Break­ing FX ground

Steven Spiel­berg pushes the Cg envelope again with The BFG

Empire (UK) - - PREMIERE - Ian Freer

t’s a big job,” says steven spiel­berg, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, about The BFG. “there are thou­sands of ef­fects shots. i think it’s the most am­bi­tious mo­tion cap­ture of a char­ac­ter that any film has ever done.” just one look at Mark Ry­lance, work­ing with spiel­berg again so soon af­ter bag­ging the best sup­port­ing ac­tor os­car for Bridge Of Spies, con­firms that. as the tow­er­ing bean­pole at the heart of Roald Dahl’s clas­sic 1982 chil­dren’s book, this is Ry­lance as you’ve never seen him be­fore. this is a Ry­lance big enough to give Frank stal­lone, who fa­mously railed against the bri­tish ac­tor pip­ping his big brother sly to that os­car, pause for thought. this is a Ry­lance al­most en­tirely com­posed of pix­els.

The BFG — big Friendly gi­ant if we’re be­ing for­mal — is squarely in spiel­berg’s sweet spot, us­ing cut­tingedge ef­fects in the ser­vice of a small re­la­tion­ship pic­ture. it starts with the gi­ant do­ing some­thing dis­tinctly un­friendly by snatch­ing young so­phie (Ruby barn­hill) from a Lon­don or­phan­age and whisk­ing her off to gi­ant Coun­try. but a fast friend­ship forms, mean­ing the emo­tional weight of the film re­lies on the be­liev­abil­ity of the VFX as much as the per­for­mances.

“steven was very keen on hav­ing the ac­tors in the same space, even though Mark Ry­lance would be 24 feet tall,” says pro­ducer Frank Marshall. “a simul­cam en­abled him to see on a mon­i­tor what it is go­ing to look like. it’s two sep­a­rate cam­eras that put bfg and so­phie to­gether in the same shot. it was a big leap for­ward in putting Cg char­ac­ters into the real world.”

but it was not just the ti­tle char­ac­ter who gave spiel­berg night­mares. For the di­rec­tor, the “tough­est part” came with the cre­ation of the phan­tas­magoric lands of gi­ant Coun­try and Dream Coun­try, where the dreams of the world are har­vested. “We had to cre­ate ev­ery­thing from scratch,” says spiel­berg. “None of it is real… but it looks real.” What does a real land of dreams look like? it’s not long un­til we find out.

The BFG is out on July 22.

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