About The Production
Surviving the global and grueling production schedule for CAST AWAY was a unique challenge for cast and crew alike. Recognized as one of the more unusual production schedules in recent filmmaking history, the film was shot in two parts over the course of 16 months with a one-year hiatus within that time.
While admitting that he initially thought the schedule was somewhat daunting, Zemeckis eventually embraced the opportunities it afforded. "The schedule turned out to be a liberating experience," he explains. "For the first time in my career, I had the chance to come back and look at what I'd done with fresh eyes and a bit of objectivity, which is something you generally cannot do when you're in the midst of making a movie."
During this extended break, Zemeckis and much of his crew made the psychological thriller "What Lies Beneath" starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, while Hanks began a quiet and slow physical transformation.
From the earliest stages of CAST AWAY's development, Zemeckis and Hanks agreed that the most realistic way to depict the passage of time in the story, and to convey the dramatic impact of Chuck's ordeal, was to put the production on hiatus. The one-year break offered Hanks the time to effectively complete a physical transformation for the character that in one visual showed the lean, muscular build that results from his character's hard existence.
But for Zemeckis, Hanks' efforts were as extraordinary in their emotional subtlety as they were for his obvious physical changes. "When we returned to film the second half," Zemeckis remembers, "a kind of life spark was out of Tom's eyes, which was perfect because of what's happened to Chuck. Tom brought that. It was wonderful — and a little eerie — to see.
Supported by many of his longtime production colleagues, including production designer Rick Carter, director of photography Don Burgess, executive producer Joan Bradshaw and producers Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke, Zemeckis began principal photography on the first part of CAST AWAY in January, 1999.
Unlike most productions, CAST AWAY was shot mostly in story order. "It's actually just common sense, which movie production so rarely is," says Hanks. "We began shooting the movie at the beginning of the story and ended production at the end of the story. It put everything into a very realistic perspective for everyone working on the movie to recognize how far we've come and all the places we've been to."
Moscow, the production's first international location, is a visually dramatic, energetic backdrop to introduce the character of Chuck Noland. The Russian capital also worked beautifully for cinematographer Don Burgess to begin executing the photography plan he and Zemeckis had designed for the film.
"Energy — a lot of energy — was our approach to photography in the first act of the film," says
Burgess. "We were always moving the camera in Moscow. Its movement is meant to reflect the pace of Chuck's life."
After a week in Moscow, which included completely closing down Red Square, the production returned to Los Angeles for work on soundstages at Sony Pictures and at FedEx in Los Angeles. In February, 1999 the production embarked on its first journey to Fiji to begin some of the most challenging filmmaking the cast and crew had ever experienced.
The search for the perfect desert island began in June, 1998. After scouting virtually every island group in the South Pacific, the filmmakers found the uninhabited island of Monu-riki in the Mamanuca-I-Ra group of the northwest section of the
Fiji islands would become "Chuck's Island," the tropical "paradise" that imprisons him for four years.
Monu-riki, an uninhabited volcanic island owned by a neighboring Masengali, or family, is approximately 99
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