Cast: Gerard Butler, Ed Harris, Daniel Wu, Abbie Cornish
Director: Dean Devlin
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Running Time: 109 minutes
Synopsis: After an unprecedented series of natural disasters threatened the planet, the world's leaders came together to create an intricate network of satellites to control the global climate and keep everyone safe. But now, something has gone wrong"the system built to protect the Earth is attacking it, and it's a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything...and everyone along with it.
Release Date: October 19th, 2017
Some Things Weren't Meant To Be Controlled
What if extreme weather conditions and natural disasters were, in fact, a thing of the past, if scientists could devise a solution to the problem and world leaders could come together to literally create peace on Earth? Could it work? More to the point, could it last" could everyone involved truly resist the urge to take control for themselves?
What happens when the ultimate power falls into the wrong hands and is turned into the ultimate weapon, unleashing hell on Earth?
An edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding ride for movie audiences who enjoy a tickingclock mystery rife with conspiracy and wrapped in pure escapist fare of epic proportions, 'Geostorm" has it all: from blistering underground infernos to desert-freezing ice storms and everything in between.
In the film, writer/producer/director Dean Devlin imagines a world in which global political cooperation and a vast network of weather-controlling satellites installed in space have rendered natural disasters a thing of the past. That is, until something"or someone" goes wrong, evidence that not everything is meant to be under man's control.
Now, the U.S. government must turn to the man who devised an actual safety 'net" surrounding the Earth to correct the problem before the swiftly mounting system failure turns even more fatal. Previously banned from having any further involvement with the program, the off-the-grid rebel returns to save the planet as well as his reputation, unconcerned about being hailed a savior…unaware that he will more likely serve as scapegoat.
Devlin reveals that the idea for the story originated when his daughter, then six, asked him to explain climate change. 'In the simplest way, she asked me, -Why can't we just build a machine that fixes it?' That sparked all these ideas in my mind about what would happen if we did build just such a machine. And what if something went horribly wrong? That became the -what if' story"what if we wait too long to deal with extreme climate change? What if we don't? What if we could create this amazing machine to control the weather around the entire planet? And what would we do if it went rogue?"
As the story unfolds in the film, two years have passed since the complex web of interconnected satellites"dubbed Dutch Boy"went online. The years have been tranquil ones, until now. Unexplained malfunctions in the highly sophisticated system are now causing, rather than preventing, deadly weather patterns never before seen by mankind: ice and snow in the deserts of Afghanistan, smoldering under the streets of Hong Kong, and cyclones in India, to name a few.
Dutch Boy is out of control, wreaking havoc across the globe.
'Dean has a mindset that comes from working on big epics like -Independence Day,' so when he put his mind to the subject of global warming, he came up with a timely twist on the genre classic by setting it against the backdrop of a political thriller and filling it with unnatural natural disasters," notes producer David Ellison. 'In other words, within our story, the science is sound"it's the people controlling it who are the problem."
roducer Dana Goldberg adds, 'At Skydance, we love to make sci-fi, action adventure and fantasy films. That's the wheelhouse we live in: world-building movies. In -Geostorm' there is a potentially world-ending story, filled with excitement, intense action and massive effects, so it made perfect sense for us."
Co-writer Paul Guyot embraced the initial idea and ran with it right alongside Devlin. 'The notion of manipulating the weather by means that will be good for all of humankind is great"until, of course, somebody inevitably uses it for evil, right?" he posits. 'At first, it seems terrific because they're all working together. The U.S. spearheaded the effort, NASA built it, and the International Space Station runs it. For a while, there's literally peace on Earth. Then someone appears to have weaponized Dutch Boy."
Gerard Butler plays excommunicated engineer Jake Lawson, creator of Dutch Boy who found it difficult to play the political games required to stay on once the system was fully operational. 'What attracted me to this story was that it had a powerful mixture of everything," he recalls. 'I loved the central elements of it as a big action film and a suspenseful thriller with a lot of humor, but also that it looked at the strained relationship between my character and his brother. It felt like it had something for everyone and that audiences could have a lot of fun with it."
Jim Sturgess plays Max Lawson, Jake's younger brother and, in an ironic twist for Jake, his boss. Like Butler, Sturgess was enticed by the dichotomy between the brothers in the script. 'It was clear that there were these two really strong personalities clashing in the middle of this space adventure mixed with a dramatic political plot on the ground. Two contrasting visual identities in the setting and two very dissimilar men having to work together to solve a problem, or risk losing everything. That combination was definitely a big draw for me."
