GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 3, 2008

Company Works its Magic in Recreating Perfect Storm

Barbara Taormina

For the past two weeks, Gloucester has been holding its collective breath in the hope of catching a glimpse of or a nod from actor George Clooney.

But in many ways, the real star of the upcoming movie "The Perfect Storm" will not be Clooney or co-star Mark Wahlberg but rather the 1991 no-name storm that pummeled the eastern coast and sank the local swordfishing boat Andrea Gail.

Director Wolfgang Petersen acknowledged the storm's key role in a press conference held on the Gloucester Marine Railways set earlier this month.

"It's an ideal combination," Petersen said, referring to the storm and the story of the Andrea Gail. "The powerful and moving human drama is at the center of this movie and the combination with the storm makes this a great, great film."

Warner Brothers has rebuilt the Crow's Nest and repainted other vessels to play the Andrea Gail and its sister ship, the Hannah Boden, and they will recreate the storm safely inside the special effects studios of George Lucas' company, Industrial Light and Magic in California.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Industrial Light and Magic will produce 250 shots for the film version of "The Perfect Storm."

Warners Brothers announced several weeks ago that work will be done this fall under the supervision of Helen Elswit and John Frazier, whose work includes visual effects for "The Haunting" and "Armageddon."

Industrial Light and Magic, Hollywood's premiere special effects company, got its start in 1975 when Lucas assembled a crew of young technicians to create the visual effects for "Star Wars."

Back then they were known only as the Star Wars effects crew but after the phenomenal success of the film, Lucas bought a special studio and Industrial Light & Magic was born.

Over the past 25 years, the company has developed new film technologies to create visual effects for movies such as "Jurassic Park," "The Mask" and "Forrest Gump."

Recent advances in computer graphics have allowed Industrial Light and Magic to push even further in translating imaginary visions into film scenes.

Petersen was asked about "The Perfect Storm"'s special effects but refused to give away any secrets.

"I won't tell you how we will film it, but this is something you have never seen before," he said. "Something we could not have done two years ago."

Local photographers and filmmakers speculate that Industrial Light and Magic will probably layer shots of the cast filmed on the water in Gloucester with computer-generated storm scenes in order to create the images that show the final moments of the Andrea Gail.

Two weeks ago, Petersen was hoping for all sorts of weather for the location shots to give the film its sense of authenticity.

"We need good and bad weather -- all kinds of stuff and I've heard it's all here," he said, laughing.

And New England has certainly cooperated.

Now it will be up to Petersen and Industrial Light and Magic to turn author Sebastian Junger's words and assumptions into a visual account of the perfect storm.

While Petersen acknowledged that the movie will be an experience that differs from reading the book, he had faith that both the cast and effects crews would deliver the heart of the story.

"Our movie is based on Sebastian's book but it goes some steps beyond and shows what might have happened," he said. "We go with our imaginations."