This October, moviegoers will be treated to two Will Smiths for the price of one, in the new sci-fi action thriller GEMINI MAN. The movie comes from the mind of acclaimed filmmaker Ang Lee (LIFE OF PI), and is a fast-paced story about an assassin (Smith) forced to go toe-to-toe with a younger clone of himself (also played by Smith).
GEMINI MAN is epic in a unique way. Utilizing extremely advanced special effects technology and natively-shot RealD 3D, Lee was able to create a digital clone of Will Smith. We've seen plenty of digital characters in movies before, but this is something that has never been done before. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry! We’re going to break it down for you.
Before we get into how Ang Lee and Will Smith pulled off this amazing feat, take a look at the latest trailer for GEMINI MAN. Smith stars as Henry Brogan, an elite government assassin who is hoping to retire from his deadly career. Unfortunately, there’s one person standing in the way of his exit plan: Himself. A younger version of Henry, named Junior, has been tasked with assassinating the original and taking his place. Their conflict sends Henry on an action-packed journey to confront Junior’s maker – and Henry’s former mentor.
As Lee explained to an audience earlier this year during a special preview of that trailer, making GEMINI MAN was like taking a “leap of faith.” The director had been kicking around this story idea for over 20 years, but, he said, “technology wouldn’t allow the story to be told.”
With the help of WETA, the special effects company co-founded by LORD OF THE RINGS director Peter Jackson, Lee was able to create a digital clone of Will Smith. It's a clone that was, according to the director, “twice as expensive” as the actor himself. De-aging effects have become popular in Hollywood, where the process has been famously used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to create younger versions of Michael Douglas and Robert Downey Jr. But the effects Lee used, while slightly similar to the de-aging process, were entirely new, and he had to wait until technology was advanced enough to do it.
In order to make this clone, Lee used motion-capture to document Smith’s performance. The effects team used this to build a digital version of Smith from the ground up. Thankfully, Smith has been acting for three decades, so the team at WETA had plenty of references they could use to create Junior.
“No matter how hard you imagine it is, it is still harder,” said Lee. “The biggest problem is Will is a much better actor today than he was 30 years ago.” Smith couldn’t just give two performances as two different characters. It was important for him to behave like a younger, more naive version of himself. To ensure the actor achieved this, Smith says Lee “would show me some of my old performances and he’d say, ‘Look at this. That’s not good, I need you to do that.’ So I got to see all of the tragedies that I committed in entertainment.”
An action epic of this magnitude requires a cast that is up to the challenge of Lee's high-energy filmmaking, not to mention working with a fully digital co-star. The director recruited Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Clive Owen to play major roles. Winstead, who appeared on “Fargo” and also stars in the upcoming DC movie BIRDS OF PREY, plays Danny, a hitwoman and ally to Henry. She fights alongside him when he discovers he’s been marked for death. Owen, known for his work on “The Knick” and for his Academy Award®-nominated performance in CLOSER, plays Clay Varris, Henry’s former mentor.
Ang Lee makes films that feature astonishing effects and technical skill, but which never lose sight of the humanity at the center of any story. This is the case for LIFE OF PI and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, and even for Lee's controversial HULK. We expect GEMINI MAN, which was also shot with high frame-rate cameras, to continue his winning trend of melding incredible technology with powerful stories.
Guests who buy a ticket to RealD 3D showings of GEMINI MAN get to experience the film in a cutting-edge format. Shooting with high frame-rate (HFR) cameras means that GEMINI MAN has far more visual information than most movies. Films are typically shot and projected at 24 frames per second; Ang Lee used cameras that shoot at 120 frames per second, to capture exponentially more information.
Thanks in part to our partnership with RealD 3D, our 3D+ in HFR projection presents 60 frames per second of native RealD 3D, for a presentation that is closer to what the human eye sees. That means amazingly sharp and clear action, with no loss of cinematic "feel." It's the most immersive cinematic experience that can currently be enjoyed in a theatre!
Check out this video, which explains how the RealD 3D is central to the experience of GEMINI MAN:
All images courtesy of Paramount Pictures.