Edge of Tomorrow: Cruise and Emily Blunt Training

edge_of_tomorrow_8_bluntAs if preparing for a real battle, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt began training well in advance of the start of principal photography on “Edge of Tomorrow.”

According to director Doug Liman, “Tom and Emily began working out months ahead of shooting.  They both took it very seriously.  The first day of shooting, they were both ready for the action the film required, and that is a dream come true for any director.”

Nevertheless, Blunt says, “You can train all you want, run a million miles, and I don’t think anything quite prepares you.  You just have to get used to it.  And it’s hard.  Rita’s fight style is very aerial-based—lots of sliding under alien tentacles, jumping, flipping over them, slicing as she’s in the air.  We wanted it to look intense, but yet there was a kind of beauty to it.  Trying to capture the choreography and the sheer skill with which she fights was a tremendous challenge.”

“It was incredibly demanding,” Cruise admits.  “And on top of it, at times I was shooting seven days a week, going between first and second unit.”

Stunt Coordinator Wade Eastwood

Stunt coordinator Wade Eastwood choreographed the exceedingly intricate fight sequences executed throughout the film by Cruise, Blunt and the rest of the cast, as well as trained them to do the stunts.  Training was not only vital because of the specifics of the action, but also due to how the actors would be outfitted for battle

Armor and Weaponry

In conceiving and executing the armor and weaponry the soldiers would wear in battle, Liman was very specific with production designer Oliver Scholl and costume designer Kate Hawley: any creative leap of armor technology had to appear obtainable in the near future, similar to what defense programs around the world are exploring today.

edge_of_tomorrow_4_cruiseLiman elaborates, “We were looking for something high tech, but in the style that the military would arrive at.  The military is not trying to sell their product to anyone, so they have a much more utilitarian approach and attitude to design.  That is how I wanted the armor to look, simplified and raw, not like something sleek.”  The result was the unforgettable look and feel of the multi-purpose ExoSuit.

Liman also wanted the suit to expose the human form so the characters could be seen in them, not covered up by them.  And, because the cast would need to run, fight, jump and crawl in them, it needed to be designed as a moveable, articulated piece of sophisticated puppetry, operated solely by the actor wearing it.  The suit would look real because it was.

ExoSuit 

Scholl and his team developed various ExoSuit concepts, working in tandem with head ExoSuit builder Pierre Bohanna to ensure form and function: initial 2D and 3D concept art led to an aluminum prototype frame with variable hinges and pivot points to determine what the rules of the suit were.  Hawley then collaborated with the team on the aesthetic details and proportions of the suits, the color palettes and surface treatments.  Careful integration was needed between the costume and art departments and props to provide unity, practicality and continuity between the ExoSuits and the weaponry.

The end result complemented the multiple axes of human joints, so they were able to move and bend as the body does.  A foam mock-up was sculpted on top of the frame, then presented to Cruise.

edge_of_tomorrow_5_bluntCruise relates, “I came in a couple of months before we started and did a lot of R&D on the ExoSuit, just the frame of which weighed 60 to 100 pounds and, depending on the armament, could go up to anywhere from 120 to 125.  It was a real test of mind over matter, something you never fully conquered.  But that worked perfectly for the character.”

When creating the ExoSuit and battle fatigues for Cage, Hawley and Cruise collaborated from the get go.  Says Hawley, “As well as constantly adapting the suit practically to support Tom’s performance, one of things Tom said was he wanted his armor to evoke the imagery of a war painting or war photography, where there is a bleak, heroic romance to it and, at times, humanity.”

Scholl, Hawley, Cruise and the ExoSuit team went through great pains perfecting the suit.  From the helmet to the footwear, everything had to sync up, especially because Cruise, Blunt and many of the other actors were performing their own stunts.

Seventy hard material ExoSuits were handcrafted during filming; 50 soft material suits were also made.  Every ExoSuit was manufactured on site from 200 hand-cast components.  At the peak of ExoSuit production, the casting workshop was creating 650 components per day, including 170 parts, such as nuts, bolts and screws, which were used to complete each one.  Each piece would come out of the mold shop and go into the fabricating shop where they were sanded, painted and cleaned up.  There were three different types—grunts, tanks and dogs—and each one had weapons integrated into the design, from the dogs’ rocket-launching guns that appear as if they are wings emerging from the suit to grenade launchers, and from the tanks’ huge machine guns to the grunts’ smaller pistols.

