Summer 2011 is officially in the books, but it’s never too early to start talking about the popcorn movies lined up for next summer. One of the most talked-about movies scheduled for 2012 is ‘Battleship,’ opening on May 28. Yes, it’s based on the board game, but trying to bring ‘Battleship’ to the big screen involved a lot more than saying “B5”; the production was given extensive access to real Navy intel and retrofitted a life-size barge in order to film on the water in Hawaii.
Moviefone was asked to participate in a roundtable discussion with director Peter Berg and stars Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna on the deck of the USS Missouri stationed in Pearl Harbor. Ahead everything you’ll need to know for next summer’s blockbuster earth-versus-aliens battle on the high seas.
1. How do they make a movie out of the board game?
It’s pretty simple! During the RIMPAC Games, an international naval event, an alien ship crashes into a satellite and explodes. U.S. and Japanese ships hit the water to investigate… and that’s when the battle begins. The humans engage in combat with a fleet of five alien ships: four regents and the mothership, a destroyer. Each ship is stacked to the gills with a squadron of ugly aliens (designed by Industrial Light and Magic) and they get a lot of use out of their weapon of choice: a massive, spherical chainsaw-like device known as “the shredder.” Then to top it off, the aliens blow out the sonar/radar forcing the humans to rely on sight and instinct. So yes: it plays out like an intergalactic life-or-death version of the famed board game.
2. Peter Berg takes the idea of “Battleships vs. Aliens” very seriously.
“Growing up on the seas, my father was a naval historian, I grew up on boats,” Berg said. “I was always a huge fan of the Navy and flirted with doing some different naval films. And then I thought one day, ‘What about ‘Battleship’? What about creating a naval combat film? Modern-day naval combat?’ We looked into the rights and they were available and met with the Hasbro people. They were like, ‘Well what’s the movie?'” A question for which Berg was prepared.
“Off the top of my head: ‘I think they’ll fight a recon group from another planet.’ They were like: ‘What?’ I said, ‘Like a recon group. Like a small group of international ships, as in five ships from the game, and we’ll have a contained enemy rather than global domination. Contain that enemy with an agenda and try and make it a fair fight.'”
3. The cast has legit military training.
Rihanna: We worked with real military people, people in the Navy, people who have fought in Iraq before,” said co-star Rihanna. “They pretty much came and drilled me. This one man, Donald, yelled at me, cursed me, ‘Ow!’ Made me do pushups. Everything. My best friend was there the second time we worked together, and I said to her, ‘Okay, I’m about to do acting class, so just stay in the bedroom. Don’t listen to anything he’s saying to me right now.’ And I remember she just kept walking around, and she would just glance at me, ‘Are you okay? Did he just say ‘f–k you’ to you?’ But it really got you in the mentality, that’s the things they really go through, when they first sign up. It’s not a walk in the park.
Alexander Skarsgard: I spent 6 weeks in Europe shooting a Lars Von Trier film [‘Melancholia’] where our catering crew here was bigger than anything there. I land and they take me out on the water on a gigantic barge in the ocean, with cranes and jet skis and 5,000 people.”
Taylor Kitsch: It’s a floating base camp… I think everyone has proved their worth already with what they’ve done before so I’m not worried about that. It’s so out of my control. I think the on-the-water stuff was a huge checkmark for all of us, to be on schedule and get the right shot. Especially with all the special effects. But I don’t circle those things. I circle plot points and character things that are going to challenge me as an actor. If you don’t care about us, the movie is going to be s–t. In my opinion. People care about the characters in the film, you can blow up stuff ten million times. But if there isn’t something there that people care about, that doesn’t have a heartbeat to it — That’s our job.
Brooklyn Decker: We have real veterans which makes this movie unique. It’s not all smoke and mirrors. Pete’s big on having us be prepared and have knowledge on the military and knowing the order of the ranks.
