Back in November I posted the news that Joshua Jackson (Fringe) was going to star in the remake of the classic Gerry Anderson TV show, UFO, as pilot Paul Foster.
Now director Matthew Gratzner has been talking about other characters being cast and the fact that it may be the beginning of a trilogy.
“For the character of Virginia Lake, “ says Gratzner. “we’ve talked to Ali Larter, who’s very interested. I’ve actually met with her, and I think she would be a great addition to the picture. Lake is very strong and obviously also very feminine, and Ali Larter definitely encompasses that.”
Other characters coming back for the remake include Lt. Ellis and SHADO’s hard-nosed purse-keeper General Henderson, memorably played in the original by Grant Taylor. Gratzner is keeping a SHADO-style secrecy over the pivotal casting of Cmdr. Straker and Lt. Ellis, probably the two most iconic figures from the original show.
“Ellis? That’s a tough one. We have four actresses right now that we’re looking at, and it ranges from what you’d expect to something perhaps not as typical. But it’s nothing outrageous – we’re certainly not going to turn round and say ‘Okay, Ellis is a man now’! It’s a tough call, because both Straker and Ellis are two characters who really encompass the core of the show. Also, there no question the distributor will definitely have a say in casting.”
“There are three movies planned. The first script is completed, and number two and number three are treatments – and numbers two and three are even more spectacular!.”
“My biggest goal for this is firstly to not alienate the fans of the original show. We’re not picking up where the series left off – we are starting from the very beginning. We really take the franchise seriously, unlike a film such as Thunderbirds, where they were saying ‘here’s a franchise that was great and everybody loved it, now let’s put a whole new spin on it…’. We’re not doing that. There’s a reason UFO has a following, there’s a reason that Gerry Anderson has a following, and for us to overlook that or take that for granted would be foolish.“
The alien invaders in the original were particularly terrifying because their true shape, if any, was never revealed to us. The space-suited figures that landed on Earth to steal our organs were themselves semi-zombified abductees from previous sorties, now controlled by alien intelligence.
“In terms of motivation,” Gratzner says, of the new movie. “the aliens are still hunting people for purposes of organ-harvesting. That hasn’t changed. As to what the aliens are, that I don’t want to give away now. But I will tell you this – they’re not creatures or monsters. It’s not like you’re going to see the aliens from District 9 or the Alien series. They are definitely humanoid in nature.”
The best news is that it looks as if SHADO will once again be based in London like the original show.
“In the original script,” the director confesses. “[The setting] was going to be in Hollywood, California. But I moved it to London. I’m trying to be as true to the show as possible. We are shooting principal photography – most of the film – in London. When you think of the film industry, you think of Hollywood, of course. But there was a unique and, to be frank, inconspicuous nature of having SHADO in London. London’s not the centre of all film, and I liked the idea that it worked out that way. It was just too much of a leap from the original show to bring it to Hollywood.”
Which London studio Gratzner’s production chooses is a more relevant question for UFO than for most movies, for the studio itself is likely to appear in the movie as a character: in Gerry Anderson’s original, both MGM British Studios in Boreham Wood and Elstree Studios stood in for the fictional Harlington-Straker film studios that serve as a cover for SHADO.
“Right now we’re looking at Pinewood.” Gratzner says. “we are also looking at Shepperton. That hasn’t been locked, and it’s actually still pretty early on.
“Some of the visual effects are also going to be done in London, but the bulk of the post-work will be done in the United States. Since my goal is to do a lot of the visual effects in the world of practical effects and miniatures, we’re doing quite a bit of it at New Deal.” New Deal Studios is one of the few remaining VFX companies who still does digital, physical and miniature effects in-house.
All in all it is sounding very good. Read the rest of the interview where he talks about the effects, casting and purple hair.
Are you looking forward to the UFO film?