THE TIME MACHINE
The story of "The Time Machine" exists in four distinct worlds. Wells clarifies, "The first world is New York at the turn of the
20th century. We then move to what for us is the near future, 2030 and 2037. Finally we arrive in the distant future where we find the idyllic world of the
Eloi juxtaposed with the dark world of the Morlocks, which is a sort of Dante's inferno. Each world has its own visual style."
The film opens in New York City in 1899, which was another variation on the original story, which began in London. "New' York at the turn of the last century was an extraordinary place," Wells explains. "It was expanding at an exponential rate, and was a cultural melting pot, as well as a hotbed of scientific development. It was a quite suitable place to set the story."
Rather than use a soundstage, the filmmakers opted to film these scenes on location in upstate New York, which retains the old world charm of the then-burgeoning city of
New York. Production designer Oliver Scholl and his team completed the look with elements of the period, while the costume department was able to obtain a large portion of the day's fashions from vintage wardrobe houses in Los Angeles and England. The region provided its own
wintry blast of cold air by hitting the production company with two separate blizzards. "We were there in the dead of winter, up to our knees in snow," Wells remembers. "We were freezing cold, but it was well worth it because it gave us a reality you can't fake on a soundstage. You'll see it in the actors' breath, which is no visual effect."
It was during the location shoot that the filmmakers added one of their favorite homages to the George Pal film. It came in the person of Alan Young, who played Philby in that earlier film, and
who appears in a cameo as a flower seller in 2002's "The Time Machine." Another kind of synchronicity occurred when the wardrobe person
handed Young the wing collar for his costume. Inside in faded ink was written "Alan Young" incredibly, it was the very same collar he had worn in the 1960 film.
The exterior of Alexander's home was filmed in Albany, while his laboratory and greenhouse were created on a soundstage at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. "A great deal of love and attention went into Alexander's laboratory set because it is the physical embodiment of our main character. It is a way of telling the audience a great deal about him without saying a word," Wells states.
Set decorator Victor Zolfo took particular pleasure in obtaining or creating antiquated items that reflected the time, the place and the character Zolfo says is "more than a renaissance man. He is interested in just about everything that was breaking news at the time, from evolution to physical sciences to astronomy to electricity, and all those pursuits had to come together in that one space.
The myriad equations on the wall-to-wall chalkboards were configured by a mathematician to ensure accuracy. Among the most difficult items to obtain was the wide variety of vintage clocks and watches needed to illustrate Alexander's obsession with time. The production ended up with about 100 in every shape and size, including one that was featured prominently in 1960's "The Time Machine." Again, though unplanned, it was a happy accident that became another of the filmmakers' little tributes.
Simon Wells and Oliver Scholl could let their imaginations run wild in the design of the
Eloi and Morlock habitats. "My background in animation was extremely useful in the conceptual process of imagining a world that simply doesn't exist. I'm used to starting with a blank sheet of paper and creating a whole world from scratch," Wells says.
"I come from illustration and he comes from animation, so we spent hours together, literally throwing drawings back and forth," Scholl offers. "To
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