“The Fear of Failure keeps you on your toes”: Our interview with “Gemini Man” director Ang Lee
On the set of the science fiction thriller “Gemini Man” in Georgia, director Ang Lee tells of the technology of the future, as the Oscar winner calls spinning at an increased frame rate of 120 frames per second (fps).
During our visit to the set of Ang Lee’s futuristic action thriller “Gemini Man” in Glennville, Georgia (near Savannah), the director takes his time – despite the strenuous night shoot. It is now past midnight. Actually, a normal day should now end with bedtime, but today the shooting of “Gemini Man” is still going on for several hours. Lee, a 64-year-old native of Taiwan who lives in the US, talks about his own motivation to filmmaking and what has changed with “Gemini Man.”
Lee, a 64-year-old native of Taiwan who lives in the US, talks about his own motivation to filmmaking and what has changed with “Gemini Man.”
In “Gemini Man” the life of former government killer Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is turned upside down. His cloned, younger I Junior (a digitally computer generated Will Smith) hunts clueless. Henry does not know why he wants to dump him at all. Support gets the hunted by Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an agent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which was supposed to monitor him.
FILMSTARTS: How do you feel about these many night shoots on “Gemini Man”?
Ang Lee: [laughs] Oh, I’m getting older. I should be used to it, but I prefer daytime shooting. We have many “Day for Night” scenes on “Gemini Man”, which means we shoot night scenes by day. [laughs] That’s good for me.
FILMSTARTS: What attracted you to the script?
Ang Lee: Will Smith plays a discarded government killer whose cloned ego hunts for him: this concept has really attracted me. At first I did not care about the script. For me it’s about how to get along with yourself. Would you let your future ego give you advice? Can you trust him? Because Henry [the Elder] can not trust anyone because he lives in this spy world. In the end, it depends on whether you trust yourself and are at peace with you. There’s the background, but of course we also want to deliver a kick-ass action movie. The inner conflict is physically dramatized. There is a lot in it.
Will Smith plays a discarded government killer whose cloned ego hunts for him: this concept has really attracted me.
Would you let your future ego give you advice?
FILMSTARTS: What about the 120-frame-per-second technique (fps)?
Ang Lee: For me, this is a whole new medium that magically attracts me – that’s the next big thing in the cinema industry. It pulls you as a viewer completely pure, as if you yourself. Everything is different here than “The crazy heroic tour of Billy Lynn”. It was about disillusionment on the battlefield, here we have a genre film with all its conventions and rules. I’m trying to create a new aesthetic and beauty in 3D – stylized storytelling. That’s very exciting for me. I deliberately chose beautiful venues, all locations look great.
that’s the next big thing in the cinema business. It pulls you as a viewer completely pure, as if you yourself.
I deliberately chose beautiful venues, all locations look great.
“The technology is not fully developed, but …”
FILMSTARTS: This leap into what you’re saying, “new medium,” is exciting, but does not it scare you too, because the reactions to “The Spiteful Hero of Billy Lynn” were not entirely positive?
Ang Lee: [laughs] Yeah, that’s the same thing. The fear is good, it keeps you busy, you are constantly alerted, you have to do your best. That goes for everyone, for our great crew and the cast. We do not know all about this technique, we also make mistakes. But we want to push the technology forward Yesmovies. How do we connect it to the story? This is an interesting process. Fear and enthusiasm are for me two sides of a thing.
The fear is good, it keeps you busy, you are constantly alerted, you have to do your best.
Fear and enthusiasm are for me two sides of a thing.
FILMSTARTS on the set of “Gemini Man”
FILMSTARTS: Creative people in Hollywood have been trying for years to bring computer-generated people to the screen. What makes you so sure that the technology is ready now?
Ang Lee: The technique is not fully developed. But that’s the exciting thing, because there are so many discoveries to make here. That is very satisfying for us artists. I hope we can share the enthusiasm with the spectators around the globe. We are paid to deal with it. That’s great, but it’s also putting a lot of pressure on us. The ecosystem of filmmaking does not support us here. We had to build extra cameras that are smaller and more manageable than, for example, “The Crazy Hero of Billy Lynn,” because you can not film action otherwise. We built our own studio on the set to process the huge amounts of data, built a movie theater to watch the rotated footage in 120 fps.
I hope we can share the enthusiasm with the spectators around the globe.
Ang Lee’s co-directors are not (yet) interested in 120 fps
FILMSTARTS: It was said that the film will be released in 2019. Is “Gemini Man” still science fiction?
Ang Lee: No, I think we play with human emotions and stories. Science helps us to develop imagination. I also have no idea about science, I’m just keen to see these pictures. Science is just there to help us. It is a tool for us.
I also have no idea about science, I’m just keen to see these pictures.
FILMSTARTS: Are your filmmaker buddies really interested in what you’re doing here with this new technology?
Ang Lee: Oh, not so much. [laughs] I feel pretty lonely. I think I just have to show it. Technology and finance are related. This technique is very expensive. You can not expect enthusiasm until you have shown the people nothing. I hope that I get everything right and thus pave the way for other filmmakers. But it’s also about satisfying my curiosity. I really want to see a story in this format of pictures. It’s just too exciting to ignore.
I feel pretty lonely. I think I just have to show it. Technology and finance are related.
I really want to see a story in this format of pictures. It’s just too exciting to ignore.
120 fps: Ang Lee had to change his directorial style
FILMSTARTS: How did the 120 frames per second frame rate change your directorial style over the actors?
Ang Lee: Oh, a lot has changed. I had to change my style. Usually, I dictate motivation and insist on not deviating. There is a task and it has to be fulfilled precisely. But here at “Gemini Man” you have to bring the figures even more to life. I have to give the actors more information. It is more difficult, but also more interesting. I’m still starting with the basics, the motivation we all learned. But I stop the actors to deal with the new medium and to look at the monitor, how it works – Take for Take.
I had to change my style. Usually, I dictate motivation and insist on not deviating.
German trailer for “Gemini Man”
You have to work harder, the actors too. I show the pictures to the stars and say: “That’s what you look like, that’s what you do on the screen.” [Laughs] I’m a little frightening her, reducing her comfort zone. But we are all on the same page: “Let’s try it.” They are all very good, all professionals. And they want to try something they have not done yet. As a professional, you can always fall back on it and trust what you have learned.
You have to work harder, the actors too.
FILMSTARTS: Do you think that you will return to traditional 2D filmmaking?
Ang Lee: I have to find a new religion. Traditional does not mean that it is superior. It is another medium, full of curiosity.
Traditional does not mean that it is superior.
“Gemini Man” starts on October 3, 2019 in German cinemas.
“Gemini Man” starts on October 3, 2019 in German cinemas.