At least, that’s what a small assemblage of online journalists were watching on the edit bay screen at director Peter Berg’s Film 44 production company, where the hit-making helmer (The Rundown, “Friday Night Lights,” Hancock) was explaining how his big-screen adaptation of the enduringly popular board game Battleship was going to be somewhat more than two guys sitting across from each other waiting for the other to exclaim “You sank my battleship!”
In rapid succession, Berg reveals exactly what he’s got up his sleeve to make Universal Studios’ decision to create a film out of Milton Bradley’s game transcend the “What were they thinking?” chorus that buzzed through the Internet when the project was announced. He reveals lavishly budgeted and filmed footage that is surprisingly intriguing and initially charming.
PHOTO GALLERY: View new photos from the May 18 release!
We first get a sense of the characters Berg’s hanging the story when we see leading man Taylor Kitsch as a slacker-y, rough-around-the-edges but still root-for-able young maverick Alex Hopper who, after a disastrous bid to earn the attention of the gorgeous Sam (Brooklyn Decker) after meeting her in bar goes awry. The scene in which he attempts to earn her favor is best left spoiler-free (it’s a bit over-the-top to say the least, and Berg cautions that it will likely be tweaked as editing moves forward), but suffice to say he ends up in enough hot water that his far more polished and ambitious brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) brings Alex into service in the U.S. Navy with him in an attempt to both keep him out of trouble and put him on a more productive track. They both end up serving on a state-of-the-art naval warship–a-ha, here’s where the Battleship part comes in–where it ultimately turns out that serving under the disapproving glare of his now-fiancée Sam’s father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson) is the least of Alex’s worries: the ship runs awry of a mysterious sea vessel that turns out to carry the first wave of invading alien forces.
There’s a lot more going on than that synopsis might suggest, because Berg again shows himself to be quite capable when it comes to crafting both character moments and large-scale action sequences. The director is still finding the right rhythm for each sequence as they’re shaped and molded through the editing process, but he demonstrates a clear vision for a massive summertime popcorn flick: Think Top Gun meets Aliens meets Crimson Tide and you’re on the right track.
“It’s been a really great ride so far,” Berg said. “We’re still totally in the middle of it, but it’s by far the most creatively challenging thing that I’ve ever been presented with. I can’t even remember when it was–probably about three years ago–but I was talking to my [producing] partner and I said, ‘I think the future of our business are these big, special FX, global movies: these five-quadrant films that go out all around the world at the same time and have a huge impact and a huge audience. I want to make one. I want to be in that business.’ Now I’m thinking, like, I’ve gone crazy! I’m just kidding.”
Berg makes no bones about the attempt to marry a famous-name brand with an only loosely related storyline – something to pique audience curiosity and generate some early buzz that would also enable him to make an effects-driven extravaganza.
“We were looking for a title and looking for something to do,” he remembers. “‘Transformers’ had come out and I was a huge fan of it, and I was starting to think about other brands and I was just thinking about ‘Battleship,’ as the son of a World War II historian and a naval fanatic – my father was all about ships and all about World War II battles. I wrote several papers, and I’ve gone on to find them since I’ve done this, in high school and in college about the great naval battles in World War II. I think my only A in high school was on a paper that I wrote about why Japan lost the Battle of Midway, and what would’ve happened had they won that battle. We all here would be speaking Japanese right now. So, I went and talked to the guys at Hasbro. I said, ‘I want to do a film about naval warfare, the modern navy.’ They said, ‘What’s the story?’ I said, ‘I’m not sure what the story is, but I’ll figure one out. But I’m your guy.’ We were pitching it, for some reason they were like, ‘Okay, you’re our the guy.’ I was maybe the ONLY guy pitching it, or maybe the loudest guy, but I got it and started to kind of come up with a way of bringing in alien component to the film that I thought was credible.”