'It's a story about two brothers and what that dynamic is like, and I'm an only child, whereas Paul understands that kind of relationship at its very core," Devlin states.
'I know sibling rivalry, especially the brother-to-brother type, and Dean is all about the environment and the future of our planet," Guyot offers. 'He's also a big techno geek, really dialed into that stuff, and this story reflects science in the making"influencing, rather than manipulating, the weather based on current and upcoming satellite technology."
'For me, entertainment should be just that"entertaining"and not necessarily hit you over the head with a message," Devlin observes. 'But I also feel that science fiction works better, has more of an impact, when you have something to say. Hopefully, we'll take audiences on a roller coaster ride across the planet and off into space, and leave them having had a fantastic time, and maybe just a bit more curious about the world around them."
Jake: We built this system of satellites to control the weather" but someone's turned the system against us.
One of the first discussions with respect to casting the film, Devlin says, centered on the fact that global warming is a global concern. Devlin relates, 'We wanted to make a movie that would speak to the whole world, with a truly international cast to reflect it." Among the film's players are actors from all over, including Scottish-born Gerard Butler, the UK's Jim Sturgess, Australian Abbie Cornish, Mexico's Eugenio Derbez, Romanian Alexandra Maria Lara, Germany's Zazie Beetz, Nigerian Adepero Oduye, Egypt's Amr Waked, Irish-born Robert Sheehan, Cuban Andy Garcia, and the USA's Ed Harris, Talitha Bateman and Daniel Wu, the latter being a first-generation American of Shanghainese descent.
Butler's interest in the role came to the filmmakers' attention early on. 'I got a call that Gerry was interested, and was really eager to meet him," Devlin remembers. 'When you spend time with Gerry, you become energized yourself from the energy he emanates" he's filled with life, playful, fun, enthusiastic and charming. It was exciting to have him on board."
'Dean and I were on the same page that, despite him already being an adult, this is a real coming-of-age story for Jake Lawson," Butler observes. 'He's an unusual mix of characteristics: a bit of a whiz kid, unconventional, a hothead and a lost soul. He's both brilliant and childish. I thought it was a nice challenge to take him on, especially in the middle of all this intense action."
Butler found inspiration for Jake, in part, from real-life American astronaut Mike Massimino, a spacewalk veteran whom the actor learned was also a fan of his work. 'I had watched the IMAX documentary -Hubble,' and he just blew me away." Butler was also told that his performance in '300" had served to inspire Massimino each time he headed out of the hatch. 'I found that out the very same week I got the script for -Geostorm.' That seemed like an amazing coincidence!"
Having overseen the original construction and installation as Climate ISS Chief Coordinator, Jake is the one man who knows Dutch Boy inside and out. Though it takes some persuading on the part of his estranged brother, Max, Jake is finally convinced to undertake the mission, just as he's convinced he can find and fix the problem. But there's much more to it than even he realizes, as he'll discover once aboard the ISS. And to make matters worse, Jake has to report back to his little brother.
'Max is someone who thinks his way out of things while Jake prefers to punch his way out," Guyot elaborates about the volatile siblings who would prefer to steer clear of each other, but who are forced together by circumstances.
Jim Sturgess plays the White House staffer who is saddled with wrangling his headstrong elder brother. Butler states, 'I loved my scenes with Jim. He makes every moment interesting and gives so much to the work. The brothers' storyline is my favorite in the movie; right from the start, these guys make each other crazy, even though they haven't spoken to each other in years. But they're brothers, so at the end of the day, they would die for each other."
They just might have to.
'Max Lawson is really an administrative upstart at the highest levels in the land, the White House," Sturgess says of his character, the Assistant Secretary of State. 'He's technically gifted, great with computers and navigating the political waters he swims in, but controlling his brother is another thing altogether.
'Suddenly, he's assigned a lead role in learning what's gone wrong up in space," he continues, 'and that calls for something of a family reunion that neither member of the family is looking forward to. The brothers' issues are fueled by ancient history"rivalry, jealously, animosity. Things that make working together problematic for Max, who's still proving himself at work. He needs Jake's cooperation to look good to his superiors"one of whom is the President of the United States."
Devlin believes the brothers 'share a lot of the same qualities, but don't see it. Max sees himself as much more cerebral, Jake is much more of a blue-collar guy. But they each have traits of the other in them, which makes for an odd dynamic in that what one sees in the other is what he doesn't necessarily like about himself."
Max does, however, very much like secret service agent Sarah Wilson, and the two undertake a strictly verboten romance, despite the repercussions"they'd both be fired" should they be discovered.
