GHOSTS OF MARS
About The Production
Carpenter's Ghost of Mars" began production in a gypsum mine on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico on August 8. The mine is a small parcel of the 120,000 plus acres of the Zia Pueblo, sacred land that was settled by the Zia Indians nearly 800 years ago. In keeping with the sanctity of the land and in respect for Zia tradition, at sunset on August 7, the day before start of principal photography and at John Carpenter's special request, a tribal elder and medicine man of the Zia Tribe gave a prayer blessing at the Shining Canyon set. Conducted in the Zia language, the blessing prayed for the success of the production, the safety of the cast and crew, and for mutual respect between the production company and the Zia people. The entire cast and crew listened in rapt silence to the prayer and then the English translation, given by a Zia tribal representative.
That rather unorthodox start of production was preceded by months of normal pre production activity: casting, rehearsal, location scouting for the five week exterior shoot and securing stage space for the five weeks of interiors needed to complete principle photography.
"'Ghosts of Mars' in an ensemble film," says producer Sandy King. "The cast is put together piece by piece and the process shifts depending on the last actor added to the cast." Both King and director John Carpenter use a core group of character actors for most of their films together, among them Peter Jason and Robert
Carradine, giving them a solid base upon which to build their main cast.
"You need to create reality in a fantasy film and you do that from the ground up," states King. "Your extras have to be believable and, more importantly, your day players have to be really solid, so the audience will go along when your lead actors go off into their unbelievable flights of fantasy," she adds.
"My method of casting actors in my movies really hasn't changed since I began directing," admits John Carpenter. "I try to find the best actors I can fit into the written roles," he continues, "then make them comfortable on the set and create a working environment in which they feel safe to do their work."
As for the lead actors, the script called for four strong female characters; both Carpenter and King were extremely pleased with the group assembled for the film. "We were fortunate to have a number of smart women in our cast," states King. "Pam Grier is an icon in chick action films, the prototype for every woman who ever tried to pick up a gun and be tough on film."
Veteran actor Joanna Cassidy, along with Grier, provided years of experience and immeasurable help to relative newcomers Natasha Henstridge and Clea Duvall, who turned just 23 during production.
The men in the cast, Ice Cube and Jason Statham, came to the project from two different worlds — Cube from his phenomenal success in music and positive notices from his earlier films, and Statham, discovered by director Guy Ritchie ("Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch") selling jewelry out of a suitcase on a London street corner.
In addition to the requisite rehearsal period, the entire cast, with the exception of Ice Cube and Natasha
Henstridge, went through two months of intensive physical training and stunt work under the guidance of veteran Carpenter mainstay, stunt coordinator Jeff
Imada. "We did a lot of training, which I really wasn't used to," remembers Clea Duvall. "It was hard work but Jeff was really terrific and made us all experts."
Joanna Cassidy took to the physicality of her role with ease. "I've always kept myself in great shape," she said, "and I looked forward to all the action." And Jason Statham needed very little help from Imada in the physical fitness area. "I was a champion high diver in England not so long<
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