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LEGION

Imagining The Apocalypse
The big skies and endless desert panoramas of the American West provide the vistas against which Legion's epic story plays out. "I'd been reading a lot of Sam Shepard plays and short stories,” Stewart says. "I had an image of a mythic West that may exist only in our minds. This is an homage to that Western landscape.” Stewart assembled a book of photographs that represented his visual plan for the film. "I went out to the desert and photographed abandoned gas stations and road signs with bullet holes in them, things that symbolized lost Americana and the decaying West to me.”

When he began to meet with actors, their agents and managers, he took the book along to showcase his vision for the film. "It was important to me to convey the overall look of the movie,” says the director. "I wanted to show people what I saw in my head. 

"It looked like a graphic novel,” he says. "It combined elements of a supernatural action thriller with classic big-sky Westerns. I was just doing what made sense to me. It was a campaign to convince the world that I was going to treat the genre with a lot of respect.”

The film's production designer, Jeff Higinbotham, took on the task of realizing those photographs as the backdrop for the movie. "We tried to create a gritty desert vernacular that mixes mid-century painter Edward Hopper with the contemporary photographs of Gregory Crewdson,” says Higinbotham. "Scott knew what he wanted, which was a pleasure. Sometimes a director doesn't know what he wants until you show him something and he's pretty sure he doesn't want that thing.”  "Our goal was to make it visually seamless,” he continues. "We wanted to find a desolate, isolated area for the diner, a place that time had forgotten. When people watch this picture, I want them to say, where is that diner?” 

Stewart decided early on to shoot Legion in a setting that would emphasize the film's sense of isolation and dread. "Just on a story level, an ‘off the grid' location made it logical that they would survive the initial onslaught,” he explains. "As the film progresses they are so cut off from the world they have no idea what, if anything, is left of it.” 

The filmmakers searched far and wide for a location that looked like an iconic truck stop in the Mojave Desert. "Everybody knows what that's like, right?” says Stewart. "Try to find one. We had to build it in New Mexico. It looked like it had been there for 50 years. People would actually stop and try to buy gas.” Higinbotham built the set on a windswept swath of land outside Galisteo, with interiors on a small soundstage flexible enough to accommodate the various special effects and stunts that were required. 

The construction crew completed work in less than one month despite snow, 50-mile-an-hour winds and rain. "This was one of the first locations I saw,” he says. "And I knew that this was the spot. It had great vistas in all directions and a physical concavity that suited the situation. If you filled this area with water, it would pool at the diner and that's kind of what happened to our characters.” 

Stewart was fortunate to find a director of photography, John Lindley, who shared many of the same visual references and inspirations. "He helped craft a very elevated look for the film,” says the director. "Early on we decided our motto would be ‘No boring shots.' That meant we were always pushing ourselves to create images that were as graphic as possible to tell our story. In many ways, the film looks like a comic book come to life.” 

They also agreed that the look of "Legion” would evolve as the story progresses, says the director. "At first it has a very lost-American feel, like a Hopper painting. But as things progress, the color begins to drain and the look becomes more apocalyptic.” 

To amp up the tension in the film, Stewart and Lindley developed vi

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