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THE GIFT

Costumes, Stunts, Effects

Costume designer Julie Weiss collaborated with Cate Blanchett to determine the wardrobe for the character of Annie. "Once we had a mutual understanding of her character, it really didn't matter exactly what she wore in a particular scene, because that's not a priority for her."

Blanchett amazed the crew during shooting with her chameleon-like ability to look physically different in every shot. "Cate is very much the person she plays. It was very easy to dress her because Cate's values and sense of aesthetics were the same as Annie's," says Weiss. With Annie's priority being her children, "you always know her sons will be the first to get their coats, not her. It's almost as if she looks beautiful despite herself. Her clothes are just part of who she is." This is true of all of the characters, whose personal circumstances were much more important than looking fashionable.

"These characters reap a certain beauty that might appear mundane, but is integral to who they are," Weiss elaborates. "These are people who depend on decency, and ultimately their decency will show through no matter what they're wearing."

Stunt coordinator Mark Stefanich had a large task ahead of him in preparing for the critical scene where Buddy lights his father on fire in a horrifying act of vengeance. The stunt actor who played Buddy's father had to meet some exceptional criteria: he had to be convincing as an actor, and Stefanich and director Sam Raimi had to be comfortable with his past experience and ability with fire.

"Not just anybody would allow you to tie them to a chair with no shirt on and light them on fire," says Stefanich. "Luckily, Sam picked a good friend of mine, Erik Cord, who had done about 30 burn scenes before. That made us all more comfortable."

Raimi and Stefanich wanted the actor to "burn" for 10 to 15 seconds. "Erik wore various layers of protection: nomex, a protective stunt gel, long underwear, and a rain mask to keep the gel inside and keep the outfit from looking wet. Then we put a pair of Levi's over that, and a pair of pajamas over that," Stefanich explains. As a final precaution, "his wardrobe had a fire retardant in it, which gave us just a few more seconds for safety."

Deceptive camera angles and clever positioning of the actor's chair made the fire appear to actually be on his skin. Stefanich concludes, "Erik is a great actor, so it is all the more believable."

Such fakery was not used for the suspenseful scene in which Jessica's lifeless body is pulled from the lake. Initially, a dummy was to be used for the scene, but it looked too stiff. The other option was risky-having a stunt double float corpse-like in the chilly, murky water. Enter stunt coordinator Mark Stefanich, who once again convinced filmmakers the impossible was possible.

"Everybody's main concern was hypothermia, but we monitored the stunt double very closely. Her pulse and temperature were taken immediately before she entered the water and right when she got out." The double was never in the water for more than five minutes at a time-and never alone. The result was a flawless stunt in which the double was a dead-ringer for Jessica.

Wind, fog and rain machines used by the special effects crew created forceful storms throughout the film. Director Sam Raimi wanted an enormous wind storm for the exterior scene in which Annie arrives unexpectedly at District Attorney David Duncan's house. Special effects coordinator Vern Hyde used three separate wind machines in a somewhat tig

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