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Whiteout – Producer Joel Silver

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It was cold and we were shooting on a frozen lake bed

Joel Silver has produced over 50 films, including the The Matrix trilogy and the Lethal Weapon franchise – his films have earned more than $10 billion in worldwide revenue. His action thriller The Book of Eli with Denzel Washington is scheduled to open at the end of the year, and his anticipated Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, premieres on Christmas Day.

His new thriller Whiteout is about a homicide that takes place in the most isolated landmass on Earth, Antarctica, opens this week.


What was it like to work in the cold climate of Manitoba, Canada, while you were shooting?

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Poster Artwork

It was harsh conditions. We were fortunate that we really only had to be in Manitoba for a few weeks, and then we went into the not quite so cold environs of a Montreal soundstage. But, we did augment a lot of the climate and weather with visual effects, which makes it harsher than it really was. It was cold and we were shooting on a frozen lake bed.

It wasn’t treacherous. The ice was many, many feet deep. But, it really felt like where we were, and the stuff we did outside was rough. The movie shows it, and I think that it was important to shoot that up there, to give it the quality. Greg [Rucka] wrote a great graphic novel that really explained and showed what that life was like, and I think we captured it.

How do you balance producing fresh, new projects, like Whiteout, with remakes and re-imaginings of old movies and television shows?

This was based on a graphic novel, but it’s not a remake of another movie. It’s based on a literary property, and it was crafted into something that was special. Except for the fact that it was storyboarded already, to me, it was an original idea for a movie. It’s Greg’s original idea. And, I think that it really came out fresh. It’s something that you haven’t seen before. We really worked hard to make it feel like you were there.

Some of the way that we did the white-outs couldn’t have been done, except for the CGI today. You couldn’t shoot in that situation. You couldn’t possibly shoot in an environment like that. I made a movie in the snow 20 years ago, called Die Hard 2, and you had to have snow. It was difficult to do. We were chasing snow around the world. It was a complicated way to make the picture.

With this, we did have some harsh environments, but a lot of that was created in a way that you could believe what you were seeing. There was verisimilitude. You believe that you are watching these characters go through this. That’s what makes it unique, and I do think it’s original. Whatever the studios get invested in and whatever stars want to do is how movies come together. Some, like The Matrix, come out of nowhere. Two guys sat down and wrote that from scratch. And, some are based on other mediums and can be just as original, different and new. This summer, there was a movie based on a bunch of robot toys that did pretty well. It just depends on what people want to see and how it works. I think it’s a great time for movies, and there are great movies being made.

How do you feel about the increasing use of 3-D in films? Do you have any plans to use it yourself?

Joel Silver - one of the producers of <B>Whiteout</B>
Joel Silver - one of the producers of Whiteout

I think 3-D is a great application. I think it is really effective. For the right movies, it’s fantastic. I don’t think all movies need to be in 3-D, but for movies that fit into that format, it’s a great thing. There are a couple things we’re developing that we’d like to make in 3-D. I’ve seen the Avatar presentation in 3-D and it’s very impressive. It’s really cool. And, I think it’s just another tool in the arsenal of the film maker, to make something great and unique. Certain movies fit really well into that situation, and others don’t need it.

As of right now, there are still less 3-D houses than 2-D houses. When the day comes that there are as many 3-D houses as 2-D houses, I may change my mind about it. I’m developing Swamp Thing now, which is a movie that we’ve had for a long time, and we think that might be great to do in 3-D. I have a couple things that I’m thinking about doing in 3-D, but not everything.

Can you talk about the mystery aspect of Sherlock Holmes?

It’s much closer to what the original character was like from the books

Sherlock is spectacular. It’s a re-telling of the original stories. It’s a re-invention of what Sherlock was, in 1891. It’s much closer to what the original character was like from the books, as opposed to what it became in the movies. Robert Downey and Jude Law are a fantastic team as Holmes and Watson, and the story is a great mystery. It’s a legendary tale, and how he figures things out is really part of the essence of the story. What [director] Guy Ritchie has done, very effectively, is show how he does that. And, I think the movie works really well.

We also talked to Joel a couple of weeks ago regarding his film The Orphan