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EDGE OF TOMORROW

Locations
CAGE

The invasion will fail, along with every soldier you send in. We lose everything.

When Scholl first met with the filmmakers to discuss the overall look of the film, they stressed that, despite it being a movie about war and alien invasion, they didn't want it to be apocalyptic. Scholl conveys, "We wanted it to be clear that there was still a world left to be saved."

Liman, a fan of classic World War II movies, sought to evoke that era while still creating a somewhat futuristic world for a contemporary audience. Therefore, Scholl created an environment that provides hints that it is not present day, as evidenced by some of the technology, but yet still feels familiar. For what amounts in the film to a two-day period, albeit relived again and again, the design team would create 47 sets-27 exteriors and 20 interiors. And as the story takes place in the time loop, many of the sets were redressed or redesigned to correspond to the appropriate loop.

The entire film was shot in England, primarily at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. In addition to the facility's nine soundstages, which offer more than 1,000,000 square feet of stage space, there is a 100-acre backlot, making Leavesden the ideal place to create a large-scale beach invasion, a Heathrow Airport-based military compound complete with an interior combat range and drop ship, and a nearly deconstructed Louvre, among other sets or backdrops.

The Beach

The 650-foot long by 500-foot wide backlot was nothing more than a vast grassy field until the "Edge of Tomorrow" team got hold of it. The challenge was to create a beach reminiscent of Normandy, circa World War II. It took four months. The site was first bulldozed, and then 1300 tons of sand was shipped in. Holes and trenches were meticulously dug to create a battlefield, with input from Wade Eastwood's stunt department, who were designing the action sequences that would take place there.

The special effects department rigged the ground and sand for the battle explosions; it was especially difficult to keep the sand from turning to mud with all the moisture in the air, so set dressers had to constantly churn the sand to keep it fresh. Scattered among the pitted and trenched sand were fuselage and debris.

Surrounding this huge set was an 1800-foot green screen, which would later be replaced by extended environments that depicted the massive landscape and shoreline, along with 100,000 troops fighting in battle with the Mimics. The skies would be filled with military planes, drop ships, hover crafts, helicopters and missiles. To cover all the action, cinematographer Dion Beebe often had nine cameras going at once.

"Dion is an amazing talent and an incredible collaborator," Liman underscores. "He is one of the best DPs I've ever worked with and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

The beach involved very complicated work. Liman allows, "We were probably on that beach for 35 days of the shoot, and the last day was right before Christmas. Now, England is rainy, we all know that, but we showed up and our beach was covered in snow. Jeff Silver, our incredible line producer, turned to me and said, 'Maybe Mother Nature is telling us it's time to move on from the beach.'"

The Base

The filmmakers scouted Heathrow Airport in order to determine what they could and could not film there, according to airport regulations and the needs of the production. Heathrow was incredibly accommodating, but it is one of the busiest airports in the world, so the filmmakers decided it would be in their best interest to build a part of the airport themselves.

New skins were put up on the surfaces of the buildings at Leavesden, jet ways built, safety and traffic markings on the ground duplicated. Specialists from Heathrow worked closely with the art department and construction team to replicate the Heathrow tarmac.

The airport set was so large, most of the cast and crew used golf carts to get around. However, Liman recollects that not everyone felt the need to. "We were doing a scene with Tom and the actors from J Squad and about 40 extras, which called for them to jog from one end to the other, and when they got to the far end we'd cut, and they'd have to come back to reset. It was pretty far, but Tom just took off running. And suddenly 60 people were following him, racing back to the first position so that, instead of it taking five minutes to reset for the second shot, it took about 30 seconds. In fact, Tom beat the golf cart with the camera."

To turn the airport into a military base, they lined the area with army tents that would serve as a base of operations for the soldiers. Real military grade tents were used to dress the set.

The interior combat range where Rita trains Cage to fight the Mimics was comprised of huge pieces of blasted, bullet-ridden concrete. Built inside a massive soundstage, this set was designed to have an industrial feel to it, and was one of the few sets in the movie where bright colors like red, yellow and orange were used. Most notably, the colors were used on the visually arresting, claw-like, steel "mock" Mimics used in fight training. The brighter palette, when compared to the monochromatic grays and khakis used throughout the rest of the film, was intended to subtly indicate the high alert level during this tumultuous wartime, as well as show the potential toxicity of the environment.

