MONTREAL (CP) If the cold-hearted cast of Snakes On A Plane could talk they would probably tell you not to believe all the hyssssssssteria surrounding the movie.
The film, which stars Samuel L. Jackson, slithers into movie theatres this Friday with the help of a lot of Internet buzz and the computer wizardry of a Quebec company.
The eagerly awaited movie inspired an explosion of online websites over the past year which included homemade trailers, rap videos and even comic strips. A simple Google search on the filmâ€™s title returns nearly 14 million hits.
More than 400 live snakes that were actually used during the movie shoot in Vancouver may try to take the credit. But the reality is the slinking serpents didn’t rise to the occasion and didn’t take their roles seriously enough. They got help from a team of 80 people at Quebec’s Hybride Technologies Inc., whose credits include Sin City and the Spy Kids trilogy.
Philippe Theroux, Hybride’s 3-D supervisor, says "snakes on a set" don’t move around a lot and are kind of quiet.
"In some cases, we had to erase the live snakes to put in computer-generated images of snakes which were more aggressive to make the movie scarier," he said in an interview.
The creepy cast included nine different types of computerized snakes, including rattlesnakes and cobras. The animation experts spent a year working on the more flexible computerized versions at Hybride’s headquarters in Piedmont, northwest of Montreal. Theroux said some highly realistic animated snakes were created. But when the movie’s producers first saw them, they complained the snakes weren’t scary enough.
"So then we had to cheat," Theroux said. "In some scenes…we had to make the fangs bigger than they are in real life, to see more of the teeth to make the shot more scary."
The computerized snakes were sometimes made to move faster or do things real snakes would not be able to do "in order keep the audience on their toes."
Hybride produced about 150 visual effects shots and its final contribution of venomous and poisonous snakes amounted to eight minutes.
"To be honest, in some shots, you’ll see snakes that don’t even exist," Theroux admitted.
The movie itself focuses on Jackson who plays an FBI agent assigned to escort a witness to a brutal mob murder from Hawaii to Los Angeles to testify. But the crime boss he is about to testify against has hundreds of poisonous snakes smuggled onto a red-eye commercial flight in a crate. They are set to be released among passengers as the plane is halfway over the Pacific.
The Internet reaction prompted director David R. Ellis to think twice about changing the movie title back to Pacific Air 121. The online critics also recommended Ellis re-shoot the movie and include a line of dialogue that was written for Jackson. The line, which has been used in TV promos and has slid into the film, is:
"Enough is enough! I’ve had it with these motherf—in’ snakes on this motherf—in’ plane!"
Ellis also added violence, some nudity and extra dialogue to get the rating changed from PG to R in order to appeal to a broader demographic. Canadian actor Keith Dallas, whose Big Leroy character is part of the entourage of a rapper in the movie, said he was told "to swear your head off" when the movie was reshot.
"The movie was fine the way it was originally shot, but it needed a sharper edge," Dallas said.
"It could fail…but I hope it’s a big success and we get to do snakes on a train, or snakes on a skateboard or whatever the next one will be."
Special effects expert Theroux agreed the film is "way over the edge."
"It’s just a fun movie…If you go there and you expect to see something serious or something realistic, you’re missing the point," Theroux added.
The Jamaican-born actor, who spent his teens in Vancouver, has worked extensively on American and Canadian television and feature movie productions. Dallas, 28, had roles in a number of Canadian TV series including Da Vinci’s Inquest and Cold Squad. He has also starred in Dark Angel and The Collector, two American TV series which were also shot in Vancouver.