Navigation Bar - Text Links at Bottom of Page

REPLICAS

About The Production
The story behind Replicas came to life through an idea that producing partner Stephen Hamel shared with Keanu Reeves. Both had an enthusiasm for telling a story that raised interesting questions, while still playing in the genre of which both are huge fans. As Hamel describes, "Replicas was born from my interest in the benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations as well as ethical limitations of using such technologies. Specifically, that human beings may eventually be able to transfer their consciousness from one body to another."

The goal was to create a dynamic where the hero (Keanu) is faced with both enormous intellectual and emotional stakes, simultaneously. In this convergence, Hamel felt there was something deeply moving and perturbing. Once he wrote the story, he brought together their core team, including genre producer icon Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, to further develop the project, and help produce the film. After finding genre writer Chad St. John, who had the same thoughts and a great alignment with the producers (a story that tackles science vs. ethics) it quickly turned into a script. Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, Nachmanoff adds, "has a long history of involvement with science fiction and with Keanu, dating back to The Matrix and Constantine. He has a very strong understanding of how to make this kind of movie and he was invaluable in helping us shape the story, particularly at the script and editing stage." Nachmanoff came on board shortly after to direct and of course the movie was on its way with the Start of Principle Photography set in Puerto Rico on July 10th 2016.

"As a fan of grounded science fiction, this story really appealed to me," explains Nachmanoff. "The idea of taking a serious idea and turning it into commercial entertainment has always appealed to me. I believe we are approaching a time, in the not too distant future, when we will indeed be able to unlock some of the mysteries of how the brain functions. This will raise increasingly thorny ethical dilemmas - where is the line between AI and human consciousness? Is there a threshold for prolonging human life? Should there be? I found these underlying questions provocative, but most of all I liked the characters and the story and I was excited to tell it," says Nachmanoff. Reeves adds to this: "Part of the film's entertainment is that there is something to speak about."

Nachmanoff continues, "One could say that the movie is a modern-day twist on the Frankenstein myth - a man of science uses his skills to defy the laws of nature with unintended consequences." Tonally it was an interesting world to play in. The subject matter could be perceived as quite dark, but the new technological sci-fi element created an interesting balance. "Much of the film takes place at night so there is a certain Gothic darkness to the tone of the movie. But we were shooting in the tropics where it is very lush, green and alive. I wanted to embrace both of those worlds to create a visual palette that would put a fresh spin on the thriller genre.

The cinematographer, Checco Varese, took bold risks with the lighting and letting settings be a bit more dramatic, particularly in the basement where William is growing the pods," Nachmanoff adds. Regarding the production design, "I wanted William's world to feel a bit messy and chaotic; so Johnny (our production designer) and his team built environments with texture and detail. The idea was to convey the feeling of a chemistry experiment in the basement.

A big part of that was the design and construction of the clone pods which were built by Rafy Perez, our SFX supervisor." Puerto Rico had a lot of local crew and the whole team was pleasantly surprised with how hard everyone was working to create this world. "Before we started the shoot, we all assumed that these would be too complicated to create in Puerto Rico and would need to be built and shipped from LA or someplace on the mainland. But Rafy simply blew us away with his inventiveness and ability. The pods each weighed over 500 lbs. when filled with water and our actress actually was in the pod for the filming. Turns out Alice Eve can hold her breath a really long time!" says Nachmanoff. With the production being set in Puerto Rico, the team had its unique challenges. They came to set with the recent passing of the Zika outbreak that had hit Puerto Rico's tourism industry, but the spirit and energy remained high and the team quickly learned of the strong tradition of Independent Filmmaking. As Nachmanoff states, "This was not the easiest shoot, but the crew rose to the challenge. With the exception of our production designer (Johnny Breedt) who is South African and our DP (Checco Varese) who is Peruvian, almost everybody else was local. A mixture of English and Spanish was spoken on set but in the end everybody managed to communicate very well."

Remembering back on the hardest day of the shoot, Nachamoff reflects that it had to be the stunt-heavy day in the rain at night. "We were shooting the scene down by the river where the family dies in the car crash. It was summertime, so we only had a limited number of hours of darkness. Plus, we were working with minors who had to be finished by midnight. The location was in the jungle, so everybody was covered in bug spray. The location was hard to access, even though we had built a road to move equipment to the river's edge. It was so muddy, we had to transport actors to and from set on ATVS. Additionally, we had to do a stunt where we threw a van into the river. Keanu had to walk in the water carrying a child. At the same time, the scene called for rain so the SFX team was pumping water from the river into giant hoses, which were attached to rain heads atop a seventy-foot crane. Unbeknownst to them, there were tiny shellfish in the water that clogged the rain heads. So, the whole rig had to be lowered to the ground and they painstakingly opened and cleared out every rain head - a process that took two precious hours. Meanwhile a few of the actors were sick and one threw up that night. By the time the sun came up, everybody was ready to go home." Reeves adds that he liked that moment; it was the pivotal point for his character to go on this journey, while going through "the real emotional highs in terms of trying to bring them back and trying to keep it a secret and how your safe space becomes this secret lab. I loved that journey."

Replicas will be a timely film for audiences. For Keanu Reeves fans, it's a chance to see him in a different role than just pure action. This film is a family story at its core, as Hamel explains, but it's also a sci-fi thriller, so fans of that genre will still really enjoy it. Nachmanoff adds that a lot of movies look at scientific advances with fear, i.e. Skynet in the Terminator franchise. This movie takes a slightly different point of view in that the science is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It is more of a classic story about human nature and forces us to ask the question: what would you do if you were in William's shoes? Who wouldn't try to save his or her family?

