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About The Characters
"We spent two years developing the story and screenplay," Avnet says. "The tone of the movie is sort of in the 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' tradition: Sky Captain is an old-fashioned flying hero with a twist. It's not that you can't take it seriously. It's serious, but there's something wry about it. There's a kind of smile to it." 

By 2002, Avnet took the script and the six-minute short film and, within a matter of months, had lined up an Oscar-caliber cast, including Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Giovanni Ribisi, Bai Ling and Angelina Jolie. 

"To this day I don't quite understand it," Conran says. "I'm thrilled and I'm certainly the luckiest human being in the world. But it's absurd; much like everything else in this film, there's no logical reason. It's inexplicable to me why they took such a huge risk to do this film."

Avnet also wanted to take risks with the characters, casting against type, particularly where Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow were concerned. "Kerry never imagined the movie quite as big or with big-name actors. That, fortunately or unfortunately, was my influence," Avnet says. "I felt the story could attract and carry them, and what we wanted to attract were actors who worked well together. When I showed Gwyneth the six-minute short, Jude was there and I was looking at the two of them and thought, 'They looked good together in 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' and they're going to look even better in this film.'" When Avnet decided to approach Law, with whom he had met previously on the film "Uprising," he wanted to show Law the six-minute short before he read the script, knowing how difficult it was to describe. 

"After seeing the short, I immediately thought of my kids," remembers Law. "Watching it made me think of the joy of being able to put a film like that back on the big screen. It seemed to have an innocence, and yet, all of the necessary accoutrements that would excite a younger audience. There's a good humor to it as well," adds Law. "That means you can enjoy the fights and battles without having to be obliged to recognize the kind of brutality of it, or the blood lust. I wanted to get onboard immediately, both as an actor and a producer."

Law says he was attracted to the inherent mix of high drama and humor in these larger-than-life, heroic characters as well as the chance to explore a fictional world based in historical fact. "It goes behind the scene of what the '30s were really like to imagine a world of elite mercenary pilots and scientist sidekicks with ray guns and aerial landing stations suspended, hovering, in the air," says the actor. "It's a strange mix, imagining what the 1930s of comic books and science fiction could have been like had they the money and technology to push their dreams that far. It's a world that we'd all like to be part of in a little way, I think, a world that we wish we could see." 

Actress Bai Ling, who portrays Totenkopf's agile, lethal enforcer known as the "Mysterious Woman," believes Conran's story and characters have all the classic elements to create an entertaining film. "It reminds me of an old Hollywood film, like all those old love stories with glamorous lovers and great chemistry," Ling says. "You want to know what's going on and you care about them. It also reminds me somehow of 'Star Wars' and 'The Matrix' with all the high-tech stuff, but it's all done in a more hip and modern way. It combines the two extremes. When I saw the six-minute film, I said, 'Wow, I want to see this movie.' It's breathtaking and what you think a Hollywood movie is all about. It's magic." 

Conran loosely based Law's Sky Captain character on real-life aviator Claire Chenault, the leader of the pre-World War II flying mercenaries, The Flying Tigers. "Jude Law's essentially Chenault," Conran says. "He was the best of the group. Being a mercenary is a little bit different from being a soldier. He wasn't nec

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