As Berg began conversations with screenwriters, he was surprised how quickly Universal’s warm response to his notion turned red hot: the studio wanted him to go into production as soon as possible. “I was like, ‘Right now?’ I was planning on doing something else.’ ‘Right now. Can you do it?'” he recalls. “I’m a pretty competitive person and I was like, ‘Of course I can do it.’ They said, ‘Are you sure?’ I said, ‘Of course I can do it.’ They said, ‘Anything that we can do for you we’ll do. We’ll help you as much as we can, or as little as you want us to.’ I’m really happy with the way that it’s coming together. I’m happy to bring you all on the ride.”
“There’s been so much inherent skepticism about how you can make a film about plastic pegs and grids,” Berg admits, well aware of the naysayers that made a lot of negative noise about the project.”To me that was never an issue. It was all about naval warfare and about the modern navy and I’ve had the privilege of knowing the modern navy, being on the ships that you guys got to see and going out to sea and watching them operate and seeing what their weapons systems are, seeing how smart the men and women are that fight. I always knew there could be a film there, but now the reality of actually executing that is an awesome task. I think that it’s been very exciting to be involved in the middle of what I think, for better or worse, in ten or 15 years we’re all sitting back thinking, ‘Okay, what were the defining films of this decade or this last twenty years?’ And you realize that in the ’70s guys like Hal Ashby and Sidney Lumet were out leading the charge with character-based, complex soul dramas like ‘Serpico’ and ‘French Connection’ and ‘Being There.’ And in the ’80s Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger came out with a new type of action. What we’re dealing with now, certainly, is James Cameron leading the charge, and Michael Bay not far beyond and Jon Favreau and J. J. Abrams and Gore Verbinski really pushing the edge. Not just partnering with companies like ILM and building these epic visual spectacles, but figuring out ways of connecting character to those stories and making them feel fun and making them feel emotional. We’re living in age where if you’re willing to write the check you can do anything. You can do a lot. You’re limited only by your imagination and the generosity of who’s paying the bills as far spectacle, but can you find a way to engage an audience and put human emotion in there and make it fun and make it dramatic and all this kind of stuff. These challenges for those of us fortunate enough to make these films are really, I think, the defining sort of nucleus of where our business is today. I feel privileged to be able to work in this genre right now. It’s very creative and very challenging and a lot of fun. I really believe in this film.”
ComingSoon.net also had a chance to preview the new trailer earlier today and it represents a major step up from teaser that debuted last July. The focus is less on the cast this time around and more on the sheer scale of the project, showing off ILM’s handiwork. It also gives us our very first look at one of the film’s aliens, albeit in it’s armored form. Producer Sarah Aubrey was on-hand to explain that there are two major variations of aliens in the film. Some are scientists and others are (like the one in the trailer) “Thugs,” used as shock troops. As far as the design goes, think Halo‘s Master Chief, but larger and more mechanical.
We also get to see quite a bit of destruction on a Michael Bay scale, both at sea and on land. Aubrey stressed that the film has a global focus with a third taking place on the island of Oahu. While the aliens have established a force field at sea (unwittingly trapping three battleships within), they also fire smaller vehicles called “Shredders” at the area beyond the shield. The attack orbs appear to be lined with caterpillar tracks all around and also feature barbed metal whips that can shoot out at will.
Overall, the new trailer does an excellent job at communicating a level of spectacle that fans may not have been expecting from the initial teaser, including land, sea and air combat as well as good old fashioned city destruction from flaming projectiles, alien ships and artificially induced earthquakes.
Look for the full trailer in theater and online in the very near future. Meanwhile, the curious can delve deeper into the director’s grand scheme with even more of his thoughts below, to decide whether Battleship is on course to be a Hit or a Miss.
Q: Watching this you sort of forget that this is based on Battleship, the board game. Is there any references to the game, like, ‘You sank my Battleship,’ or does that feel like it’d throw the audience out of the larger story?