Abbie Cornish, who plays the role, says, 'Sarah is such a fun character because she's strong, athletic, intelligent and also feminine. She's a tough woman who protects the president, but also has a fun, sensitive and delicate side to her, which we see in her relationship with Max. And that relationship in their work environment within the White House brings complications of its own. This role was a sweet one to step into, with a great energy to it."
'Sarah has a strong sense of right and wrong that goes beyond following orders," Devlin notes. 'As the mystery unfolds, she realises she has a vital role to play that may be at odds with the job she is sworn to do. She'll have a choice to make, and from that choice a very strong individual will emerge."
To prepare for the role, Cornish spent time with a former agent, and also brushed up on her target practice. 'Even though I've had experience handling guns from previous films, I went to a firing range in Los Angeles with ex-FBI and LAPD officers in order to become familiar with my character's actual weapon, which is a 9mm SIG 226."
Another strong-willed woman with a key role to play makes her impact thousands of miles above the Earth, on the International Space Station: Shuttle Commander Ute Fassbinder, embodied by Alexandra Maria Lara.
'Ute is responsible for everything that happens on the station. She's an intelligent and controlled woman," Lara says. 'She's also very calm, which she needs to be in order to keep her crew under control, especially when Jake Lawson comes aboard."
'There's a bit of push-and-pull over whose ship it is," Devlin concedes. 'But they're both professional, and the consequences of letting any petty differences get in the way of what's happening up there are too great, and they both know it. They'll have to learn to trust each other and respect that they each have a job to do."
Lara found that relating the proper amount of authority in the role was helped greatly by her surroundings. 'I ultimately connect with my characters though hair and makeup, costumes and in the sets themselves, which were just a whole new world for me. All these things help take me out of my own reality and to jump into someone else's skin, and were important for me to find the right tone for Ute."
Another strong ruler is U.S. President Andrew Palma, played by Andy Garcia. Garcia himself helped name the character. 'The first name they had in the script didn't work, so Dean asked me for a name that felt comfortable," Garcia recalls. 'I wanted to pay homage to my homeland, so I came up with Palma, inspired by the first president of the Cuban Republic, Thomas Estrada-Palma."
Devlin, who has known the actor for some time without having had the opportunity to work with him, confesses, 'It was actually David Ellison who had the idea of casting Andy as the president, and I thought it was a great idea. We knew Andy would be able to walk the very narrow line required in the role."
Like Lara, Garcia was able to further ground himself in the role with the aid of costume designer Susan Matheson. In addition to the tailored threads she created for him, Garcia had a hand in selecting his footwear, a part of the wardrobe he feels lends weight to his characters.
'Actors have little things they use to root themselves in a part," he offers. 'For me, the shoes are important because they affect your gait, the way you carry yourself. How you stand in a pair of sneakers is different than in dress shoes, or boots."
Palma's closest advisor is Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom. Ed Harris took on the role of the man who, having once pulled the world's nations together to build Dutch Boy, must now pull together a means of repairing the system before those same nations are destroyed by it.
'Weather has definitely become a weapon in this story," Harris observes, 'but man is still in control, and that's where things get tricky. Having a grid of interconnected satellites covering the planet to protect it by creating weather, well…if it can create a good weather system, it can create a bad one, too. Dekkom's in charge of the guys who have to figure out what's gone wrong up there, and they've only got so much time to do that."
Despite the excessive pressure on his character, Harris enjoyed his time on set, working primarily with Garcia, Cornish, and also Sturgess, with whom he'd acted before.
'When I heard Jimmy was doing this picture, that made me smile, because he's a really good guy," Harris says. 'I like working with him and a lot of my stuff in this film was with him.
'I had a good time working with Andy, too," Harris continues. 'He's very present and has a good sense of humor. I'd never worked with Abbie before, but she was a total joy and it was a pleasure."
Helping Dekkom and Max man things on the ground, Cheng Long, the Hong Kongbased Dutch Boy expert, is played by Daniel Wu. Cheng is the first to uncover the potential for the network's failure to be something other than a flaw, and he desperately tries to warn Max of his findings.
Assisting Max with decoding Cheng's intelligence is Dana, Zazie Beetz' edgy techie with capabilities far beyond those called for in her position as a data analyst housed in a government cubicle. 'Dana has a sharp sense of humor and is at the same time relaxed, sort of chilled-out, which I think is helpful to Max under the circumstances," she proposes.
'They have almost a brother-sister relationship, even though she works beneath him. He knows she's just as capable as him generally, and even more so when it comes to computers."