Peter Berg: I have a great relationship with the Department of Defense. The respect for the military is never questioned. So there’s never anything big. If we do something that’s flat-out against military policy, if there’s a weight issue or Taylor Kitsch wants to wear his hair a little longer, we go by the book on all of that stuff.
4. Brooklyn and Rihanna get to mix it up with the boys.
Brooklyn Decker: We’re both actually really big tomboys. It’s she and I, and all the guys. There’s no, “We’re running off to get manicures together.” It’s all guns and war, which is really fun.
Rihanna: [My character] doesn’t like boys. She doesn’t like girls either. She’s just about her weapons and her work.
Brooklyn Decker: I was going to shoot a gun and then I wasn’t, so I was like, “guys, come on.” It’s a big one on the hip. We have an Iraq vet who lost both his legs in 2007 and we’re side-kicks to one another in our story. With him being there, he’s really teaching me all this military lingo and how they do things and fight. His fighter instinct comes out so being around him sort of lights a fire under you.
5. Peter Berg makes his actors do crazy things.
Taylor Kitsch: Pete has such his own taste for doing things, from shooting and editing to storyboards and character, and telling the human side of the story which is really the basis of this film. I just know and trust these cats that it will be so intense. I know to play it at that level because when Pete comes up to you and explains what these shots are going to be and what’s going to happen, you just have to bring that much energy to it, just to match what they are going to do in post-production.
Alexander Skarsgard: It also helps that Pete is an actor himself. On a movie like this where there is a lot of action, a lot of explosions, the guy behind the camera is an actor and can relate to you, he cares about relationships and it’s not all about the explosions and cool special effects.
Brooklyn Decker: You’ll be fighting an alien and he’ll throw things at you like, “order a cheeseburger and French fries!” and you’ll be like “what!?” He does it just to throw you off so your mind gets fresh again. You never know what he’s going to come out with. He knows how to talk to all of us, which I think helps us especially with Rhianna and I who are new to sets.
Rihanna: Warn? Who does that? Who warns you that you have to jump into the middle of the ocean and pretend that you’re drowning? Who does that? Him? Never.
6. What can we expect from the alien Battleships?
Peter Berg: Think of them as the Lewis and Clark generation … It started with the idea that a recon group from another planet finds its way to our planet. Now, they hone in on the signals that we send out to invite planets, and they picked up on one that is emitted here on Oahu and they basically tracked in on it.
They’ve got offensive fire-power, they carry scientists and communications equipment. They’re designed to find a planet, much like we would, that has resources; they’re obviously a bit more technically advanced than we are. I was trying to come up with a look, so I started studying high-speed footage of different water insects, water pond bugs that have these kind of spidery legs and they can move in vertical directions. They have vertical propulsion. They get this tactile pressure going on the surface and explode.
[On the peg-like weapons the aliens possess]
It’s not exactly a red peg. It’s an ILM-designed, cool, sophisticated thing that happens to detonate. It’s a piece of ordinance that if someone knows the game, will be able to identify: “Ok, that’s a peg.” But they’re not red pegs, they’re not blue pegs. Hasbro doesn’t sit around here and say “we need this and this and this”. We’re free to do whatever we want and I think that it’s really, at the core, a character-based naval action-adventure story.
7. The actors step out from the behind the steer and get physical with the alien threats.
Alexander Skarsgard: [Taylor]’s got a love scene with one.
Taylor Kitsch: That’s where the sequel comes in. I fall in love and now I’m on this other planet.
Alexander Skarsgard: It’s like a soap opera… and you can do the romantic comedy.
Taylor Kitsch: It will blow you guys away.
Alexander Skarsgard: Unlike anything you’ve ever seen
8. How do the actors fare at a real game of ‘Battleship’?
Rihanna: Actually in Barbados that doesn’t even exist … I came here and they had a whole set of toys in my trailer, including the game. We’re actually supposed to have a little hang out tonight so maybe I’ll pull out the Battleship board game. They won’t be ready for that — No one sinks my battleship.