Peter Berg: One of the great things about doing this film was that there was never any mandate, like, ‘You have to say “You sank my Battleship” or “You have to say D-4.”‘ The challenge was for me, like, what do I like about the game Battleship besides naval conflict that actually might be an interesting way to reference the film that isn’t offensive to anyone that actually feels clever, that’s actually an additive. There are lots of references to the game throughout. Hopefully none of them will be offensive and will all be in the spirit of the film, but an example of how we referenced the game, Battleship seems to be such a simple game where you and I are playing and I go, ‘B-2′ and you say, ‘Miss. B-4,’ and I say, ‘Hit.’ There’s not much to it, true. But what’s interesting about the game, the experience of playing you in the game, if I’m playing you in the game it starts with this empty board and I’m trying to figure out where you are. I have no idea where you are and as the game progresses I start to figure out where you are. There’s a feeling of discovery that’s inherent to the game, like, ‘Okay. I understand where you’re hiding.’ I understand what you were thinking and how you decided to try and hide and I found you and now I’m going to kill you as quickly as I can before you kill me. The game actually gets your heart going. When you’re playing it, you say, ‘I don’t know where you are. I don’t know where you are. Okay. There you are. Now I have to kill you,’ and if I don’t kill you quick you’re going to kill me. It’s a very violent game. There’s no, ‘Okay. I win. Nice try.’ I only win if I kill you before you kill me. That’s inherent in the DNA of this film. There are other references, some very subtle, some not quite so subtle to the game, but there’s never a mandate to ‘You must do this’ or ‘You must do that.’ It’s really a very clean canvas.
Q: I know the game has been around since 1931. Was there ever any thought to set it in World War II – or World War I?
Berg: Not really. I’m really into the modern navy and the capabilities of these ships are so incredible and have never been filmed before. I thought it would make for a much fresher movie experience to see a modern navy, to see people that are from our time engaging in naval warfare. So, I was always pretty clear on wanting to set it in present day.
Q: Can you talk about how your experience working with the Navy either altered story beats or things you in mind, maybe opened something up a bit?
Berg: I share a very good relationship with the military. I was getting ready to do a film called ‘Lone Survivor’ before ‘Battleship’ which is a true story about Navy SEALS in Afghanistan. It’s a great book. I encourage you guys to read it. That’s where I was starting to get to know the Navy, while I was doing research for ‘Lone Survivor.’ I’m a patriot and I love the military and really support the military a lot. The men and women that serve I support very strongly and the Navy understands that. So, they were willing to kind of open their doors to me, knowing that I would want to do something and get it right. We’re making a film about a navy engaging aliens. So, they understand that there’s a certain amount of a giant leap of logic and reality that’s inherent. There’s no rulebook in the navy [for this]. There’s rulebooks for, ‘If we encounter a hostile North Korean sub what do we do? If we ram a Japanese fishing boat what do we do?’ Well, we’re coming into contact with a five ship alien fleet. The rulebook is pretty much out at that point. So, they were willing to kind of let me play my own game a little bit as long as we were accurately presenting, like, what would you try and do. Sometimes, like, the stuff you just saw where if they come into contact with a ship that’s not showing up on radar, what would they do. First, they’d try and query it. ‘Vessel bearing 273, this is the United States Navy,’ and they don’t respond, well then they’ll try and board it. That’s what happens. That doesn’t go then they’re going to warn it and they’re going to fire a warning shot. There’s a level of increments in terms of how the escalation to conflict starts. They want to make sure that was done accurately, and for me that was a pleasure because I think that’s real interesting. It’s interesting to see how a Navy ship would approach. I never really knew that. We don’t just run up and sink something. We’re not allowed to do that. We have to try and be peaceful and especially lethal violence is a last resort. Any time there were weapons being fired they would want to make sure that we justified those weapons being fired. We filmed a lot of real Navy ships, a lot of real sailors. We had Navy consultants all over our ships because they speak their own language, like, ‘What would you do here? How would you ask for this information?’ And they’re real happy with that and I was really happy to be able to bring that kind of reality to it. Throughout it we maintain a real sense of this is how the Navy would react to this.
Q: You’re dealing with aliens on one side, but are you dealing with modern day naval tech or does the Navy here have a secret weapon that we don’t know about?