“Just building the ExoSuits alone took four to five months,” Liman says, “so once we committed to a design, we couldn’t come up with a new idea and expect it to happen any time soon.

“Tom got the first ExoSuit off the assembly line,” he continues.  “He had already been training with weights to get used to carrying around the weight of the suit.  It was all the tiny performance details that made it believable—even when you are just walking in the suit, you are performing.  In the movie the suit is moving the human, but in reality the human is moving the suit.”

“The ExoSuit created for Rita had to feel different from the other soldiers.  Rita is a crusader, heroic beyond belief, but at the same time beautiful,” Hawley says.  “We wanted to avoid anything ‘girly’ when creating her look, or that cat-suit sort of thing that can feel too ‘fantasy.’  She had to have her own swagger and language that set her apart from the others and that was more personal, and that had to come across in the costume, like the rotor blade from a fallen helicopter that is her weapon of choice.  She has a Joan of Arc quality about her, so we sprayed red slash marks on the chest of her suit—a nod to the novel—as if to say she had been to hell and back and lived to tell about it.”

Blunt states, “Rita doesn’t even wear a helmet in the film because she knows it’s not going to help her.  Now that is one tough lady.  And there was something quite empowering about putting on that armor and marching along with 20 enormous guys behind me.”

Putting the ExoSuits on the cast members was no easy feat.  Each actor had his or her own personal team of four ExoSuit handlers who would strap the armor onto them.  Cruise made it his personal mission to cut down the time it took to get into the suit.  “When we were testing it out, it would take about 30 minutes to get me in it,” he cites.  “If you have to take it off for any reason, that’s 30 minutes we’re not in production.  So I told the team that by the time we started shooting, we were gonna be under a minute.  I literally got stopwatches and started timing it.  It became like a contest.  And they did it; they got it down to 30 seconds.”

When Hiroshi Sakurazaka, author of All You Need is Kill, visited the set during filming, Cruise suggested he try on one of the ExoSuits.  “I didn’t really have the physique or the stamina to carry the suit on my back,” Sakurazaka relates.  “I could barely walk in it, let alone act or do anything else.  Doug Liman put me in a scene as an extra, wearing the ExoSuit, and after just standing there for ten takes I was exhausted!”

Says Hawley, “Creating a fully-functioning ExoSuit was such a complicated process, but in the end we were all incredibly proud of the work we did.  The intricacies were mind blowing.  ‘Form follows function’ was the lesson we learned in the end.”

For the everyday fatigues, Hawley incorporated the traditions of British officers, personalizing each in the manner each character might adapt their uniform to make it their own—Rita’s Doc Marten boots, Griff’s shirt and Kimmel’s teddy bear.  She also incorporated logo arm designs from battles past, giving them a battered, bruised and broken-down look that was in stark contrast to the uniformed military personnel who didn’t venture beyond their office walls.  And, because the entire globe is at war with the Mimics, fatigues and uniforms had to have an international feel.  Hawley sourced from around the world, intersecting designs and then unifying them with the United Defense Force branding featured on clothing and props throughout the film.

Continual Time Loop

Since the world of “Edge of Tomorrow” exists in a continual time loop, Hawley and her team faced additional continuity challenges.  “Many times on set we would be asking each other, ‘What loop are we in again?’” she laughs.  “So in a way, art imitating life sort of took over, sort of like Tom’s character.”

When Scholl first met with the filmmakers to discuss the overall look of the film, they stressed that, despite it being a movie about war and alien invasion, they didn’t want it to be apocalyptic.  Scholl conveys, “We wanted it to be clear that there was still a world left to be saved.”

Liman, a fan of classic World War II movies, sought to evoke that era while still creating a somewhat futuristic world for a contemporary audience.  Therefore, Scholl created an environment that provides hints that it is not present day, as evidenced by some of the technology, but yet still feels familiar.  For what amounts in the film to a two-day period, albeit relived again and again, the design team would create 47 sets—27 exteriors and 20 interiors.  And as the story takes place in the time loop, many of the sets were redressed or redesigned to correspond to the appropriate loop.

The entire film was shot in England, primarily at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden.  In addition to the facility’s nine soundstages, which offer more than 1,000,000 square feet of stage space, there is a 100-acre backlot, making Leavesden the ideal place to create a large-scale beach invasion, a Heathrow Airport-based military compound complete with an interior combat range and drop ship, and a nearly deconstructed Louvre, among other sets or backdrops.