority in the rising uneasiness.
Meek ol’ Ollie approaches him and delivers a great line, an important line for his character. “Fine, bud, write down your names, but in the meantime shut the fuck up and LISTEN!” It’s great. Treveiler reacts almost like he was slapped as Ollie introduces the crowd to David.
Here’s a pic from the Loadin Dock scene where you get your first real look at Ollie as played by Toby Jones, just chilling with Chris Owen and Thomas Jane.
I told you there was a lot shot on Saturday… and I’m not even to the end of what they got, but I’m going to take a little detour before we finish out this scene.
Sam Witwer, who is playing Jessup, a young soldier and is known in the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA circles as the guy who played Crashdown, took a seat in my general vicinity and I told him I’d heard some chatter that KNB got in the bird creatures today. His eyes lit up and we quickly concocted a plan to sneak up to the KNB room and catch a look.
We followed droplets of blood, literally, up the stairs and to the front doors of the KNB office. Our plans did not take into account the possibility that the door would be locked when we got there. Curses!
Witwer, Kraken and I ended up at craft service where we turned into super mega supreme geeks and had a good old fashioned STAR WARS debate, picking apart what worked in the prequels and what didn’t, compared to what worked in the original trilogy. Yes, we got some amused looks from the crew.
But our geek conversation took another turn, down a more respectable geek road, when Darabont walked up and joined in. The whole thing turned from Star Wars to TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS.
We went back to the set and watched everybody prepare for the big speech scene. The previous takes had gone from bloody-shirt David all the way to the tussle with Norton. They got plenty of coverage and then had takes that began with Norton and David approaching the group and ending with the Bud and Ollie talk.
This set-up started with Ollie calling people from the store to gather around. A goodly amount gather around (notice how I avoiding trying to give an exact number this time?) including Amanda, holding Billy in her arms.
Ollie gives his verbal bitch-slap to Bud about his lists and then introduces David. “Mr. Drayton has something to tell you all… if you’re thinkin’ about leaving…”
Billy ran to his father as Ollie and Bud bicker and before David begins his speech he lets the kid go back to Amanda, telling him not to be scared.
This is a difficult scene for Jane. He’s got to play it real, but also tell a whole bunch of people about tentacle monsters. Add on to that pressure that this scene was at the very end of a 12 hour day… which was also the very end of a 6 day work week.
The grind was apparent on the crew and cast. This sequence took a while to get right. When Jane was on, the camera wasn’t getting exactly what Frank wanted and vice versa.
I think Frank took more takes of this piece than anything he’d done since I’ve been onset. Around take 8 he said he wanted a few more. Huth kind of pointed at her watch. They were running out of time and had to wrap. Frank said he thought he had it already, in pieces, but he just wants one solid take on Jane where he doesn’t have to cut away.
I don’t know if he got it or not before the clock caught up with him. No matter what Jane did nail specific moments over those dozen or so takes that I’m 100% sure add up to a great scene.
The speech has him detailing the events of the loading dock, dancing around the specific glimpse he got of the creature. He says, “Something came out of the mist and took him.” He’s pressed for more. “What do you mean took him?” “Killed him… dragged him off. I can’t tell you what it is… all I saw were tentacles…”
The crowd snickers, lead by Norton. “Tentacles? Tentacles from Planet X! It’s a lie.” Bud laughs with him. “Of course it’s a lie. From the looks of things the tentacles were coming out of those beer cans.” And he starts calling Norm, smile on his face at first.
It was pretty eerie watching this, the crowd completely quiet as Bud yells Norm’s name more and more, going from laughing to desperate in the span of 10 seconds. Ollie stops him. “Do you honestly think he’s hiding? Having a laugh at your expense? Is that what you think?”
You could see the fear creeping into Bud’s eyes.
At the end of the day, they got what they needed. I’m confident the scene will work, Jane really nailing all the right parts, keeping them real.
A good end to a long day.
Before I left I was approached by Ralph Nelson, the still photographer whose work you’ve been seeing in these last two reports, who said he overheard the super geeky Star Wars conversation earlier and wanted to share that he was the still photographer on both RETURN OF THE JEDI and REVENGE OF THE SITH.
A quick trip to IMDB as I was compiling this report revealed a list of credits I wish I had known when I could still talk to the guy… check this out. GREMLINS, BACK TO THE FUTURES 1-3, KARATE KIDS 1-3, JEDI, SITH, WARGAMES, TEMPLE OF DOOM, BODY DOUBLE, COPPOLA’S DRACULA, THE ‘BURBS and ARACHNOPHOBIA to name a few. Holy cow!
Nelson told me about how he used to play around with Anthony Daniels on the Star Wars sets and kind of became his arch-nemesis. He said that when Daniels was in the mask he only had two tiny eye-holes to see out of, so Nelson used to go up to him and put two little pieces of tape over the holes and laugh as Daniels tried to get them off, not quite being able to reach with his metal arms.
On SITH the mask connected at the neck and swung up to lock in place, so he updated he strategy and put little pieces of tape INSIDE the mask, so Daniels didn’t realize he’d done it until it locked in place.
One particular story stood out to me that I had to share with you guys.
On Daniels’ last day for JEDI, after his final shot was gotten, Nelson poured a cup of ice water down the metal lower half, knowing that Daniels couldn’t chase him in that thing and he would be forced to deal with the ice water until he could get the effects people to release him from his metal legs.
In that time, Nelson got into a suit of Stormtrooper armor and stood around with a couple other Stormtroopers. Daniels hit the sit, looking for Nelson, but unable to find him. He walked up to the Stormtroopers and looked closely. Nelson was sure he’d been found out, but Daniels turned and continued his search.
After a while, Daniels had to get on a bus to take him to the airport. After Daniels was loaded on and the bus began moving, Nelson took his helmet off right outside of Daniels’ window and threw him a smile and a wave as he pulled away.
How great is that?
He also told me stories of little people passing out in the Ewok costumes and how they’d never know it was going to happen until an Ewok would be hobbling along and then just keel over. The costume people carried around little hair-dryers that they’d plug into an opening on the suit and circulate the air, cooling the poor bastards off.
That about wraps up my coverage on THE MIST. It was a great 4 days. Everybody was cool as hell, from the extras to the producers and everybody in-between.
Based on what I’ve seen, I can say without a doubt that Darabont is making the MIST film I’ve always wanted to see. I haven’t seen any footage, so I don’t know exactly what he’s capturing, but I do know that the performances have been there, the art direction is there, the casting is there and the enthusiasm is there. Darabont is obviously in love with this story and the cast is feeding off of his enthusiasm.
Many thanks go out to Denise Huth for setting this up. Also to Juan Melchor, Ralph Nelson, Randi Richmond, Tracey Zemitis, Constantine Nasr and the rest of the cast and crew for letting me observe your work. Most of all, thanks to Frank Darabont for inviting me into the production with open arms and allowing me to spread tales of my visits to you good folks.
The door is not closed to THE MIST coverage. I think we might see some pretty cool stuff from the production and the offer for a return visit was put out there by Darabont, so I may have a couple more days to tell you folks about before they wrap at the end of the month.
Thanks for sticking with me through these long, long articles! I leave you with a picture I took on Friday, which is very much representative of my vantage point in my days on set.