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January 01,2012
Melanie Jo   /   0 Comments   •   Headlines & Rumors The Darkest Hour

Battling invading aliens might actually have been less difficult than being a part of The Darkest Hour film shoot. The 3D sci-fi action film was the victim of bad timing when the production had to be shut down for a while as devastating fires raged in Moscow, coating the city and the surrounding area in smoke and ashes, and ultimately making it too dangerous to continue shooting the film.

The fires were eventually brought under control and work on The Darkest Hour was completed, but not without some footage ruined do to smoke showing up in scenes. And in our exclusive interview with two of the film’s stars – Max Minghella and Joel Kinnaman – we find out what it was like to actually be on the set while Russia was burning, working on a 3D project, and the appeal of an alien invasion film.

Exclusive Max Minghella and Joel Kinnaman The Darkest Hour Interview

What are the challenges of working on a film in which so much CG work is done after the fact and you aren’t acting opposite anything?
Joel Kinnaman: “It’s the power of imagination. I don’t think there have been many alien movies where the actors have actually seen the aliens.” [laughing]

Max Minghella: “That was a good answer.”

Joel Kinnaman: “Being an actor in movies is a lot about the power of your imagination and making the circumstance real to you so the audience will feel that it’s real.”

Max Minghella: “It would be really nice for us to pretend it’s a very difficult thing, a really complicated challenge, but the reality is it’s actually not very different than shooting a movie normally. Even when you’re doing a scene about two people are talking in a room, so many of the elements are invented that the nature of how it’s put together is so much imagination. [Laughing] We like to pretend that we are more accomplished than we are. It’s not so different.”

What was actually present on the set that you were reacting to?
Max Minghella: “There were tennis balls that we had to act to. ”

And you have to act frightened of a tennis ball. That takes some skill.
Joel Kinnaman: “And tripods. Tripods can be scary though.”

What is the appeal overall of an alien film?
Joel Kinnaman: “I think it’s one of those great unknowns. We don’t know why we are here and the context of our role in the universe, and the thought of an infinite universe. It’s something the human mind can’t really grasp. It’s statistically impossible that there’s not life on other planets. There has been so many sightings just recently in London. In China there was an airport that was shut down for three days because there was this hovering object above it that hasn’t been explained. I’m pretty sure that there has been some visitors and that we’re not really being told what’s going on.”

“I think it’s just something that’s really fascinating for a lot of people. It’s one of those things that you feel really small and humble when thinking about. That some other intelligent life form is able to come here puts us automatically at a disadvantage because they’re the ones that obviously have the technology that can come here. It’s something that I think we are both afraid and fascinated about it. It’s very deep-rooted in the human nature.”

Did you think about it more when you were working in the film? Where you actually ever thinking about aliens prior to this?
Joel Kinnaman: [Laughing] “I think about aliens every day. Yeah, every day of my life…no, not really.”

Max Minghella: “What is so unique, I think, and so appealing in the script is the aliens are so grounded in kind of a realistic idea. That’s what I thought was so cool about it. This movie is very different. The idea between how they function and how they attack and how they think, it’s all sort of feasible.”

How do your characters play into the whole story of this alien invasion?
Max Minghella: “Emile [Hirsch] and I play two guys who are going to Moscow to kind of wrap up a business deal that we are excited about. Joel is going to be there to help us wrap it up.”

Joel Kinnaman: “I’m kind of their liaison or their partner on the ground, and I just f–k the whole thing up.”

Max Minghella: “He screws us over pretty badly.”

Joel Kinnaman: “I steal their idea. And then they’re at a nightclub checking out this hot girl who I start talking to, so they are really, really angry with me. And then the aliens come.”

And you two seem so friendly now.
Joel Kinnaman: [Laughing] “It was actually a really good shoot. All these extreme circumstances, I think, just made us bond even more and I think some of that really seeps into the movie.”

Max Minghella: It was a tiny cast. It’s five people for four months of shooting and we basically became a family.”

Joel Kinnaman: “Yes.”

