Monsters, Mechs And Mayhem: Visiting The Set Of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim
One of the most impressive, amazing things found in the Pinewood soundstages was the cockpit of a Jaeger – the location where, in the movie two pilots would link in and control the metal giants. While it would have been amazing enough for them to just build the cabin on the floor of the building, it was instead built on a remote-controlled gimbal that allowed operators to move the entire set back and forth and from side to side, imitating the Jaeger moving or getting hit. It also provided a perfect set of scale. As I looked at the size of the considerably large cockpit I couldn’t help but imagine how impossibly large the machine it sat inside would have to be.
In creating the look of the various Jaegers del Toro didn’t look to any kind of pre-established pop culture designs for reference, they did look to the real world for influence. While 300 foot robots don’t actually exist in our reality, imagining them practically one can presume that they would have a militaristic-nature about them. And that’s exactly where the filmmaker and his team looked.
“I wanted to bring the language of WWII bombers and tanks,” del Toro told us during a long conversation between takes. “There are airplanes and ships that exist now that are not quite as big as a Jaeger, but almost as big as Jaeger. There are oil tankers that are the size of a Jaeger. We tried to integrate all that language to create something that doesn’t exist.”
It would have felt like an incomplete experience if we had only gotten to see the inside of the Jaegers, but on another soundstage they were happy to provide us with an inside look at a Kaiju (as disgusting as that may sound). Constructed for a scene when actors actually venture inside one of the hellish beasts, the body parts were constructed with a metal grid work, the and covered in a wet-looking, bubbly, blue squishy material meant to be organs and tissue. I wish I could make a joke about how I thought they smelt bad on the outside, but the truth is that it was mostly just paint fumes and sawdust that lingered in the air.
In one of the largest soundstages at Pinewood was the remains of what they called the Hong Kong Refuge, an underground emergency bunker that citizens are meant to flee into during a Kaiju attack. While it wasn’t that large a space we were standing in, we were told that during filming they had squeezed 300 extras on to the set with Charlie Day at the center. Speaking with the It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia star after touring the set he recounted not being very comfortable during those set-ups.
“It was really real,” Day said, driving home the director’s love of practical effects. “I was soaking wet and very cold, like the character would be, and there’s sort of just the general nervousness and tension you might feel. Being in that environment was great. And then, the set looked so real and the ceiling actually physically shook. We weren’t pretending the ceiling was shaking, they found a way to make the lights shake and have dust come down on us. It was great.”
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