Battle: Los Angeles–Director Liebesman

The sci-fi thriller Battle: Los Angeles, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and starring  Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan, will be released  by Columbia on March 11.

In Battle: Los Angeles, earth is under attack from unknown forces.  As people everywhere watch the world’s great cities fall, Los Angeles represents the last stand for mankind in a battle no one expected.

For years, there have been documented cases of UFO sightings – Buenos Aires in 1965, Seoul in 1983, France, Germany, China – but all of these had official stories that covered up and dismissed these inexplicable events.  For example, on the night of February 24-25, 1942, with America on nationwide alert following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Angelenos were wakened to air raid sirens.  The 37th Coast Artillery Brigade fired anti-aircraft shells at the flying craft over Santa Monica – some flying very slowly, and others estimated to be traveling as fast as 200 miles per hour.  The shells did no damage to the crafts – only to the city itself.  Though there would be several official investigations and conclusions explaining what exactly was in the sky over L.A. that night – weather balloons, etc. – it has even been suggested that secret government documents exist that show a divided opinion among military experts.  “I love how the real-life event just grounds the movie,” says producer Ori Marmur.  “For the film, we decided that all previous UFO sightings, including that one, were scouting missions… gearing up for the coming invasion by unknown forces.”

Battle: Los Angeles is the exact type of movie I love to go to the theater to see, and dreamed of directing,” says Jonathan Liebesman, who helms the story of one small group of people who find themselves taking on an unimaginable foe.

Screenwriter Chris Bertolini says that when he first struck upon the idea that would become Battle: Los Angeles, he sought to merge two of his favorite kinds of stories.  “I wanted to take a story in which otherworldly beings are here on Earth, but tell it as a war story – a story about individuals, where you’re seeing the battle from the POV of the guys on the ground,” he says.  “I got into the idea that the story would follow a small group of guys and the audience would experience everything as they experience it.”

Bertolini’s spec screenplay was first spotted by producer Neal H. Moritz, who has vast experience with action films and saw the potential in the story.  “What really stood out for me about this screenplay was that it was the point of view of one small group of people in an alien invasion.  I love the specificity of that,” says Moritz.  “It’s an inside look at a group of young men and women, all going through different struggles in their lives, who are out there trying to protect their country against an invading alien force.”

Liebesman got the job to direct when he created a presentation reel that showcased his vision for the film.  Hitting the streets of L.A. with a video camera, Liebesman began shooting, then taught himself the computer programs that would let him insert aliens into his shots.  “Jonathan had directed the Texas Chainsaw prequel, which I liked, but doesn’t necessarily make him an obvious choice for Battle: Los Angeles.  But then I saw his reel, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what every director should do,’” says Moritz.  “I showed it to the studio, and they were as bowled over as I was.  Anybody who could go forth and put this much effort on a movie without even having the job was somebody we wanted to work with.”

Aaron Eckhart leads the cast as Staff Sergeant Nantz, a career Marine who is “pretty burnt out,” he says.  On the brink of retirement, he is pressed back into service.  “He’s leading a bunch of young Marines into a battle with aliens in L.A.  He’s doing it reluctantly, but that’s just the type of hero that I love to watch.”

Michelle Rodriguez plays Elena Santos, who becomes a key ally for Nantz and his platoon.  “She sees everything go off on the radars,” she says.  Once the platoon finds itself battling unknown forces, “she is one of the first on the scene to track them down and find out what they are and how they tick.”  The cast is rounded out by Ramon Rodriguez, Bridget Moynahan, Grammy-winning R&B artist Ne-Yo, and Michael Peña.

Everett Burrell is the visual effects supervisor.  He says it was key that the Marines’ adversaries not only match the Marines’ strength as a fighting force, but mirror their approach to fighting.  “Our Marines wear their camo; well, the aliens would blend in, too,” says Burrell.  Designing them in gray, brown, and a little yellow, “they would blend into the urban environment” and add to the idea that the Marines were under attack by unknown forces.

“I grew up on science fiction and horror all my life, so this is a dream come true – I get to blow up Los Angeles with lots of cool aliens,” Burrell continues.  “Our goal for the aliens is to create something new – Jonathan didn’t want to replicate any other alien in another film – but it still had to look real.  So we looked at a lot of things out of nature: National Geographic, video reference on the Internet, strange insects and sea life, weird robotic devices.  All of that informed the look of the aliens.”