Berg: No. Our aliens, again, are not so, so powerful that our weapons can’t engage them. I mean, it takes a lot. They’re hard to sink. We have to figure it out. Our radar can’t see them. Their radar can’t see us. We can’t communicate with each other. We have some communication issues. But our weapons systems work. We have to figure out a way to make contact with the enemy without being able to see them by figuring out where we think they are which is a throwback to the game. But if we hit them properly with enough ordinance we can hurt them.
Q: Our radar can’t read them because the tech is so different?
Berg: It’s stealth. Stealth is a technology that really exists today. The Stealth Bomber and there are now stealth Navy ships. The lines on a modern destroyer are very angular and they’re designed to confuse enemy radar. So, our warships are very hard to pick up on radar. You see them here and they suddenly might be there and there and there. You’ll get a mirror effect. Well, they’re shape does a similar thing to our radar which is very real technology. We can’t get a firm lock on exactly where they are because of their shape. They can’t get a lock on us because of where we are because of the shape of our ships. That’s real.
Q: It seems like you’re interested in being true to the Navy and Hasbro not as much. And this is such an original idea. So, why even have this be Battleship. Why not just have it be aliens at sea, an original concept?
Berg: Well, look, there’s no doubt that in today’s world, film world, unless you’re Jim Cameron and you’ve got a lot of time and an incredible amount of money to put a project together, if you look at films that are being made at this budget it’s a huge risk for these companies. I mean, it’s a real, bona fide risk that puts a lot of jobs at risk, a lot of children’s medical insurance and dental, orthodontists and summer camps. The trickle down effect, the amount of money being spent on these films is massive. So, the idea of going alone, whether it’s ‘Harry Potter,’ it’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ having at least some brand familiarity with the Disneyland ride, it’s ‘Transformers,’ obviously it’s everything that Marvel and DC are doing; none of these guys are going completely alone. Jim Cameron, hat off to him, he is. No one else is at this budget level. So, to say that it doesn’t give the guys writing the checks a little bit of added insurance to know you’ve at least got some brand awareness, you’re going to have a company, in this case Hasbro, that’s able to open up marketing streams and help you get the word out – it’s just not accurate. ‘You want to make a fifty million dollar film? Okay. Go do it.’ You want to make a film, and these budgets are pretty publicized… I’m not going to say where we are, but it’s not that hard to figure it out. You’re not going to shy away from a little extra help. The fact that the game has been around for fifty odd years, the fact that there is instant brand awareness, and look, there’s always inherent cynicism particularly amongst us, the cinema intelligentsia, but you go onto your average… and I get. It’s totally reasonable, but you go to your average high school football game outside of Philadelphia and say, ‘Yeah, I’m doing this film called “Battleship.”‘ ‘Oh, the game? That’s cool. I love that game.’ That’s good.
Q: Do you feel like you’re smuggling something original and different in under the radar?
Berg: Completely, yeah, because that’s the great irony of it. Okay, so you get the advantage of, like, ‘I’m going to be able to call it “Battleship.”‘ Well, so what, there’s no script there. I mean, people forget that when ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was first pitched as a movie it was lacerated by the media, like, ‘What? That absurd thing at Disneyland?’ It was the same with ‘Transformers.’ ‘These little cheap things?’ So, it’s wonderful to have the brand and to have that leg up. I appreciate it, but it’s absolutely zero help when it comes to solving all the creative problems. Certainly everything you saw, there’s nothing that you guys saw, if you looked closely there are some weapons that the regents were firing, that the aliens were firing that may or may not resemble pegs when they hit. Other than that there’s absolutely nothing there that you’re getting from the game. So, it’s as creatively challenging as anything that I’ve ever [done]. It is the most creatively challenging story that I’ve ever had to do.
Q: Your films have always had a lot of practically shot action with an integration of CG. How much were you able to shoot practically on this, especially being on the water and how did that complicate things?
