REIGN OF FIRE - Q&A with director Rob Bowman
There seems to be a theme at the start of your movies - THE X FILES and now REIGN OF FIRE - about a young boy being in a cave and threatened by a monster?
ROB BOWMAN: That's really because I was an adventurous kid and used to go climbing in the local mountains. I was also Evil Kinevil and crashed. I think that's where it comes from. It's also a gentle way to bring the audience into the movie. I won't do it again though. Not for at least a couple of movies.
Every other dragon film has had dragons that we laughed at, so how did you create ones that were scary and impressive?
ROB BOWMAN: For some reason I have had a strange attraction to dragons since I was a kid. I have a collection of figurines around my house. When I go to the curio shop I look for dragons that look real. Years ago when I was asked about this movie I said I would do it if we set the new bar and had the money to make realistic dragons. We were dead set on coming up with a dragon that would look more realistic than anything you'd ever seen and give some nod to science fantasy readers and what they were familiar with. I also wanted the movie to have a sense of reality that you hadn't seen before.
You have said that sometimes directing is like managing a train wreck. What was this like?
ROB BOWMAN: Managing a very big train wreck. It's not that it wasn't very well produced it's just that there are so many people working on a movie of this size. Hundreds of people are building sets, making wardrobe. There are artists in Los Angeles designing dragons and I'm not there every minute. No matter how you say 'Do it this way' if you leave for a day or two they've gone over there. You just hope you can keep it together and it's kind of the way you intended in the beginning.
What was the toughest part of filming REIGN OF FIRE?
ROB BOWMAN: We got to the end of the movie and because of foot and mouth they almost wouldn't let me build the castle. We were halfway done when we were told to stop. We were going to go to Morocco. No matter what June 30 had to be my final day of filming. So we got to the end of the movie and only had eight days to film the castle scene, which was all at night. On the first night I asked to see how much light we would get from the fires. But you couldn't see the $3 million set or each other. It was black, toxic smoke. We couldn't work in that. So I said we would film at day. So we wrapped, lost the next day and so I now had six days to shoot the end of the movie. I didn't know how I was going to do it. To have worked for a year on the movie and realise at that point that I was in jeopardy of getting the end of the movie was a bit of a hair-raiser. That was the biggest calamity. Foot and mouth was tense. They wouldn't let the construction crew on to the site because they were concerned if a sheep or deer on the land got foot and mouth they would have to kill all of them. We didn't want that obviously. So a wire which you could not go beyond, was put around the castle. Quinn riding the horse up the hill was a huge deal because that was outside our border. Managing these little crises was tough.
You've said the film has to be realistic yet this is a story about dragons?
ROB BOWMAN: What I learned on THE X FILES is that you are given one exceptional character, an alien, a man eating whatever, a spaceship. In order for it to feel realistic, the rest of the story has to be grounded in things that we understand in daily life. The foundation of the daily life of the characters in REIGN OF FIRE was what would it have been like to live in London during the Blitz? What were the survivors living like every day? It's really simple stuff. And the day to day life of Quinn and the survivors is something that the audience can be familiar with. We tried to tell a story where what it might be like to live in a world where if you went outside you might die. We wanted the audience to accept the dragon as easily as possible. Instead of opening up the movie with a sky full of dragons you open up the movie with ordinary stuff...a kid doesn't get accepted into school, his mom is disappointed, there is a disgruntled employee. Then you bring in the dragon and it's easier to accept it.
What about the challenge of creating a burning Westminster? Was that CG?
ROB BOWMAN: There were no CG sets in the movie. The only CG stuff were the dragons and the sky divers going past the camera at 200 mph. So we built Westminster in Ireland and then burned it. For the set Big Ben was about seven feet tall and the whole thing was about 40 feet across. The miniatures were great.
What about the second X FILES movie?
ROB BOWMAN: I know they are conceiving an idea for it. It will be a complete stand alone and you won't have to know anything about the TV show. David Duchovny will be in it. If I don't get approached to do it that's ok because I got to make the first movie and 35 episodes of the TV series. The TV show was going to be this funky little show that was going to be dark and creepy. Then all of a sudden it took off and the next thing you know it's the biggest show ever.
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