Written by on May 29, 2014. Posted in Production News

Tom Cruise brings alien warfare to London filming sci-fi movie Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise filmed his new sci-fi feature Edge of Tomorrow entirely on location in London, basing the production at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden. The film follows Cruise’s initially hapless spin doctor trapped in a time loop in the middle of a brutal alien invasion.

Edge of Tomorrow became the first production to film at Leavesden following Warner Bros’ major refurbishment of the site.

The new facility offers a million square feet of stage space, plus a 100-acre back lot and the production team built nearly 50 sets over the course of the shoot. These included a recreation of part of Heathrow Airport and also iconic Parisian locations such as art gallery La Louvre and Place de la Concorde.

Much of the film’s alien battle footage takes place on a beach with visuals partly influenced by Steven Spielberg’s depiction of the D-Day Landings of World War II in his seminal 1999 war movie Saving Private Ryan.

The Edge of Tomorrow production team built the beach on the Leavesden back lot, a four-month-long process that involved bulldozing the existing space and shipping in 1,300 tons of sand. An expansive, 1,800-foot green screen was wrapped around the set for the visual effects elements to be added in post.

“We were probably on that beach for 35 days of the shoot and the last day was right before Christmas,” recalls director Doug Liman: “Now, England is rainy – we all know that – but we showed up and our beach was covered in snow. Jeff Silver, our incredible line producer, turned to me and said, ‘Maybe Mother Nature is telling us it’s time to move on from the beach.’”

Filming also ventured outside Leavesden, with parts of south-east England used for visual effects plates shots. However, the most eye-catching set piece involved closing central London landmark Trafalgar Square for several hours to film a sequence where Cruise arrives in the city by helicopter.

“Tom said: ‘Wouldn’t it be a cool way to open the film with a helicopter flying over the Thames and landing in Trafalgar Square?’” explains Producer Erwin Stoff: “At that point, I looked over to our Location Manager, Sue Quinn, who had gone pale.”

Landing a helicopter in Trafalgar Square had never been done before for a film production, but the team negotiated with multiple London agencies including the Mayor’s Office, the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and The Westminster Council.

On the day of the shoot they switched off Trafalgar Square’s fountains and filmed the helicopter arrival with nearly a dozen different cameras.

“Shutting Trafalgar Square down and landing a massive Royal Air Force helicopter was one of those moments where you’re like a kid again,” Liman comments.

“From a technical point of view, it was by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my career, because we had three hours to do everything, no ability to rehearse it on-site, and once it’s hovering on the ground, it renders any form of communication impossible because it’s so loud.

“We only had that morning, so what you get is what you get. If you need one more minute you’re never getting it. I thought to myself: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - make the most of it.’”

(Images: Warner Bros Pictures)


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