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8/5/13 - Simon West talks "Thunder Run" production


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Excerpt from interview with denofgeek.com 8/5: Director Simon West: Stolen, Con Air, Rick Astley and more

So what have you got next? Is Thunder Run set to be your next film?

Yeah. It's an unusual one, because it's entirely CGI. It's a motion capture film, so it's not done to a normal production schedule. I'd already done six months on it last year, doing pre-vizzes and building what we call the assets in the computer. We only need the actors for two weeks, and it can be any time, really.

So it's one of those things that's running concurrently with the other things I'm doing, because it's not like a live-action film - it's a long, slow process that's computer-based. We can do it in our own building, really. So it's running concurrently with a live-action film I'm doing. I'm not sure what live-action film I'm doing next - I'm reading scripts at the moment, and planning next year.

Heat won't be finished until Christmas, and next year, we shall see.

So can you tell me a bit more about what Thunder Run's about?

It's a true story about a tank battle in the Iraq war, so it's more like Blackhawk Down, which is a film I developed a few years ago. To my mind, it's even better than Blackhawk Down. It's one of those films that couldn't even be done [in live action] - you'd need a billion dollars, and no one's going to spend a billion dollars on a war film. So it's going to be done using photorealistic CGI, so it's not stylised like 300 or anything like that. It's more like Blackhawk Down, but done entirely motion-captured.

Technology's so sophisticated now, with the facial capture we're researching at the moment, that you don't have that weird, unnaturalness about it that makes you feel uncomfortable; it's almost impossible to tell that it is CGI. But the difference is that we can make it on a gigantic scale. We'll build Baghdad for real, and we'll have 80 tanks and 20 fighting vehicles and jets and things like that. We have unlimited resources, because we're building it on a computer.

So it's an action movie, like Blackhawk Down was, but it's done using a totally different technique. Gerard Butler's the lead in it, and it should break a few boundaries, hopefully, because no one's yet done a drama. They've done films with part CG and part motion capture, and family films. But this is the first action movie drama, and such an incredible true story. It's a very tough, emotional film. It's the first tank battle film we've had in many, many years.

As you say, it's so unusual to have a CG film that's for adults rather than children, at least in the west. Perhaps in Japan, it's a bit more common.

Exactly, and there seems to be a real gap to me, because the possibilities are great, and it doesn't have to be fantasy or sci-fi or a family film. A big action film is perfect for CGI - just the scale you can make it on, the world you can build. I definitely see it as a new subgenre, and I'm already planning films that use the same technique. Like I said, the technology is accelerating so fast - every six months, the quality's doubled. I think it's an all-new genre in film.

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