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The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) in our magazines

THE MOVIE: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Keanu Reeves • Jennifer Connelly • Jon Hamm • Jaden Smith
DIRECTOR: Scott Derrickson

Keanu Reeves and a mysterious sphere THE CONCEPT:
In a reinvention of the 1951 Science Fiction classic, renowned scientist Dr Helen Benson (Connelly) finds herself face to face with alien Klaatu (Reeves), who travels across the universe to warn of an impending global crisis. When the extraterrestrial is treated as hostile by government officials, and his request to address world leaders is denied, Helen and her estranged stepson Jacob (Smith) quickly discover the deadly ramifications of Klaatu’s claim to be a ‘friend to the Earth.’

U.S. RELEASE: December 12 2008, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13


SCOTT DERRICKSON on the decision to remake such a classic:
Scott Derrickson and Keanu Reeves“Twentieth Century Fox wanted to do a remake. I was the first of the people to sign on to doing it. When I was given the script I was a bit skeptical. I love the original very much. The screenplay certainly needed work, but I was stuck by the idea that updating this movie had tremendous value. I loved the idea of being able to tell, basically, the same story but bring in these new social issues that we have now. It's been 57 years since the first one and you'd better have a good reason to re-make a classic film, but I think there is something different about this film as opposed to other classics which are so much more known by the general movie-going audience.”

“I had the same question you had and then I heard that answer and I went, ‘Okay, It would be fun to play an alien and it’s a worthwhile story,’ and that’s when I came onboard. The interesting side of the role was that it starts alien then becomes quite Human.”

“It became an interesting conversation that Keanu and I had quite a bit during the making of the movie, is to what degree is he Human? He says his body is Human but where does the body end and the mind begin and vice-versa?”

JENNIFER CONNELLY on the responsibility she felt of the fate of the world being on her character’s shoulders:
Jennifer Connelly“It felt like a huge responsibility but I think it's really clever what Scott did. It's not just Helen. It's not just on my shoulders in reality. I think the relationship between Helen and Jacob is employed in a different way than it is in the original film. It really functions like a little microchasm of human nature; how we are treating each other. They're sort of in conflict and there's a bit of a crisis and there's a reconciliation; and they each take responsibility and then there's a movement towards a resolution and Klaatu observes this. I liked Patricia Neal's character in the original; that she is open-minded and she's a very strong, free-thinking individual. I thought that was important to carry over; that bravery, those qualities, to be a Human without prejudice, without bias, was really essential.”

REEVES on how he created the character:
“It really came to me through the obligations of the character in the story. It was in the script. That's really where I worked from [on] the character. There are certain cues; when he's born and the first time he starts to speak, he tries to drink a glass of water and says his body is going to take some getting used to. It was just the concept of the separation of his consciousness and his body. I just approached it like any other role.”

DERRICKSON on why there was no flying saucer for Klaatu:
“I think you need to respect the original film and try and figure out what made it great and what can you take from the original to a modern audience that will work for them. In watching the flying saucer, from the original, land in Washington DC, what really hit me was the precedent that that set for spacecrafts represented in science fiction cinema. I loved the idea of trying to develop an alien technology that came from a completely different trajectory altogether and came from a completely different tradition and this was something I had discussed with the art department and everything. The idea was that this was a species that had a technology that was essentially more ecological and biologically-based and that's why the ship looks the way that it does.”

REEVES on why he chooses to do so many sci-fi roles:
“I love the genre and I approach it like any other film, I guess is the short answer. I think science fiction provides great storytelling opportunities. I've just, in the past, had the fortune to be part of good stories in science fiction genre films.”

Jaden Smith“Working with Jaden was fantastic. I think it's really clear that he has a lot to offer. I think he did a great job. As I mentioned, it was a complex relationship and I think that's a lot of nuance to ask of someone his age. I think he did it beautifully and he even seemed to have a good time doing it, which was a relief.”

DERRICKSON on the decision about the look for Gort and using nano-technology with the robot:
“The nano-technology was in the script which I thought was interesting. There was no real description of him in the screenplay and we started down the wrong path, honestly. I looked at the original and thought what things can I bring from the original to a modern movie that audiences who don't know this film will still appreciate? I just couldn't quite make sense of why this thing would be in human form and it certainly can't look like this tin robot from the original. So we spent a lot of time designing fantastic, alien monster creature things that got increasingly ridiculous. Jeff Okun, our Visual Effects Supervisor, said, 'Why aren't we just making it look like Gort?' And it was one of those moments I was like, 'Oh, God'. I didn't want to acknowledge how dumb I felt when he said that. It was like, 'Okay, you're right. We need to make it look and feel like the original somehow. But it needs to have the impact and the scale and magnitude that a modern audience will find satisfying.’ So, we basically tried to find the best blend of that.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #701, December 2008 cover

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