Legion

Legion

This week Paul Bettany returns to the big screen this week with his apocalyptic movie Legion, it would appear that God has once again lost faith in the human race.

Veteran producer David Lancaster first read the script of Legion, a horror movie with an apocalyptic scenario, six years ago. Lancaster, co-president of Bold Films, recalls, "I knew it had strong genre appeal, but I also knew that with the right combination of script, director and cast, it had the potential to appeal to a much larger audience."

Convinced the film could be far more than a conventional fright-fest, Lancaster enlisted the help of screenwriter and visual effects wizard Scott Stewart to rewrite the script.

Intrigued by the idea, Stewart re-conceived the story as a more richly-realized, character-focused piece.

Stewart’s script also took a 'less is more' approach to the horror elements. "The original was a more explicit, ‘we’re going to show you everything,’ way of telling the story, as opposed to, ‘we’re going to keep you in the dark for a while,’" he says. "Darkness is the scariest thing. The anticipation of the scare is better than the scare itself. You want to tighten the screws all the time as a filmmaker and ratchet up the tension.

"My favorite scary movies are the ones that take their time to let things evolve, so you get invested in the characters and what they’re going through," he continues. "Then you can really deliver the goods."

While working on the story, Stewart kept what he calls 'the concept of the uncanny' in mind at all times. "It comes from Freud originally," he says. "He was defining the difference between the fantastic and the scary. A dragon is fantastic.

Dad standing in the middle of the kitchen with an axe is scary. Something familiar put in a context that makes no sense to us emotionally or logically is deeply unsettling. That’s the core conceit of Legion."

Lancaster was so impressed by Stewart’s ambitious concept for the movie, he asked him to direct
it. "Scott grasped the mythology of the story extremely well," says the producer, whose resume includes A Love Song for Bobbie Long and a co-producer credit on Bobby.

"And he executed the rewrite in an extraordinary way. I could see that he and I shared the same vision for the piece. I didn’t care that he was a first-time feature director. I believed in every aspect of what he brought to the script as a writer, and the fact that he had accomplished so much in his visual effects work made it a really exciting gamble to take."

After studying screenwriting at N.Y.U. Film School, Stewart joined Industrial Light and Magic, the legendary visual effects company established by George Lucas. "It was an incredible education, almost a film school in itself," he says. "But as a filmmaker, there were things I wanted to be able to do on my own."

Stewart and two friends then went on to found The Orphanage, which has become one of Hollywood’s pre-eminent visual effects houses, contributing to dozens of blockbusters including Ironman, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Night at the Museum and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Their concept was to be able to make original films in addition to providing special effects for other movies. Legion is, in many respects, the achievement of that dream.

"Having that background helped me pre-visualize Legion," says Stewart. "I storyboarded virtually every shot of the movie. Having done visual effects for big movies, I was not intimidated by the technical challenges.

"At the same time, coming from that world, I’m deeply suspicious of the overuse of digital effects, so I wanted to do as much practically as possible."

The completed script attracted the attention of Clint Culpepper, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Screen Gems label. "Clint is a real showman," says Stewart. "He knows what he’s on the hunt for, and he zeroed right in on this."

According to Lancaster, Culpepper was an early believer in the idea that Legion was far more than a genre film. "Clint responded very strongly to this script. He was a singular contributor to this process and I’m eternally grateful to him. With his support, we were able to reach some really fine actors who might not have been interested otherwise."

The filmmakers saw the apocalyptic setting of Legion as an opportunity to explore larger themes within a highly entertaining action-horror film. While the film is not religious in nature, it does use elements of familiar narratives to tell its tale. "Whether you grew up in a religious home or not, we live in a society that has religion at its core," Stewart points out.

"The movie isn’t attempting to say anything about particular beliefs. It is about the idea of faith, using things that are familiar to us from Judeo-Christian ideology as a way to tell the story. No matter what your bent is philosophically, you can bring that to this movie."

If it seems provocative, that’s what Stewart intends. "The film pushes buttons and it’s meant to push buttons," he says. "I hope it’s somewhat controversial. In the end, it’s meant to be entertaining, but I hope it’s thought provoking as well. That’s what takes it out of the realm of the standard thriller."

