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DEEP IMPACT

Extras And Special Effects
The two-day shoot required a thousand extras and two hundred animals

The two-day shoot required a thousand extras and two hundred animals. Animal coordinator Jules Sylvester worked with every animal company in the business in order to get the impressive selection of wildlife that appears in the scene. "We have lions, jaguars, hyenas, alligators, pythons, kangaroos, ostrich, buffalo, camels, elephants, zebras, cattle, chickens, birds. And," he jokes, "we started this morning with two rabbits."

Sylvester recruited the animals with their individual trainers, as some of the larger cats in particular have grown up to relate to only one person. "The only problem we've had," Sylvester reports, "is working the animals closely with the thousand extras. I find myself saying 'excuse me, ma'am, could you please not pet the jaguar since he tends to want to eat you.'"

In this scene, only those people selected for special qualifications or by a national lottery are being allowed to enter the Ark -- while all around them, those not chosen fight to get in. "In this case, we're trying in some small hopeful way to preserve our society and our sort of life as we know it," says director Mimi Leder of the Ark. "In this enormously grand sequence with a thousand extras, the theme of saying goodbye to our loved ones - and intimate moments amidst the chaos - is what I found unique and challenging in the making of this movie."

Filming for the space sequences of "Deep Impact" took place both on location and on studio sets. The NASA offices at Edwards Air Force Base were used for the ground sequences of the Messiah space mission that attempts to deflect the comet. Scenes in outer space were filmed at Warner Hollywood studios, as well as on Stage 15 at Paramount Studios, the largest sound stage on the Paramount lot.

Technical consultant Gerald Griffin's major role was to create an integrity for what he refers to as "the space look." With Griffin's help, costume designer Ruth Myers created spacesuits closely modeled on an advanced NASA prototype. The suits, constructed by Global Effects, followed the authentic details of the next-generation NASA spacesuit while adapting them to motion picture needs. For the actors portraying the astronauts, the challenge was to reach a comfort level with working in the heavy, claustrophobic suits, while simulating conditions known as micro-gravity, a lower gravity than our moon. "Because of this extremely low gravity," Griffin explains, "it's hard to set down on a comet because there's just not enough gravity to hold you. So you have to fly alongside like a fighter jet flying in formation. But someday this kind of an operation could happen, and we will have the kind of propulsion and the kind of life support that can sustain a very long duration mission to a very long distance."

Reproducing the experience of micro-gravity -- where every human movement has to be carefully planned out and executed -- was a new experience for director Leder. "The biggest challenge has been shooting an action sequence in very little gravity," she explains. "The usual action scenes move really fast -- from this cut, to this cut, to this cut. But the challenge and the beauty of it here is to make things move in weightlessness."

Blair Underwood, as Flight Navigator Mark Simon, summed up the experience as getting to be "big kids up there," while Mary McCormack, as Executive Officer Andrea Baker, describes the weightlessness experience as challenging, hard work due to the bulk and constraints of the

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