Given that it was shot in 3D, did that affect anything you did acting-wise? Were you told to do any action or reaction bigger than you might have done it in the traditional format?
Max Minghella: “It’s slower. It’s a longer break between set ups, which I find a little tricky because I’m not a trained actor so I like kind of keeping in the energy of it. There were a lot of times when we stopped because of it and took a break.”

Joel Kinnaman: “It’s technically demanding to shoot in 3-D. It’s an extra element. Also, just the size of the cameras. They look like these Transformers monsters; they are incredibly big, many of them. When you’re shooting scenes and the eye line is close to the camera, you can’t see the person that you’re acting with. There are a lot of small, technical difficulties you have to adjust to, but it’s not more than you have to adjust in different ways for different visions.”

Does the camera distract you? Are you ever taken out of a scene you’re working on because you see the camera?
Joel Kinnaman: “No. That’s something you have to deal with at an early with acting, that there is a camera there. It doesn’t really matter that it’s that big.”

So tell me about working in Russia? What was that like?
Joel Kinnaman: “I thought it was a lot of fun. Moscow was just a crazy city to be in.”

Crazy how?
Joel Kinnaman: “It’s so weird and it’s filled with so much contrast. There are so many incredibly rich people and so many really poor people. It’s so recent since the wall fell – what was it, ’85? – and people our age were told that Russia was the center of the world and everything was so perfect, and obviously it wasn’t. You can still really feel that history laying down on it.”

Are they really welcoming to Hollywood film crews that invade their area?
Max Minghella: “Timur produced the movie and I think he was incredibly helpful in bridging that cultural gap. We were shooting in the hottest summer in 1,000 years in Russia. We were hit by smoke fires the size of California. The circumstances of our shoot became so extreme and dramatic that I think it kind of helped us because we were shooting in extreme and dramatic circumstances.”

That helped you with the smoke and everything else?
Max Minghella: “It was hard when we were doing it, but I think looking back it probably does help in the same way that your wardrobe and makeup can help you sell things without you having to talk about them. I think probably the strain that we were under as actors was communicated without us having to see that.”

How much did the fires press in on you? Was the smoke right there?
Max Minghella: “Yeah. You couldn’t see the end of your hotel hallway.”

That’s crazy.
Joel Kinnaman: “The whole city was totally engulfed in this white, thick, milky fire smoke.”

Max Minghella: “I never really understood how self-involved the U.S. news media is until I went through this thing because I came home and nobody even knew it had even happened. It was such a gigantic thing; it was such an extreme event.”

Joel Kinnaman: “It was also fascinating to be part of a big cover up because of what was going on there. The Russian authorities, they didn’t allow any of the hospitals to report the deaths to be connected to the smoke and fires.”

Why?
Joel Kinnaman: “Because it was a huge malfunction of the Russian fire department and emergency services. They couldn’t put out these fires and they don’t want to be blamed for it, or that they can’t take care of their country. After five days I was feeling that I couldn’t breath and almost panicked, and I was in an air-conditioned room and most of the people in Moscow do not have air conditioning. It was so hot that they had to have their windows open. I was like, ‘Old people have to be dying now.'”

And they weren’t evacuating?
Joel Kinnaman: “No. Then they were coming out with these reports where doctors were writing on blogs saying, ‘We’re not allowed to say anything but the morgues are overfilled and we are stacking corpses in places where we can’t cool them down.’ It was probably 10, 15 thousand people died in these two weeks.”

The only way I knew about it was that your film production shut down and that’s the only mention I heard of a fire there.
Max Minghella: “That’s true. The only reason any of my family knew was because of Deadline Hollywood. I think that says something about our news coverage here.”

It must have been really physically challenging project, not only with the fire but all the action you’re doing. So, did you have to run around in the smoke?
Joel Kinnaman: “Yes, there was five days we were shooting where the whole crew was wearing gas masks. We couldn’t wear that.”

They should have built that into the story.
Joel Kinnaman: “Right.”

Max Minghella: “There was talk about that. You can see some of the smoke.”

Joel Kinnaman: “It’s in the studio. It looks like there is this fog in the studio, and that was the actual fire smoke.”

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