The film’s characters represent a cross-section of America: A man on his way to a custody hearing for his child, a married couple struggling with their teenage daughter, a young woman about to have a baby she never wanted.

"The characters are surrounded by a comforting normalcy," says Stewart. "Then, layer by layer, those comforts are stripped away. The sense that everything is okay starts to dissipate. The TV goes out, then the radio.

"Something is happening, slowly but surely. A little old lady, a minivan family, the ice cream man all these very familiar things take on new significance. The world’s gotten a little sideways."

With his long-planned film ready to go into theaters, Lancaster wants to assure audiences that Legion delivers thrills up there with the best of its genre. "I love to make movies," says the producer.

"This one brings together more of the elements of drama and spectacle and production value than I’ve ever experienced. We’ve got great actors, plus visual effects and fight sequences and big action sequences with lots of moving parts and hundreds of extras.

"With all of the different elements that had to be combined, it was a particularly wonderful project for me." 

Legion is released 5th March.

This week Paul Bettany returns to the big screen this week with his apocalyptic movie Legion, it would appear that God has once again lost faith in the human race.

Veteran producer David Lancaster first read the script of Legion, a horror movie with an apocalyptic scenario, six years ago. Lancaster, co-president of Bold Films, recalls, "I knew it had strong genre appeal, but I also knew that with the right combination of script, director and cast, it had the potential to appeal to a much larger audience."

Convinced the film could be far more than a conventional fright-fest, Lancaster enlisted the help of screenwriter and visual effects wizard Scott Stewart to rewrite the script.

Intrigued by the idea, Stewart re-conceived the story as a more richly-realized, character-focused piece.

Stewart’s script also took a 'less is more' approach to the horror elements. "The original was a more explicit, ‘we’re going to show you everything,’ way of telling the story, as opposed to, ‘we’re going to keep you in the dark for a while,’" he says. "Darkness is the scariest thing. The anticipation of the scare is better than the scare itself. You want to tighten the screws all the time as a filmmaker and ratchet up the tension.

"My favorite scary movies are the ones that take their time to let things evolve, so you get invested in the characters and what they’re going through," he continues. "Then you can really deliver the goods."

While working on the story, Stewart kept what he calls 'the concept of the uncanny' in mind at all times. "It comes from Freud originally," he says. "He was defining the difference between the fantastic and the scary. A dragon is fantastic.

Dad standing in the middle of the kitchen with an axe is scary. Something familiar put in a context that makes no sense to us emotionally or logically is deeply unsettling. That’s the core conceit of Legion."

Lancaster was so impressed by Stewart’s ambitious concept for the movie, he asked him to direct
it. "Scott grasped the mythology of the story extremely well," says the producer, whose resume includes A Love Song for Bobbie Long and a co-producer credit on Bobby.

"And he executed the rewrite in an extraordinary way. I could see that he and I shared the same vision for the piece. I didn’t care that he was a first-time feature director. I believed in every aspect of what he brought to the script as a writer, and the fact that he had accomplished so much in his visual effects work made it a really exciting gamble to take."

After studying screenwriting at N.Y.U. Film School, Stewart joined Industrial Light and Magic, the legendary visual effects company established by George Lucas. "It was an incredible education, almost a film school in itself," he says. "But as a filmmaker, there were things I wanted to be able to do on my own."

Stewart and two friends then went on to found The Orphanage, which has become one of Hollywood’s pre-eminent visual effects houses, contributing to dozens of blockbusters including Ironman, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Night at the Museum and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Their concept was to be able to make original films in addition to providing special effects for other movies. Legion is, in many respects, the achievement of that dream.

"Having that background helped me pre-visualize Legion," says Stewart. "I storyboarded virtually every shot of the movie. Having done visual effects for big movies, I was not intimidated by the technical challenges.

"At the same time, coming from that world, I’m deeply suspicious of the overuse of digital effects, so I wanted to do as much practically as possible."

The completed script attracted the attention of Clint Culpepper, president of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Screen Gems label. "Clint is a real showman," says Stewart. "He knows what he’s on the hunt for, and he zeroed right in on this."

According to Lancaster, Culpepper was an early believer in the idea that Legion was far more than a genre film. "Clint responded very strongly to this script. He was a singular contributor to this process and I’m eternally grateful to him. With his support, we were able to reach some really fine actors who might not have been interested otherwise."


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