Berg: There are components of it that were done early where we were able to shoot large chunks of practically, but very rarely was it ever one hundred percent practical. We’ve got real bombs going off, real guns firing, real punches being thrown, but those punches are landing on an object that’s going to be CG. So, you’re never a hundred percent there. There are times when you’re a hundred percent not there. When you’re dealing with one hundred percent CG assets on top of CG assets, engaging with CG ordinance and with CG water, that’s challenging and very exciting. At times it’s very frustrating. It’s why I was real insistent that we work with ILM who’s consistently proven themselves the best at getting filmmakers who want to do practical work, make it look like it was done practically and they’re the best at helping you get there, so it looks as photo real as possible. It’s a completely different experience to when I did ‘The Kingdom.’ Certainly to when I did ‘Friday Night Lights’ and even most of ‘Hancock’ was practical. This is a completely different experience. I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have gone there before me that I could call and be like, ‘Oh, my God. How do I talk to these dudes at ILM,’ who are all, like, MIT geniuses and speak a language that’s like talking to a painter and trying to get him to understand your vernacular. These guys, all you can do is go, ‘I want it to be real. I need it to be more intense. I need there to be more muscle and weight.’ I end up doing this [slapping his hand] and they stare at me. Then I’ll call different [people], whether it’s Jon Favreau or Michael Bay or Ian Bryce who’s produced all the ‘Transformers’ or I have a great line producer here and say, ‘How do I talk to these morons? I don’t know how to talk to them.’ It’s like literally trying to go to a country where you don’t speak the language and communicate. They’re not morons. I’m joking obviously, but it’s learning how to fight for what you want and find the common language. ILM is by far the best at it and that’s why they have such a dominant hold over the business.
Q: You speak the language of actors, coming from where you do. How does that give you the ability to tell a real story beyond the big explosions in this film?
Berg: Well, I think two things. One, you’ve got a sense of, like, Taylor’s obviously starts pretty extreme, getting tasered and all this, but really trying to track this character’s journey and some pretty rough things happen to him personally throughout the story and it’s very important that we lay out that arc, and in my opinion if the arc of this character there’s a certain point where the character finally reaches a critical point in his life and it happens onscreen we just really have to decide whether he is or isn’t going to be able to stand up and assume the responsibility that’s being asked of him. If that doesn’t work I feel like the movie won’t work. As great as the FX will be, FX will carry the day up to a point. If you don’t have that visceral, emotional connection to this guy the movie doesn’t work and I feel that very strongly and I worked really hard to make sure that we have the dramatic, or at least in theory, but that we’ve put the time in to make sure that character arc tracks to the point of having more than enough, that we can start with this moron falling through the roof of a 7-11, getting tased, drunk, trying to get a girl a burrito to a guy who ends up really being a leader. So, that helped quite a bit. I think my experience acting and doing more dramatic films hopefully paid off there, but the other really challenging thing is that we’re on a soundstage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a piece of green screen. I’m trying to get these actors, if they’re on a massive warship fighting a really brutal battle, nothing exists at all and they’re kind of like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ You’ve got to help get them worked up and make it believable. These are a lot of actors that are young and had never done that before and you have to kind of get in there with them and embarrass myself because it’s actually embarrassing for them to have to look up and pretend that shark is real and it’s coming out of the wall, like, ‘Ahhhhh!’ and not to feel like the biggest morons in the world, but to show them that if they really commit to that it will work. We’ll support that environment eventually with something that feels that terrifying, but they have to take a chance and trust me and go for it in that moment. That’s not always as easy as you think because they get nervous and confused and they don’t have a freaking clue as to what’s going on. Sometimes none of us. We act like we really know, like, ‘There’s going to be this incredible thing coming at you from over here and you’re going to run over there and you’re going to move and it’s going to be in front of you there.’ You don’t really know that’s what’s going to happen. You’ve got all these guys from ILM kind of going, ‘Yeah. I think that’s what’s going to happen.’ So, being an actor and understanding why that’s hard for them, that they’re terrified that they’re going to end up looking like morons and they’ve all seen enough bad CG and bad action films to know how bad it can be. So, you’re asking them to take this leap with you. I think having acted helps me help them in that area.
Q: You talked about how some of these ships weren’t made to shoot on, but are you shooting on the ships?
