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LEGION

A Swarm of Visual Effects
Creating the chaos of the end of the world required an army of specialists. The budget constraints reinforced Stewart's original intentions to seamlessly mix practical solutions with high-tech visual effects to create the army of angels, hordes of the damned and other plagues visited upon the earth. "It's not like some bigger-budgeted films, where they basically do everything in CG,” he says. "We would often shoot a practical effect and then enhance it later.” 

For example, one of the film's most chilling sequences involves an elderly café patron who presages the appearance of the possessed masses. "In that scene a little old lady races across the diner like a bull and climbs up the wall onto the ceiling. We used a combination of the real actress in close-up on an upside-down version of the set, a stuntwoman strapped into a harness on the actual ceiling for the wide-shots, and finally a CG version of the actress as she quickly climbs up the wall.” 

Legion's army of angels are fierce, heavily armed warriors, a far cry from the conventional image of harp-strumming, cloud-riding cherubs. A proposed plan to equip the actors with practical wings was scrapped when it became apparent that a CG approach would be both more convincing and more convenient. Creating wings digitally also allowed the filmmaker to redefine the concept. "These wings look feather-like, but they are also hard enough to repel bullets,” says Stewart. "The tips are so sharp they can be used as weapons. It's very different iconography than we've seen before in other depictions of angels.”

For the final showdown between Michael and Gabriel, second-unit director and stunt coordinator John Medlen used an elaborate rigging system, as well as specially designed weapons, including an impressive sword and a vicious looking mace. The fights were carefully choreographed using a style of fighting that became known on set as "Angel Fu.” 

"Angel Fu is highly acrobatic,” says Stewart. "But it also involves ferocious hand-to-hand grappling and straight-out brawling. The ultimate confrontation between Michael and Gabriel is really violent and physical, but at the same time it's like an intricate dance. And physics doesn't necessarily apply for angels.”

Every move was planned out with stunt doubles and presented to Stewart for tweaking before the actors came in to rehearse. "And boy were they excited,” says Medlen. "They are both naturally athletic and they gave 100 percent. To watch Paul up there on wires flipping over and kicking Kevin in the chest was pretty incredible. Kevin and Paul trained very hard for the scene. They were able to do everything in the fight. That is really them on the wires.”

Durand and Bettany eagerly took to their training. "Paul and I both danced and studied martial arts when we were younger,” says Durand. "This movie goes one step further by adding a pair of 15-foot wings. I was constantly imagining having them on my back and the damage they could be creating. It was like having a completely new weapon.”

Bettany calls the stunts "an embarrassing amount of fun.” "The first time on the wire was a rush unlike anything legal that I know of,” he says. "The fights were like being 10 years old with friends who don't mind you hit them. If you're making an action movie and you're not doing the action, then you're not making an action movie.”

That attitude earned him a reputation as an amazingly good sport with the stunt crew, says Medlen. "I knew he hadn't done a big action thing like this before. But he was absolutely committed to it. He turned out to be a natural.” 

Among the film's more unusual visuals are the elaborate, arcane tattoos that cover Michael's body. It took several hours to apply the custom designed patterns to Bettany each day. "The exact length of time depended on what he was wearing in the day's scenes,” says Glenn Hetrick, su

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