In space, Jake and Ute are joined by Eugenio Derbez's robotics engineer, Hernandez, who is in charge of launching and recovering the satellites, and who provides occasional comic relief for the highly stressed ISS team; Adepero Oduye plays Adisa, lead structural engineer; Robert Sheehan plays ace programmer Duncan; and Amr Waked plays Ray Dussette, the ex-military tough guy responsible for security on the ISS.
Waiting for Jake at home is his daughter Hannah, who lives primarily with her mom but whose interests align with her dad's when it comes to science. The character was named for Devlin's own inquisitive youngster, and is played by Talitha Bateman. Rounding out the cast are veteran actors Richard Schiff as Senator Cross, and Mare Winningham as Dr. Cassandra Jennings.
'In the film, the whole world has come together to save itself, so it organically lent itself to having this international cast, and we just had a phenomenal group of actors," Goldberg attests. 'It was a thrill to have representatives from so many parts of the world to play these characters from all over the globe."
Ellison agrees. 'Our casting director, Ronna Kress, is remarkable. She brought together the incredible cast in this movie, and both Dana and I, and Dean as well, couldn't have been happier with what everyone brought to the table."
Jake:This was my life's work. Dreaming it was madness. Building it? They said impossible. But we did it.
'It's always bizarre, amazing and a little terrifying when you first step onto a set…a profound moment," Devlin asserts. 'When I walked down the hallways of the space station our production designer Kirk Petruccelli created, it was a remarkable feeling. They were completely built, so you could almost get lost in the maze and feel like you were somewhere otherworldly. It was larger than an aircraft carrier and really gave you a sense of what it might be like for up to 5,000 people to be up there, isolated, for months at a time. It had a visceral impact on me and, I think, on the actors."
Butler concurs, noting, 'I was expecting most of the sets to be CG, but the physical environments they built were mind-blowing. When I came onto the space station and saw how elaborate and intricately detailed the shuttle docking bay and the ISS command center were, I was in awe."
Petruccelli, who has worked with Devlin on numerous occasions in the past, was eager to devise a credible-looking and feeling International Space Station, where a vast deal of the story's action takes place. 'There were nine massive ISS sets on the film, with a total of 72 major parts to them," he relates. 'We designed it as a sort of factory to support, create, and keep in motion the thousands of satellites that manage the Earth's climate, a veritable command center that protects the planet and everyone on it."
To further illustrate the amount of detail the design team"which included supervising art director Page Buckner"integrated into the massive build, Petruccelli elaborates, 'Using rapid prototyping, we were able to generate 20,000 tiny hooks alone to lock the panels we installed. And that's just one example."
The set itself was, naturally, inspired by the real International Space Station, completed by NASA in 2000 after 12 years of construction in orbit, utilizing parts manufactured on Earth and shuttled to the site, which today maintains a distance of about 250 miles above the planet as it circles it approximately 15 times each day.
f course, the film set required certain adjustments for practical purposes; however, Petruccelli affirms, 'There was a rationale behind everything we did to create the technological, industrial and mechanical elements of our ship's infrastructure so that, even though we weren't in space, it would seem like it. We thought about how the characters would breathe, what would happen to the particles in the air, and so on. During our research with NASA, we were given the opportunity to understand what it's like there, and they were very supportive of our interest and efforts.
'In the end," he continues, 'we tried to honor what NASA has been doing and respect the basic scientific principles they operate under, while really just telling this highly dramatic story that just happens to take place in space."
Devlin adds, 'When the guys from NASA came in early on to look at the artwork and to check out our designs for the sets, I had my heart in my throat. It was important to me that we have their stamp of approval, and I trust Kirk's work implicitly, but when they told us how close we were to reality, I was floored nonetheless!"
The whole of the ISS sets for 'Geostorm" were accommodated by five adjoining soundstages at New Orleans' Big Easy Studios, situated on a portion of an actual NASA manufacturing plant on the city's eastside, the Michoud Assembly Facility.
'We love shooting in New Orleans," Goldberg says. 'The city always rolls out the red carpet to help you and the crews are phenomenal. For this movie in particular it was just a perfect location."
With the aid of visual effects, New Orleans also doubled for Washington, DC, Tokyo, Moscow, Dubai, Orlando, Florida, Rio de Janero and Mumbai"the terrestrial portion of the film as described by VFX supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun. He and his team superimposed the White House and Air Force One in bluescreen shots that Devlin and director of photography Roberto Schaefer's team captured on location around the Crescent City, including one of the downtown area's main thoroughfares, Canal Street, which doubled nicely for the nation's capital, as well as a street in Rio.