Berg: Oh, yeah. We’re taking some of the cameras now, some of the hi-def cameras that are small and they don’t require a lot of light. So, we do have a great balance. We built a lot. We built big chunks of the ships and most of what you saw here were sets, but we’ve also gone into areas of real ships that we couldn’t afford to build; engine rooms, hallways that go on forever, missile silos. Some of the weapons that we used were on real ships. We continue as the film starts to reveal itself we go down to San Diego with small crews and pickup shots of torpedoes being loaded or we’re going out for a couple of days with a helicopter and a ship to start getting all the specific moves that we need. You saw some of the shots of those ships moving at sixty knots and banking. They’re pretty awesome.
Q: What did you shoot on them?
Berg: We shot on everything from Panavision 35 millimeter to Anamorphic cameras to Sony Red cameras to Alexis cameras to Phantom high speed cameras.
Berg: No, it’s not 3D.
Q: Was there any talk or pressure of going 3D?
Berg: No. I don’t like 3D films. I don’t like going to watch 3D films. I don’t. I just don’t. I get nauseous. Most of my friends get nauseous. It doesn’t interest me. It’s not worth it. I saw ‘Never Say Never’ with Justin Bieber, and I wanted to watch the whole movie and I had to keep taking the glasses off. I’m just not a fan. So, I didn’t push it. When these movies are this expensive, to spend an extra thirty five million dollars, the studio, if you’re not pushing it they’re not fighting for it. They’re not begging you to do it. I have no idea whether it’s a smart or stupid decision financially. I’m sure that ‘Transformers’ is going to do really well. I know I’ll enjoy ‘Transformers’ not in 3D just as much as I’ll enjoy it [without]. I’ve seen ‘Avatar’ 3D and not 3D and I enjoyed it just as much non 3D as I did in 3D. So, I didn’t ask and they didn’t. Neither one of us asked and we just kind of ignored the issue which is fine by me.
Q: Can you talk about the alien design in this?
Berg: The aliens come from a planet that, like I said, has a similar geology, a similar environment, a similar temperature to ours. There’s a resemblance. They’re somewhat human. They’re not machines. Most of them are actually quite intelligent. Most of the ones that come are more scientific. These are guys who are basically tasked with going and looking for other planets that might be of interest for a resource data point for them. So, these guys are super-intelligent. They’re not that big. They’re average height maybe, five-foot-eight, five-foot-nine. They’re very worn. They’ve done this before. They’ve been to other planets. They’ve never encountered anything with quite as much resistance as us, but they’ve fought before and they’re not inherently violent. If you meet him his interest is not to kill you. He’s not really interested in you. He’s just interested in the minerals and the resources of your planet. If you get in his way he’ll kill you without prejudice, for the most part.
Q: I imagine to go from the Naval element which is regimented to then creating these creatures and this world was fun.
Berg: From scratch. It’s awesome. Everything here we created. It’s complete and rote creation to figure out what we want and what we don’t want. We started with the idea that we want to create aliens. Even sitting down with the guys, the concept designers, and one guy’s idea of an alien is literally this. ‘This is what I want it to be,’ and they’re serious, the most abstract form imaginable. I’m not a sci-fi creature guy. I’m more like by making aliens that I could relate to that felt psychologically engaging rather than just porous blobs of tentacles. That’s not my thing. This is much more my thing. So, this was a lot of fun to do.
Q: Did you work with biologists at all? Is there a reason for the differences?
Berg: I mean, we talked with futurists. We talked with paleontologists. We talked orthopedic surgeons about different animals. We looked at different variations of animal life on our planet and thought about a horse’s foot compared to a human’s foot and how different ways a foot could be structured. If you added joints different animals have different joint structures. So, for example, there’s three main joints here in the foot of a Regent. Here, here and here where we have one. So, if we added joints, what might that look like or reduced fingers. We messed with the relationships from bicep to forearm, but trying to keep it all within the realm of something that’s somewhat familiar to us, but different. These people need to eat. They need to drink. They need to hydrate, just in different ways and in different quantities than we do. They have real issues with the sun on our planet, the amount of brightness on our planet. They have body temperature issues.
