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Origin of the Project - Aliens in Moscow
The Darkest Hour began as the seed of an idea often discussed by producer Tom Jacobson and executive producer Monnie Wills. "About five years ago, we were talking about what would it be like to survive in the wake of an alien apocalypse where we lost?” explains Jacobson. "What happens the day after Independence Day? We were interested in a story that is focused just on the characters. Where were they? I like stories about humanity and science fiction, with the classic themes such as ordinary people in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. What would happen if we were attacked, conquered, and occupied? That was the genesis of the idea.”

"I also like the notion of people in an occupied territory who don't capitulate, like French resistance movies,” adds Jacobson. "So this is also somewhat inspired by those great World War II movies, except instead of German lines, we're behind enemy lines of an alien occupation. That whole genre allows you to explore heroism and how you behave when you're tested. In a theatrical world, the best science fiction can heighten those themes and therefore is very entertaining to an audience.”

Jacobson turned to his old friend Leslie Bohem, and his young writing partner, M.T. Ahern, to flesh out the concepts. "They took that shred of the idea, invented the story, and came up with the title The Darkest Hour,” says Jacobson. "It then evolved in a lot of different directions. Les and Megan wrote a really great story about human survival, which I sold to New Regency, and then the thought came up of adding a surprising and unique element to it. Through all of these science fiction or war narratives, we've seen versions of everything, so let's add an original layer.”

"A big decision was made. From page one, let's set it in Moscow,” reveals Jacobson. "This is one of those huge ideas that changed everything… who the characters were and why would we be in Moscow. They come to this exciting vibrant city that a lot of people have heard about, but most people, especially most Americans, haven't been there. Moscow seemed like the type of place that young characters might adventure to,” says Jacobson. "We were all excited by making it about a group of people who are already strangers in a strange land, and when the aliens come, just became even stranger.”

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts began work on a whole new script set in Moscow and Moscow-based filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov, who directed the global hits Wanted and Night Watch, joined the project as a producer. "Partnering with Timur Bekmambetov was very exciting because he loved the science fiction and visual elements of the movie,” says Jacobson. "Plus Timur has an insider's view of filmmaking in Moscow.”

The groundbreaking director was happy to participate as a producer. "Producing and directing for me, is almost the same. When you're directing, you're not shooting, you're not acting yourself, you're not dressing actors… you're directing,” explains Bekmambetov. "The producer is also managing processes - people and expectations - so for me to produce means you have the movie in your head and you have to find the right people to make it. It's almost the same thing. You're not screaming rolling on the set, but you're still finding the right people and the right strategy.”

"Originally, maybe 4 years ago, it was scripted in a small American town. The first time I spoke with Tom Jacobson, I said ‘Can we move it to Moscow?' When you change the point of view it becomes an interesting project immediately. Like King Kong in Moscow would be a big deal, King Kong in New York nobody wants to play that game because it's been done,” comments Bekmambetov. "It's still quite intriguing for the viewer to be here because not so many western movies are made in Moscow, it makes the movie cool immediately.”

"Moscow is a unique environment and very interesting visually because it's unusual. Moscow is not as pretty as Paris, not as big as Manhattan, but it has it's own tone and light. If you move any conventional, classic story to Moscow, it immediately becomes something interesting,” reiterates Bekmambetov. "Second, we have the Russian culture, we have history of Russian filmmaking that's different, and somehow it's influenced the movies made in Russia. The audience will enjoy it and will feel it's something new. The formula of a successful project has to be relatable story in a unique world. If you have a good story and you can shoot it in Moscow, then you have an interesting film, like District 9 in Johannesburg, South Africa.”

"The location itself became part of the storytelling power,” adds Jacobson. "Visually Moscow has force and power in the architecture that we wanted to capture, and we see it through a foreigner's point of view. Moscow also has a reputation as a wild place, with a lot of nightlife and a lot of money. We also wanted to capture that new Wild West feeling here… the excitement, gloss, glamour, noise, music, and dynamism of the city… and then contrast that with the silence after the fall.”

"Timur has this fantastic vision and imagination, but he also has this great group of people working with him at his company Bazelev who are doing a lot of our visual effects. Very early we started visual development and they did a lot of concept art and animatics – or pre-viz – of key elements,” explains Jacobson. "The movie was about the idea and then about the visualization and execution of the idea. So Timur's visual effects team in Moscow started the work almost two and a half years before shooting and generated a lot of images that gave a sense of the movie.”

"They created early concepts of the aliens and a general proof of concept look of a depopulated Moscow, because that was one of the big elements, to take a huge international city of 14 million people and empty it,” adds Jacobson. "Later in the movie, the characters also discover the aliens are doing something here. There are manufacturing works and we came up with the designs for those alien towers. This early concept art was a palate of opportunity for the director, who started guiding that work when he started on the movie.”

About a year before shooting began, director Chris Gorak was selected to helm the project. "I was excited to get in business with Chris because I loved his movie Right At Your Door. I thought it was authentic, sincere, scary, believable, the actors were great in it, and the story was told with conviction,” says Jacobson.

"Chris read our script, was interested, and everything he said about it felt right and then some. Specifically about certain areas of the storytelling, like how the characters move through the story. Chris felt their journey of realization was really important… what they learn about the aliens and about their own circumstances drives the emotion of the story. The window into story is through our characters. The narrative point of view of the movie is to follow them as they figure out what's going on,” explains Jacobson.

"The Darkest Hour is only his time directing, but Chris has really brought something interesting because he really comes from a place of character,” agrees Wills. "He really spent a lot of time thinking about and working with the actors about their experiences here… what it means to be in Moscow and to really make these characters come alive. Chris also comes from a production design and art director background, so he's really been able to stage the film to not only take advantage of Moscow, but to put our characters into the middle of a very believable, post

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