For moments in the story set within the White House's West Wing, the production camped out for a day inside the U.S. Custom House at the edge of the famed French Quarter, taking advantage of the building's regal architecture.
The plague of climate catastrophes"the geostorms in 'Geostorm""also fell largely under Okun's purview. 'The idea was to create the kinds of events fans of disaster films look for, but on a grand scale they haven't witnessed before on the big screen," he says. 'We've all seen movies where there's some cool lightning, for instance, but hopefully no one's ever seen a chase scene like the one we have, where there are nearly as many lightning bolts as raindrops. Or rogue satellites creating upwards of 50 tornadoes in one location. We were going for the unnatural aspect of these natural disasters, with an intensity audiences haven't seen."
In prepping the VFX designs for the film, Okun states, 'We did a lot of research. Kirk's art department really dove in and introduced us to a lot of imagery and current technology, and we discovered that virtually every single thing that Dean and Paul wrote as science fiction is actually doable from a satellite"plus even a few more things that they didn't put in the script. It was really fascinating to learn that the research shows they can already do everything that we're depicting in the movie."
Okun approached the project by breaking it down into three facets. 'We have the terrestrial film, the space film and the disaster film. The terrestrial has a lot more invisible visual effects, which I very much enjoy doing because it means nobody knows they're visual effects," he smiles. 'Next is space, which was shot on sets and stages, fairly contained, and with lots of bluescreen work and a brand new technique for capturing photorealistic performances to put into the spacesuits, when the actors could not have possibly done what we asked them to do"and live to tell about it!"
The third piece of the puzzle for Okun, the disaster movie, was one of epic proportions. 'Now, I'm a huge space geek and a physics nut," he confesses, 'so it's hard for me to break the laws of physics when creating effects. But Dean was adamant that we break those laws for fun, meaning if something was going to make the shot more fun for the audience, he didn't want us to be tied to the physics of it since we were not making a documentary."
In fact, a faithful representation of Mother Nature's work was the dictate, but at an incredibly unnatural level. 'We were dealing with really every kind of weather and how it could impact the infrastructure of our world, but of course amping it up for the genre fans, cheating the reality to create a fantastic visual," Okun shares. 'So, when creating tornadoes, we adhered to the laws of physics for me, but put an excessive number of them in the shot for Dean," he laughs.
Ute: Jake, what's happening? Jake? Jake!
Jake: I can't control the damned suit!
In addition to the many civilian-style costumes created for the film by costume designer Susan Matheson, the filmmakers worked with Global Effects in Los Angeles to obtain replicas of real NASA spacesuits needed for a couple of critical sequences. The company has a long history working with NASA and the film industry, and has patterned suits after the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury missions, among others.
While flight suits are designed for zero gravity, it was not a zero-gravity environment on set. Wire work was utilized to mimic the appearance of weightlessness; unfortunately, that did not help with the weight of the suits themselves, which amounted to nearly a quarter of the actors' own body weight.
'The suit weighed about 65 pounds," Butler recalls. 'On top of that, we were hanging in the air with all kinds of harnesses and rigs, but you have to stay completely relaxed since you're supposed to be weightless. It's exceptionally uncomfortable to do"but it looks incredible on screen!"
Devlin admired the work everyone put in to visualizing precisely what he'd imagined when he sat down to pen the story, stating, 'Across the board, the practical and VFX design teams did an awesome job creating what I hope will be an intense and exciting backdrop to the life-or-death mystery that these characters are racing against the clock to solve, on land and in space."
Goldberg offers, 'There are some movies that are truly made to be experienced on the biggest screen possible, with the sound reverberating all around like only a movie theater can do. Disaster movies generally fall into that category, but I think this movie especially, with all the jaw-dropping effects and action, fits very squarely into it." 'There's just phenomenal scope and scale to this film, with effects we've never seen before," Ellison adds. 'Combine that with the terrific international talent that populates this tale, drawing you in as it spans the globe and beyond, and you have a gripping thriller that hopefully fans will want to watch again and again."
In addition to enjoying the extreme visuals 'Geostorm" offers, Devlin hopes moviegoers will go along on 'this fun, wild ride into a science fiction what if scenario.
What if this were to happen, what if you were in this situation? Like I said before, I like my science fiction to be fun, and this movie is meant to be that, pure entertainment. At the same time"without offering real-world solutions to today's issues or taking a political side" the film dabbles in technologies of today or the very near future, so it is about something, gives you something to talk about, and that means there's something for everyone."
Release Date: October 19th, 2017