Fil-Am Hollywood honcho Dean Devlin has stepped a bit outside his comfort zone and made his feature film directorial debut with the suspense sci-fi thriller “Geostorm”, starring an international array of Hollywood stars led by Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Andy Garcia and Ed Harris, among others.
While “Geostorm” is still in theaters, Devlin in post-production on his second feature directorial effort, “Bad Samaritan,” starring David Tennant, and is also in post-production on the fourth season of the TNT hit series “The Librarians,” which premiered in 2014 as the most watched cable debut of that year.
Over the last twenty years, Devlin has co-written and produced some of the most successful feature films of all time. He co-wrote and produced “Stargate,” “Godzilla,” and “Independence Day,” which grossed more than $800 million worldwide, and recently produced the sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence.”
For “Geostorm”, Devlin also wears a couple of other hats as he also wrote the script with Paul Guyot and he is also co-producing it.
“When my daughter was about 6 years old, she started learning about climate change and she very naively asked me, ‘Daddy, why can’t we just build a machine that fixes this?’,” Devlin said in an interview. “I tried to engage her in discussing geo-engineering and the complexities of how hard it is to accomplish and the moral questions on what we should be doing of what we should not be doing, I realized that the best way to explain it to her is through a bedtime story.”
That question sparked all these ideas in his mind about what would happen if we did build just such a machine. Then more questions came, one after the other. And what if something went horribly wrong? What if we wait too long to deal with extreme climate change? What if we don’t? What if we could create this amazing machine to control the weather around the entire planet? And what would we do if it went rogue?”
Essentially, the concept of a geostorm, in the context of the film, is that the planet is being protected by a massive array of satellites and if the satellites go rogue, they can actually start a storm instead of prevent them. And if the satellites systematically fail, that storm can continue to grow and it can cover the entire planet.
As writer/producer/director Devlin imagines a world in which global political cooperation and a vast network of weather-controlling satellites installed in space have rendered natural disasters a thing of the past.
“At the heart of ‘Geostorm’ is a political thriller, it’s a whodunit. In the film, someone is murdered and there is a big effort to figure out who did it and why. The consequences of this political thriller, however is a disaster on a worldwide scale,” Devlin added.
Asked about the advantages (or disadvantages) of his multiple roles in the film, Devlin paused and replied, “If you’ve written it, you know about the story you want to tell. The challenge is you have to disrespect the script sometimes and throw the script away and face the challenges of what’s happening on the set at that moment, divorce yourself.”
“Tom Hanks once said that the reason it is difficult to make a great movie is that you have to make a great movie three times, you have to write one, shoot one and edit one. All three of those experiences have to be great. The biggest challenge of doing all those three challenges is being able to separate each section, the advantage is you have a lot of information.”
Devlin also heaped praises on his cast, an international group of actors meant to represent the global scale of geostorms.
One of the first discussions with respect to casting the film, Devlin said, centered on the fact that global warming is a global concern.
“We wanted to make a movie that would speak to the whole world, with a truly international cast to reflect it,” he said.
Among the film’s players are actors from all over, including Scottish-born Gerard
Butler, the UK’s Jim Sturgess, Australian Abbie Cornish, Mexico’s Eugenio Derbez, Romanian Alexandra Maria Lara, Germany’s Zazie Beetz, Nigerian Adepero Oduye, Egypt’s Amr Waked, Irish-born Robert Sheehan, Cuban Andy Garcia, and the USA’s Ed Harris, Talitha Bateman and Daniel Wu, the latter being a first-generation American of Shanghainese descent.
“We got lucky with the casting. When you set out to do a movie, you have a wish list of people you want in the movie and most of the time, you don’t get them,” he said laughing. “This cast was just a blessing in every sense.”
“I have always wanted to work with Ed Harris my whole career and suddenly to be on set with him, I was like a stammering little fan because he is an icon. Gerald Butler is a storm, he literally is a storm of energy. It is a giant blessing on the set, because it is tiring making a movie, the hours are long and it is exhausting and then this storm comes to set and he is just full of energy.”
From the cast to the set, the film’s producers made sure that everything was credible, including their recreation of the International Space Station, completed by NASA in 2000 after 12 years of construction in orbit, utilizing parts manufactured on Earth and shuttled to the site, which today maintains a distance of about
250 miles above the planet as it circles it approximately 15 times each day.
“We wanted to have a set that had so many twists and turns in it that you can get lost inside of it. It was a remarkable set and it always blows my mind on movies when you see these amazing sets and you think in a few weeks, they’d be gone. I wish I had a bigger backyard so I can just say ‘Put that in my house!’,” Devlin shared.
Devlin added, “When the guys from NASA came in early on to look at the artwork and to check out our designs for the sets, I had my heart in my throat. It was important to me that we have their stamp of approval, and I trust Kirk’s work implicitly, but when they told us how close we were to reality, I was floored nonetheless!”
The whole of the ISS sets for “Geostorm” were accommodated by five adjoining soundstages at New Orleans’ Big Easy Studios, situated on a portion of an actual NASA manufacturing plant on the city’s eastside, the Michoud Assembly Facility.
As someone who grew up watching fun sci-fi films, Devlin said he hopes the film gets to resonate with fans who are looking for a great time at the movies.
“The audience can expect a big, wild, crazy fun adventure. This is a throwback to the kind of big popcorn movies that I fell in love with that I wanted to make, and have made,” he said. “But beyond that, there is an underlying message in what is otherwise a big, giant popcorn adventure.”