A Tour of the Whiteout Set


Starring Kate Beckinsale and Gabriel Macht

April 2007

In a strange reversal, Montreal, Canada today is in fact colder than Antarctica. Well, at least the faux Antarctic environment director Dominic Sena and his production team have recreated for Whiteout, the Dark Castle film blowing into theaters on September 11, 2009.

Culled from the pages of Greg Rucka’s Oni Press graphic novel published in 1998, the thriller – adapted by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, and Chad and Carey Hayes (the brothers who penned House of Wax for Dark Castle) – concerns U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko’s investigation of a murder victim in Antarctica. Stetko faces a myriad of challenges, including the titular environmental threat which she gets caught up and loses two fingers to frostbite as a result. As she gets deeper into her investigation, the body count increases.

Bringing Stetko to life is Kate Beckinsale (Underworld) who will share the screen with Tom Skerritt, Gabriel Macht (The Spirit), Columbus Short (Quarantine) and Alex O’Loughlin (Feed). McMurdo Station, where Stetko’s investigation takes place, is being built at La Cité Du Cinéma’s soundstages, a ten-mile drive from downtown Montreal where this writer is staying.

Outdoors, the weather is beyond the usual spring “brisk” – it’s downright cold. Remnants of winter scatter the grounds with vanishing piles of snow. Inside Stage H, I’m transported to an entirely different continent. This is where the lower half of McMurdo has been built on a snowy landscape against a while backdrop so you cannot see the horizon line. Three stories of the McMurdo station will be created in CG in post-production.

The smell of glue and paint hangs in the air and my tour guide through the sets tells me the structure I’m looking at was transported via truck from Manitoba, where the production previously established camp. There, the base of McMurdo needed extra supports to prevent from sinking into the snow. Filling in for the white stuff here is a fake snow and salt mixture which is easy to rake once it has been poured over a white tarp that, itself, is covering a layer of gravel to give the terrain some uneven texture. The grounds I’m looking at are where Beckinsale’s Stetko gets caught up in the whiteout. The fans they used to simulate the wind, I’m told, knocked the poor actress off of her feet.

Moving on through the next soundstage, I’m introduced to a flurry of activity as crew members work away at a plane fuselage. There’s corrugated sheet metal everywhere. Not too far away is the interior of an ice shaft.

Elsewhere, on the principal set of the day, Sena is directing Beckinsale, brandishing a gun and a flashlight while wearing comfortable winter gear and a large furry hat (adorable). I join Sena here where he sits at video village watching a scene play out. Beckinsale is holding someone at gunpoint but something goes awry – without headphones to listen in, I’m out of the loop on what occurs. Sena says good-naturedly, “Cut, cut…I’m not paying for that.” Finally, another take rolls and Sena is pleased. “Hallelujah! Check the gate.”

The crew preps for a new set-up and I’m granted the last leg of my tour before I settle in a conference room to chat with the cast and crew. Here, I’m led through the labyrinthine hallways of McMurdo station. Frosted windows and detailed to the extreme. It’s easy to get lost in here. I breeze through the set too fast to pick up the fine details but we get to see the doctor’s office, Stetko’s sleeping quarters and the office of a British representative who resides at the station.

The forecast for Whiteout interviews at ShockTillYouDrop.com is looking good, so stay tuned for our chat with Kate Beckinsale, Dominic Sena and more over the next two weeks…

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor