About The Production
John Woo assembled an exceptional team of behind-the-scenes talent to bring
his compelling story to the big screen. As on previous films, Woo relied on the
creative ingenuity of directory of photography Jeffrey Kimball, ASC, and editor
Steve Kemper, Jeff Gullo and Tom Rolf, A.C.E. Production designer Holger Gross
and costume supervisor Nick Scarano also contributed to Woo's highly stylized
vision for Windtalkers.
The 20-week shooting schedule was filmed entirely on location in Hawaii and
Southern California. Principal photography began on Monday, August 28th, 2000,
shooting the explosive and vast Saipan battle sequences at a privately owned
ranch on the windward side of Oahu near Honolulu.
Covering approximately 4000 acres, Kualoa Ranch is a fully functioning cattle
and recreational ranch currently owned by the Morgan family. Nestled in a valley
roughly one mile wide and 4.5 miles long between two jutting mountain ranges,
the ranch provided the perfect landscape for Woo to capture the haunting realism
of the film's opening battle. Dramatically sweeping up from the sea, it offered
360ΒΊ vistas resembling the Pacific island of Saipan.
Producer Chang says, "The first Saipan battle was not originally written
to be as big as it now appears in the film. But when you finish a script and
give it to a director like John, you have to give him freedom to realize his
vision, and he wanted to create huge battle sequences. In the first shot alone,
we had 280 explosions and 700 extras." Computer generated battleships and
planes were inserted to enhance the magnitude of the battle. "It's a really
huge movie for such an intimate story," Chang adds, "certainly the
biggest John and I have ever done."
While Cage and Slater had already witnessed Woo's command of his craft, the
other cast members were awestruck. Mark Ruffalo says, "He's incredible. In
one particular shot, a steadycam followed us into a ditch where all this
hand-to-hand combat was taking place. In one long take, moving from man to man,
he had choreographed the whole thing. It was like a one-act play."
Capturing the scope of Woo's enormous battle sequences fell squarely on the
capable shoulders of director of photography Jeffrey Kimball. Having
collaborated with Woo previously on Mission: Impossible 2, Kimball was no
stranger to the innovative way Woo expects the camera to follow the action.
"John likes everything to move. He likes the choreography, he likes the
cameras to dance," Kimball says. "He wanted the film to be realistic,
so you feel as though you're in the war." Kimball gave a documentary-like
feeling to the scenes and highlighted the scope of the film by shooting in Super
35 format. "The images feel bigger in the theatre," he says.
At times, Kimball had the formidable task of overseeing as many as 14 cameras
running simultaneously. Often a camera attached to a helicopter would fly
overhead, requiring some of Kimball's first-rate camera team to find ingenious
(and safe) ways to disguise themselves in the battlefield. Cameras were hidden
in the backs of army vehicles, in tanks and trenches, and operators and their
assistants were camouflaged in military uniforms. Kimball went to great lengths
to ensure that Woo's intent to recreate the brutality of Saipan's combat was
caught on film. "We had all manner of camouflage going. In those wide shots
we wanted to be right in there with the Marines, in the thick of the action, so
we even had a vintage WWII camera operated by a Marine cameraman."
The logistics involved in staging the battle sequences were overwhelming and
time-consuming. As many as 700 extras were on set at one time - approximately
500 Marines and 250 Japanese soldiers - all of whom were hired locally. With
these numbers added to the production crew of approximately 350, Wind
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