However, before he's put in a moment of actual training, Cage is sent into battle with the rest of J Squad on a drop ship that flies them over the coastline and from which they literally drop via cables onto the sand. Scholl came up with the sophisticated design for the drop ship, which in exterior shots resembles a mix between an Osprey tilt-rotor and Chinook helicopter. He was excited when it became a reality due to a joint effort of special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and construction manager Paul Hayes, whose teams built and rigged the set, and Nick Davis, whose VFX team would later composite the ship's trap doors to open and drop the soldiers into battle, as well as duplicate the exterior of thousands of ships in flight.

On the practical set, the actors, in the ExoSuits, were actually hooked up to cables and dropped through the floor onto safety mattresses 15 feet below. The set was also rigged with hydraulics so it could shake and rock back and forth in the manner of a flight simulator. The cast endured a week of filming in this claustrophobic environment, clipped into a brace in their weighty ExoSuits, their feet dangling beneath them.

Paris

For the film's scenes in wartime Paris-all shot at Leavesden-Scholl designed a landmark in ruins: the Louvre. The visitors' center set had been blown to bits; huge concrete slabs had fallen atop dirt, debris and human remains; the rails of an escalator, that looked like it had been snapped in half, lead to nowhere, creating the illusion it was half above ground, and half below. Six operating waterfalls were built on the set to show the ongoing flood in the aftermath. And, as a nod to Sakurazaka's original novel, they included Japanese signage advertising an exhibit that had taken place at the museum before the alien invasion had begun.

One full side of the set was a green screen-the background environment would be extended by the VFX department to show the streets of Paris, utilizing previously shot scenic plate footage.

For a pivotal scene set on the Champs-Élysées, the company braved below-freezing temperatures to shoot nights on Scholl's Place de la Concorde backlot set. At 250 feet wide by 250 feet long, the newly constructed tank set was six inches deep and held 23 thousand gallons of water. Surrounding the set was a 28-foot tall green screen. It featured statues and iron gates in the same décor of the actual Place, and a keen eye will spot portions of Cleopatra's Needle as abandoned blown-out cars float by in the flooded street.

The production also ventured out of Leavesden. Visual effects plates were shot at Heathrow Airport, Saunton Sands beaches in Devon, and inside a car park in Vauxhall. Driving shots were orchestrated in Barton Stacey, Lavant Road in Sussex, and on the Millbrook racetrack, known for its state-of-the-art vehicular testing.

Cast and crew filmed in a variety of practical locations, including the Ministry of Defense Building at Whitehall and Horse Guards Avenue; Waterloo Bridge; a 1690s English Heritage farmhouse on 22 acres in Petersfield; the Coach & Horses Pub in Farringdon; and The Mall by Hyde Park. And, in what would be an extraordinary moment for all involved, "Edge of Tomorrow" would make movie-making history in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

During an early production meeting, says Stoff, "Tom said, 'Wouldn't it be a cool way to open the film with a helicopter flying over the Thames and landing in Trafalgar Square?' At that point, I looked over to our location manager, Sue Quinn, who had gone pale," he laughs.

Landing a helicopter in Trafalgar Square was a privilege that had never been granted to anyone in the past, apart from the British military, and only then in case of an emergency. Fortunately, the filmmakers had the support of London Mayor Boris Johnson. The Mayor's office worked in collaboration with the Greater London Authority, The Westminster Council, Transport for London, the Charing Cross Police Department, the Mounted Police, the Horse Guards, London Underground, The National Gallery and other authorities to execute the sequence.

In addition, the production's location department hand delivered 8,000 letters to businesses and residences within 700 meters of Trafalgar Square in order to assure all were aware of the intended shooting plans.

On the day of filming, the famous fountains in Trafalgar Square were turned off. Beebe's team had placed 11 cameras on the ground and on rooftops to capture the scene. The police locked down the area and all traffic was diverted from Trafalgar Square. No detail was left to chance.

