Montreal Gazette, January 13, 2004
Ice age hit Montreal studio
The U.S. disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow is about the apocalyptic effects of global warming, so it seems logical it was filmed in our cold, snowy city. But filmmakers ended up faking the extreme elements indoors.
It seems fitting The Day After Tomorrow was filmed almost entirely in Montreal. The $125-million U.S. disaster epic, which is expected to be a Hollywood summer blockbuster, is about what happens when global warming wreaks havoc with the world's weather systems. The latest film from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich gives a taste of life in North America after the arrival of a new Ice Age - a story particularly well suited to icy, chilly Montreal.
The 20th Century Fox production features monster floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, freak storms and, in a new challenge for the special-effects wizards, a giant ice storm that envelopes most of North America. Much of the action takes place in an ice- and snow-covered Manhattan, and that's the image showcased on the film's Web site (www.TheDayAfterTomorrow.com).
That picture of snowy, icy New York looks not that different from the way our city's looked over the past six weeks.
So it's not hard to see why Emmerich - the box-office kingpin responsible for The Patriot and Godzilla - decided to shoot The Day After Tomorrow 'round these parts.
The film, which stars Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sela Ward, was filmed in Montreal between November 2002 and March of last year.
The odd twist, though, is they shot almost all the winter footage indoors, in the warm, comfy confines of Mel's Cité du Cinéma studio in the Technopark just off the Bonaventure expressway.
"We've shot most of our exteriors inside, re-creating the snow and ice, and the weather, because we had more control, and, frankly, it looks more real", said Day After Tomorrow producer Mark Gordon, in an interview on the set at Mel's last spring.
"Also, it would've taken a lot more time to do it outside. We have shot outside with very cold weather, but not a lot. We originally thought we were coming here for the weather but what we realized was that at the end of the day, from a creative stand-point, we were better off re-creating it (inside). To have the control and let us make it look the way we wanted it to look. And a lot of this movie is visual effects, which will create a lot of the extreme weather."
In the film, due in theatres around the globe May 28, Quaid plays a climatologist trying to find a way of stopping the apocalyptic weather. At the same time, he's racing across the U.S. toward New York City to attempt to save his son, played by Gyllenhaal, who is stranded there after the Big Apple is frozen by the new ice age. Ward plays Quaid's wife.
During his lunch break on one of the final days of shooting last spring, Emmerich said making The Day After Tomorrow has been a tough slog and it would've been even harder if they'd been shooting on the streets of Montreal at well-below-zero temperatures.
"With really low temperatures and the wind machines going, the actors would've had frost-bite after one scene", Emmerich said.
The snow machines were on overdrive on the set that day, blowing fake snowflakes all over an awe-inspiring set, re-creating a street in Manhattan under ice attack. Most of the street was taken up by a massive, life-size replica of a giant Russian cargo ship that had been pushed into the middle of the city by the ice surge and had smashed right into the side of an apartment building.
Emmerich spent the day working under a makeshift tent that protected him from the swirling snow. Most of the crew members were wearing surgical masks to protect them from inhaling the phony snow.
Emmerich is known for rather mindless popcorn flicks like Stargate and Godzilla . But he claims what drew him to The Day After Tomorrow was the chance to make a film about the dangers of global warming.
"I feel good about doing a movie that warns about the things that we're doing to our planet", Emmerich said. "This reaches more people than a documentary or a newspaper article."
But the German-born filmmaker concedes The Day After Tomorrow is still an action-packed slice of Hollywood entertainment.
"I don't believe in message films. If you have a message, don't make movies. But it has a theme and that theme is: 'If you f--- with nature, nature will strike back.' It also shows the heroism of people who love each other and overcome nature. So it's a classic disaster movie, in that sense. It's about normal people like you and me in deep trouble and they have to get out of it."
The Day After Tomorrow opens May 28.