“It’s so lovely to be back in Sydney,” Filmmaker Steven S. DeKnight says during a promotional visit to Australia.
Steven spent much of last year in Australia directing the sci-fi sequel ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’, filming scenes of giant robots destroying the city. After inflicting carnage there, it’s a surprise he was let back in.
“I tell ya! I didn’t put that on my card when I came through customs,” he laughs.
Steven has worked in the television industry for decades, creating the ‘Spartacus’ franchise and working on the first season of ‘Daredevil’. ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ marks his theatrical debut, to which he jokes, “I decided to start small and I’ll just go bigger from there”. Initially he was working on his own debut feature film, a small thriller about three people in a house, when producer Mary Parent surprised him with the offer.
“I loved the first movie, I’ve been a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro ever since he first came onto my radar with ‘Cronos’, I’ve seen all of his movies and read all of his books about the making of his movies. My initial thought was, you hear about these things popping up and nothing ever happening, so at least maybe I get to meet Guillermo, and that would be fine. He said, ‘look, I’m going off to prep and direct my passion project’ – which turned out to be ‘The Shape Of Water’, which turned out pretty well for him – ‘I’m going to be busy, but anything you need please reach out. Make this movie your own’. To have that kind of confidence expressed from somebody I’ve admired for so many years really was the spinach I needed to dive in head first.”
The first film was filled with stunningly shot fights at night in the pouring rain. But one of the ways Steven put his stamp on the film is by exposing the monsters and bringing them into the daylight.
“We wanted to offer the audience something different and try not to be a pale imitation of what he so masterfully did in the first movie. So we made the scary decision to do the majority of the action scenes during the day, knowing that it’s a lot harder for the visual effects to realise that and make it look good. But Peter Chiang, my Visual Effects Supervisor and double negative, did such a fantastic job. Man, we sweated over the designs of those kaiju. There were so many discussions, so many designs until we found just the right look and the right feel.”
While the majority was filmed in Sydney and Brisbane, ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’ is a very global film, taking place in Sydney, Siberia, and Tokyo, the latter particularly exciting Steven.
“I went to Tokyo Comic Con to promote the movie a while back, and I talked a lot about how it had always been my dream since I was a kid to destroy Tokyo. That’s one of the reasons why I set the finale in Tokyo. Again, it was the little kid in me that grew up seeing the original ‘Godzilla’ from the 1950s and seeing Tokyo getting destroyed, it’s just a classic. The way we can do it today with the CGI technology, it was so much fun.”
The experience of shooting in Australia has left a mark on Steven. “I’d love to come back and shoot another big movie here,” he says, especially if he can destroy more buildings. Are there any in particular he has his eye on?
“I think all of them,” he laughs.