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Interview: David Vickery - Jupiter Ascending's Special Effects Supervisor


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Jupiter Ascending. It was this year’s only big budget, original sci-fi film.

Lots of people had issues with the plot and Eddie Redmayne’s ummm… “original” acting. But no one would deny that the special effects were amazing. To find out more, we chatted over the phone to David Vickery, the film’s Visual Effects Supervisor.

Jupiter Ascending

“Part of my job is really trying to understand people” he explains. “And trying to understand the nuance in their emotion when they’re looking at something. You have to be a Jack of all trades. It’s about making the director’s vision happen”

The effects in Jupiter Ascending certainly would need a Jack of all trades. The movie features planets, spaceships and, for some reason, dinosaurs. Yet, that the effect that David found most enjoyable was none of these. He explains why Cain (Channing Tatum) escaping from a refinery, was special.

 “Visually there’s so many amazing frames in that sequence. Visually and creatively Double Negative had full control over that scene.” “There’s this tumultuous, almost liquid, thunderstorm. It was a fun little scene to work on”

Nor were they the effects he struggled with the most.

“Sometimes it’s the simplest stuff that’s the hardest to pull off. On Jupiter there was Cain’s boots. They were difficult. The Wakowskis had a really clear image of what they were in their heads. They weren’t hoverboots, they weren’t rocket boots. They redirect the forces of gravity”

“We wanted an awesome looking and beautiful effect. It took literally hundreds of different versions. And they were never quite right. But I knew deep down there was one version of it that was perfect. And then we had to make that effect look the same in every other shot. No two shots are ever the same, what works in one might not in another and you have to find the perfect version again. And it might a hundred and fifty times per shot. In a hundred and fifty shots.”

This kind of commitment to perfect has kept David working on some of the most high profile films of the last decade. He’s been involved on everything from fast-paced action flicks like Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes (AKA: Lock, Stock And Sherlock Holmes’s Snatch) to the shaky-cam, close-shot, horror movie Cloverfield (AKA: When Is The Monster Going To Showup?). Oh, and also some film called The Dark Knight. But what was his favourite project to work on?

“Usually for me it’s whatever film you happen to be working on that’s the most fun. Mission Impossible 5, which is what I’m doing at the moment, has been great and really rewarding. I feel very privileged to have been able to leave my mark on it”

However, he also admits: “I really enjoyed Potter. I was on The Goblet of Fire and The Deathly Hallows. I really enjoyed working on The Deathly Hallows Part 2. The Dragon was a real treat to do. I’d never done a creature like that before”. David was too modest to mention that his work on the last Harry Potter film won him a BAFTA and earned an Oscar nomination. His production company, Double Negative, has since won an Oscar for its work on Interstellar.

So, David has worked on some of the greatest films of modern times. But what did he make of Jupiter Ascending?

“I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I saw a couple of earlier versions without the special effects. But seeing the complete version on the big screen was great. I enjoy it for the beauty and visual spectacle. And I could see the hundreds of creative hours and love that had been put into it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and we made some really beautiful pictures.”

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