THE CAST

Jeffrey Nachmanoff is a director known for his work on genre movies that are character driven and deliver a message. He has a skill for getting emotionally truthful performances from his cast in a grounded yet supernatural way, and working with the right talent was important to him and the producers.

"Keanu has a phenomenal work ethic. I knew his reputation for preparing for physical roles (such as the stunts in John Wick) but I was impressed at how that preparation extends even into the research for a role like this. He was constantly reading up on neuro-science and bringing new ideas for scenes and for the science underlying our story. Obviously, we can't yet map the human mind, but there is a tremendous amount of existing research on the function of the brain and Keanu read a great deal about it," says Nachmanoff.

Stephen Hamel adds, "In Replicas there was an opportunity for Keanu to play a compelling character in a story that we felt had not yet been told in this way. I love movies that ask lots questions. Movies that oblige the viewer to be confronted with severe ethical and emotional dilemmas, while delivering a very entertaining experience. Replicas does exactly that."

For Keanu Reeves, playing a role in this type of genre is different from his previous work. It was the complexity and traumatic events of the character William that intrigued his acting instincts: "I'm playing a husband and scientist who loses his family. As we all have lost people in our lives, there is something very relatable there. And then the tormenting thought of - how can you bring them back - was definitely the connector that made this character attractive and powerful to play," says Reeves.

The choices that were made for each role came together nicely. Casting director Sharon Bialy did a stellar job scouting local talent in Puerto Rico. "Working with the rest of the cast was an amazing experience too. Puerto Rico has very talented actors who were always giving their best," says Nachmanoff.

Adding some lightheartedness in a more serious sci-fi genre was a conscious choice, and who better to do this than Thomas Middleditch. "He proved to be a great partner and his part provides some much needed levity to the film," Reeves says. Nachmanoff adds: "He was a great improviser and a lot of his comic asides in the movie are things he came up with spur of the moment. At the same time, he impressed me with his dramatic chops as well."

As for Alice Eve, Stephen Hamel says, "We were lucky to have Alice join our team. She is somebody who lives in the genre world. She provided a warmth and humanity which is so important in the film." Nachmanoff jokingly adds "she is also really good at holding her breath for a long time and a very good sport about getting into a clone pod. Her 'birthing' scene is one of my favorites."

John Ortiz is a terrific actor who has been in so many great movies over the years. Nachmanoff says, "It was great to have a chance to work with him and let him go full villain for a change. He is beloved in Puerto Rico - we couldn't get through a meal there without somebody asking for an autograph."

THE LOCATIONS AND THE DESIGN

"When we came to Puerto Rico to make this movie the island was reeling from the twin blows of the Zika outbreak that had hit their tourism industry, and a financial crisis which left the economy in tatters. But the spirit and energy of the Puerto Ricans remained undaunted" (Jeffrey Nachmanoff). While the shoot had its challenges, the beauty of Puerto Rico shined through, and turned out to be the perfect location for a "Caribbean" look. Its lush, vibrant greenery gave it the tropical look it needed. At the same time, this movie needed to feel authentic yet somewhat separated from the real world, says production designer Johnny Breedt (Eye in The Sky, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). Nachmanoff adds, "I felt that if we want the audience to buy into the sci-fi premise of this movie, it was important to create a sufficiently impressive visual environment for BIODYNE" (the lab). That meant building and designing a set to the standards of a Hollywood movie, even though Puerto Rico didn't have existing stages big enough to do so.

After a great deal of searching, the production decided to shoot in an abandoned office building. This didn't come without complications, when it turned out that the roof leaked, production had to hire a roof repair while shooting. With 6 weeks of production prep, there wasn't enough time to finish the lab by the time production started, which meant that the art department had to work around the clock to complete the set, and production had to schedule those scenes at the end of the shoot. "The paint was still drying when we shot there," Nachmanoff recalls.

"We had to contend with the usual array of production challenges plus a few new ones, such as insects in the jungle and indigenous frogs (called coquilles) who were so loud they interfered with dialogue recording. At one point during the production a fire at a power plant knocked out the entire electrical grid for Puerto Rico for almost two days. Hotels were evacuated, the Internet was down. But we kept shooting (using a generator), in spite of the fact that many crew members went home to houses lit by candles with no working A/C in the tropical heat. It was that type of hard work and perseverance that really impressed me about the crew."

Although there were some challenges in the pre-production and production phases, it paid off. The look and design was exactly what Nachmanoff was trying to convey. The movie has its own style. "I think Jeffrey and Checco (Cinematographer) created a nice interplay type of dance with the audience, letting them in when it's intimate and then using some kind of graphic novel fun cinema angles when it's more of a sci-fi genre movie. This, along with a unique color palette, created a style of its own compared to previous work I've done," Reeves shares.

CREATION OF THE ROBOT

The fun visual opportunity that spoke the most to the VFX team and Jeffrey Nachmanoff was developing a fully CGI robot. The robot became a fundamental character in the movie and needed to look distinct. "We have seen a lot of humanoid robots in film and TV, so it's not easy to do something new. I was very inspired by the movie Ex Machina in which they created this fantastic sense of a robot by using additive VFX to the actress. Instead of copying their great creation, we switched to a fully CGI model, which evolved over the course of many drawings and multiple artists" (Nachmanoff).

The design and development process began with Trevor Harder (Underworld, Ghost Rider) who is based in Montreal. His designs made the Robot come to life. "The designs were then constructed at Maldito Maus in Argentina and then the bulk of the robot was moved to Reaktor in Puerto Rico to add the finishing touches. They say it takes a village." (Nachmanoff).

TOP

Home | Theaters | Video | TV

Your Comments and Suggestions are Always Welcome.
Contact CinemaReview.com

2019 80,  All Rights Reserved.

Google

Find:  HELP!

Google