Lucasfilm General Manager Explains Why The Perfect Storm With George Clooney Was Such An Important Movie

George Clooney and other Perfect Storm cast members grouped together on boat
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Formed in 1975, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), a division of the production company Lucasfilm, has been a major player in the realm of visual effects. From what was shown off in the first three Star Wars movies to the game-changing work done on Jurassic Park, if you’ve watched an effects-heavy blockbuster from the last several decades, there’s a decent chance that ILM worked on it in some form or fashion. For Lynwen Brennan, executive vice president and general manager of Lucasfilm, she sees the George Clooney-led The Perfect Storm as a movie that wasn’t just important for the company, but VFX history overall.

I had the opportunity to speak with Lynwen Brennan as part of the press event for the docuseries Light & Magic, which explores ILM’s origins and its impact on the film industry., and can be watched in its entirety with a Disney+ subscription now. During our chat, I asked Brennan what she considered to be ILM’s greatest technical achievement, whether that be a character, creature, ship or simply a general effect. She started off by saying the following:

There's so many and it's constantly evolving and constantly changing. My easiest answer to that is the last one we did because every day in this job, we start at the beginning thinking, ‘How we're gonna do that?’ Because everything that comes to us is really about solving a story problem or getting something on the screen that's in a director's head, but we have no way of doing it. My favorite is the one that we’ve just done, because then you have that euphoria of knowing that you pulled it off. Over the time, I think often it's the ones that we know were the hardest to get done. So whether that be the water in Perfect Storm, because if you think at the time that we were doing Perfect Storm, digital water wasn't really a thing. And we took on a film where digital water was the main character in the film and had to do it in a believable way. Everybody knows what water looks like. They don't necessarily know what a monster looks like. So you can get a lot away with a lot more with a monster.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Perfect Storm, the movie (which some might consider to be one of George Clooney’s best) was based off of the real-life story of the Andrea Gail, a commercial fishing ship that was lost at sea during the 1991 Perfect Storm. Naturally since one can’t recreate such conditions in real life, it was up to the minds at Lucasfilm to convincingly bring to life that violent water in a digital setting, and make it work with the footage shot by director Wolfgang Peterson and his team.Along with George Clooney, The Perfect Storm’s ensemble cast included Mark Wahlberg, John C. Reilly, Dian Lane and William Fichtner, The Perfect Storm was one of six movies released in 2000 that ILM worked on, the others being Mission to Mars, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Space Cowboys, Pollock And Pay It Forward.

More than two decades after The Perfect Storm’s release Lynwen Brennan is still impressed with how well the digital water turned out in the movie, but that isn’t all she had to say about the ILM achievements that stick in her head. She continued:

So that's one that comes to mind, that feeling of relief from when we actually completed the work on that, to our current work in some of the digital human work we're doing. And then Stagecraft is another one where when we agreed to take that on at a budget, and within a time, we didn't know whether we were gonna be able to put it off. To be able to walk into that Volume and have your brain be so fooled, it doesn't cease to astound me. So that's my current favorite, anything that we're doing on Stagecraft, because it really is quite remarkable how they're pushing that every single series.

StageCraft is the on-set virtual production technology comprised of video walls that was initially developed for the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, and has since been used on productions not only set in a galaxy far, far away, but also Marvel movies like Thor: Love and Thunder and the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and DC movies like The Batman and the upcoming Black Adam. These facilities, a.k.a. “volumes,” have already made waves (to borrow from The Perfect Storm) in the visual effects industry, and even known how StageCraft came together, Lynwen Brennan continues to be astounded by just what this technology can do. 

The next Lucasfilm production coming up is the Star Wars series Andor, and upcoming 2022 movies that feature ILM’s work include Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way for Water. For all the latest on film and TV happenings, keep your eyes peeled on CinemaBlend.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.