The RAF Puma Eurocopter used for shooting was based on the other side of the Thames, at the Oval Cricket Ground. From there, Cruise boarded the chopper and rode it up the river, past the London Eye, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and up Whitehall to land in Trafalgar Square. The main helicopter was followed by another Eurocopter that had a camera mounted on it to shoot the aerials. For several of the takes, Doug Liman was inside the helicopter with Cruise, operating the camera himself.

Cruise reflects, "Landing a helicopter in Trafalgar Square was one of those exceptionally cool moments in a career spent in locations all around the world. We all got really excited to do it, and it was terrific that Doug got in to shoot me live for the beginning. It was great fun for all of us."

"Shutting Trafalgar Square down and landing a massive Royal Air Force helicopter was one of those moments where you're like a kid again," Liman beams.

"From a technical point of view, it was by far the most challenging thing I've ever done in my career, because we had three hours to do everything, no ability to rehearse it on-site, and once it's hovering on the ground, it renders any form of communication impossible because it's so loud. And we only had that morning, so what you get is what you get. If you need one more minute, you're never getting it. I thought to myself, 'This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; make the most of it.'"

CAGE

We are not equipped for what's out there.

"Edge of Tomorrow" takes place during the final push in a global war against a seemingly impenetrable infestation of a hive-like alien race that has chosen to inhabit and take over Earth. The visual effects team had their work cut out for them.

"I'd worked with visual effects before-though hopefully audiences wouldn't necessarily have noticed," Liman smiles. "But I'd never done a film where any of the central characters were comprised entirely of visual effects, especially ones that have to fully interact with the actors."

Liman had the benefit of working with visual effects supervisor Nick Davis. "Nick and I spent hundreds of hours figuring out alien movements, fight styles, everything. And he didn't just speak effects, he spoke story. I knew this project was going to be a crazy marriage of the real world, characters and action with a CG world, characters and action, and Nick really helped guide me through that process."

Davis says, "Right from the get go decisions had to be made, due to the complexity of the battle sequences."

Liman admits to "agonizing over the Mimics in order to make sure that they were specific entities with their own attributes. I never want to waste an opportunity to bring something interesting to life, especially my villains. So I had to approach the alien designs with that in mind."

The design of the Mimic was an ongoing and evolving process. Creating an original-looking alien was the real challenge. Says Stoff, "It's harder than you think to come up with something new, and then when you do, you run the risk that it sort of feels random, not organic to your film. So, what we basically did was to really work on the story behind the Mimics. When your design gets driven by story, you're on much surer ground."

The team decided that the Mimics would have multiple tendrils that would come loose from their body during battle, like a javelin. But how would the Mimics move? What texture would they be? The filmmakers began their research and development for the Mimics, doing movement and animation studies. They had to determine how the Mimics and their human opponents would interact in combat.

"All of the varied types of Mimics have different personality traits," Davis continues. "Some are four-legged with tentacles that sort of spray off of them. Others move with incredible speed and dexterity. But they are all out to kill-an enemy whose speed and brutality are unmatched."

Blunt, along with many of her cast mates, had to execute numerous fight scenes against a green screen, with combatants that weren't actually there. "It took some getting used to, hurtling around on wires, swinging a huge sword but never actually impacting anything," she recalls.

VFX houses, including Framestore in London and Montreal and Sony Pictures Imageworks in Los Angeles, lent a hand at the creature design. The pivotal scenes involving Mimics were meticulously sketched out by VFX artists in pre-viz prior to shooting. On the set, on any given day, the VFX department had a team of six data wranglers capturing data and textures that were used as reference materials when creating the shots in post-production. Using digital video and high-resolution digital stills, the wranglers captured all the light and information on set, so that the computer artists could later recreate the same environment.

"One of our goals was to create VFX shots that were photo-realistic, so an audience member can't tell where the practical shot footage ends, and the VFX extension begins," Davis states.

For the final pieces of post-production, Liman worked with composer Christophe Beck, who created a score that captured the suspense, the action and the fun of Cage and Rita's extraordinary journey.

"When I find a project that has a deeper meaning and, at the same time is an unbelievable rollercoaster ride that will have action sequences audiences have never seen before, character-driven comedy, and is just an all-around great time, of course I want to make that movie immediately," Liman affirms.

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