Q: Now that you’re in the editing room, have you gone and looked at great Naval films at all?
Berg: I know ‘Das Boot’ so I didn’t look at that. I looked at ‘Midway,’ ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ I read ‘The Cruel Sea,’ which is a great book about the frigates. It’s a true story about World War II, the German wolf packs, the subs that were sinking all the English food shipping boats, all the supplies trying to get in and out of England. They had these boats, these frigates that were tasked with protecting them from the subs. The frigates were just these young kids that had bombs that they would try and throw out when the subs came, but the subs were like aliens, they never knew when they were going to hit. So, you’d be cruising along and everything would be fine and all of a sudden you’re ship would be blown up. You’d be burning and everyone would be killed. They lost sixty five or seventy five percent of their ships on every mission. That to me put me I thought, ‘What would it really be like to be at sea fighting these unknown [boats].’ The U-Boats were like aliens to the English. So, that book was pretty awesome. A lot of documentaries on battleships and destroyers and the greatest naval battles. The Bismarck, the documentary on the sinking of the Bismarck. The sinking of Yamato. If you don’t know that story, that’s a pretty awesome story. Yamato was the biggest battleship ever built. Right towards the end of the war Japan hid it from us until after the Battle of Midway and until after we were really moving in on Japan, before we dropped the bombs. We had no idea that they built it. It was two thousand feet long. It had eight ten inch guns. It was just a monster, bigger than the Missouri. Finally Japan decided that we were getting close enough and they were going to bring it out. They brought it out and our planes found it. This was by the time planes controlled naval warfare because planes could sink anything. We found it and sank it twelve minutes after finding it. It never fired a round and was sunk. There’s a great documentary about it which is brutal for the Japanese. All kinds of different things.
Q: You said you haven’t done anything on this scope before. Is it hard in the editing room here to have big chunks missing since there’s still things being worked on?
Berg: It definitely requires a different gear in terms of patience. I’ve just had to accept the fact that, ‘Okay, if I want to see something it’s going to be a couple of weeks and it probably won’t be kind of what we talked about,’ but it will eventually start to come. We’re starting to see it now. It’s really not unlike sculpting, like if you had to do a big wood sculpture out of this block right here. If you’re paying someone a lot of money to do it and you have a couple of guys chiseling you come in after a few hours and nothing is done. You come in two days later and nothing. Four days nothing. Two weeks nothing. Four weeks and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. That does look like a head. It’s not great, but at least it’s a head. Now there’s an arm. There’s a body.’ It’s a slow reveal. I tend to be kind of impatient and a little hyper and I want to see it and if I say, ‘Okay, lets go do this,’ I’m used to it being done. When you do a dramatic film it’s amazing how quickly you can cut. This requires patience. It has been frustrating and a bit of unnerving because you don’t know if it’s going to work and then slowly, like with ILM they deliver and it starts to work.
Q: But if you have this part and it depends on that part, that’s got to be hard?
Berg: Yeah. For me it’s a bit easier because I can understand where it’s going. For some of my bosses who are out on a ledge and they just want to see it and they’re giving me all this money and I’ve had all this time, they’re like, ‘You’re showing me cartoons?’ I’m like, ‘Relax.’ A lot of it is just keeping everyone calm and staying the course. I’m confident now and I believe in this film. I want to make a film that at the end of the day appeals to the inner 12-year-old boy in all of us. Women I believe even have a 12-year-old boy. I have a 14 and a 12-year-old girl in me. There’s things I like. I love Justin Bieber. I really do love Justin Bieber. I went and saw the movie and cried. All of us have that, we want to have fun and we want to be scared and we want to be transported and that’s what I want to do with this film. I’ve been very clear about that from the get go. This is not ‘Lone Survivor’ which is a harrowing tale about the nineteen Navy SEALS that were killed in a horrible battle in Afghanistan. That’s a whole other thing. This is a real different experience, and I feel like we’re on to it and I’m proud of it.
Battleship arrives in theaters on May 18, 2012.