[Article] What We Learned About GEMINI MAN
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 04: (L-R) Actor Will Smith, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and director Ang Lee attend the Global Press Conference in support of GEMINI MAN at the YouTube Space LA on October 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
GEMINI MAN is one of those movies that you see the ad for and you think, “That looks cool. I might see it in the theater,” but then you learn more about it, and you realize “I HAVE to see that in the theater!” And the more you learn, the more you realize this is no ordinary action movie. This is art. This is a marvel of technological advances. This is true movie magic. I had the pleasure of attending the GEMINI MAN press junket at the YouTube Space LA and, as if I wasn’t already excited about this movie, sitting in a room with Will Smith, Clive Owen, Ang Lee, Jerry Bruckheimer, visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer, and Weta visual effects supervisor Guy Williams was enough to push me over the edge. In case you haven’t heard of it yet, GEMINI MAN, as per the synopsis, is an innovative action-thriller starring Will Smith as Henry Brogan, an elite assassin, who is suddenly targeted and pursued by a mysterious young operative that seemingly can predict his every move.Now when you hear this, and when you see the trailer, you think all they’ve done is have Will Smith play two roles and they de-aged him for one of them. But no, this time it’s not that simple. The younger version of Will (Junior) was created with the VFX wizardry of Weta Digital. It’s not a de-aging, it’s a fully digital character. Jerry Bruckheimer told us he’s had the script for over a decade, but the technology just wasn’t there to make it. And now, thanks to the geniuses at Weta, it is.

When asked about it, Smith shared, “ I think people don’t completely understand the depth of what they attempted and accomplished here. Junior is not de-aging. It’s not my face, and then they smoothed out my face to make it look younger. It’s a 100% digital human, in the same way, that the tiger in Life of Pi, was digital. They used a real tiger to understand the movement, but in the movie, when you’re seeing the tiger, you’re seeing a 100% digital recreation of a tiger. This is not me, de-aged. It’s a 100% digital interpretation of me, as a digital character. It’s the first digital human.” He still played both parts, but then he clarified, “You can’t fake innocence. As a young actor, it’s easier to play older, but older, it’s difficult to impossible to play younger. Once you know some stuff, it’s in your eyes.” So it was the job of the VFX team to be able to sell that innocence and that youth, and they did it amazingly!

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 04: Actor Will Smith attends the Global Press Conference in support of GEMINI MAN at the YouTube Space LA on October 4, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

One of my favorite parts of the press conference was when Smith was talking about meeting up with director Ang Lee before they started filming to talk about how to separate the Henry and Junior performances. He explained, “What was really great that Ang did was that, before we even met, he had gone through all of my filmography and he grabbed things. He grabbed scenes from Fresh Prince, Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black, and he walked me through moments. He’d say, “I love very much what you have done in this moment here, in Six Degrees of Separation. In Bad Boys, this one was good, but don’t ever do this in my movie”. And he delivered it in his best Ang Lee impression, which was pretty dang good.

Talk, of course, turned to the ideas of cloning and the “good and evil” of it. During the conversation, Smith said he felt it was like poisoned honey: “I think we all have the human quest to overcome our pain. We’re all trying to figure out how to eliminate suffering from our lives. There was an interesting phrase that I heard, the other day, that was “poisoned honey.” We reach for poisoned honey a lot, in order to overcome our pain and suffering. When I think about cloning, and we talked about it a lot on this movie, it’s one of those scientific reaches where we’ve already gone down the road, and I’m sure there are absolutely things that have happened in cloning that we don’t know about yet, but are gonna find out about. My opinion is that cloning will ultimately pan out to be poisoned honey. It will be a reach that will potentially come back to bite humanity, in a way that we’ve probably not considered fully.”

But thinking about cloning and especially about digital humans leads to all kinds of crazy and awesome ideas for the future. Smith is thinking something like a “young Will Smith and young Marlon Brando movie that could get made while I’m at home, which would be great.”. And I mean, he’s right, it’d be great, I’d go see it!

Future possibilities aside, this movie is here now and it’s a stunning display of VFX work, acting, and direction. I highly recommend it because it truly is setting the groundwork for things to come!

The action-thriller directed by Ang Lee opens in US cinemas starting tomorrow, October 11, 2019. Do you want to know more about the film before heading out to see it? Check out the review of the film here.

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