During a televised World Cup soccer game, time-traveling soldiers from the year 2051 appear on the field with an urgent message for the planet: Thirty years from now, mankind will lose a global war against a terrifying alien species unless thousands of citizens from the present are transported forward in time to join the fight. Among those reluctantly drafted is high school science teacher and devoted dad Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), who is forced to leave his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin), their young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong), and his estranged father James (J.K. Simmons) behind.
Sent to a post-apocalyptic Miami Beach on a perilous search-and-rescue mission, Dan and fellow draftees Charlie (Sam Richardson), Dorian (Edwin Hodge), Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and Cowan (Mike Mitchell) battle the nightmarish extraterrestrials known as “white spikes.” Lightning-fast and armed with tentacles, multiple battle-scarred limbs and mouths filled with rotting teeth, the ravenous creatures slaughter most of the new recruits. But with the help of a brilliant military scientist code-named Romeo Command (Yvonne Strahovski), a wounded Dan and his comrades carry on the fight to save mankind.
Recuperating at an army base, Dan learns that the only hope of defeating the aliens is if Romeo Command can use her expertise to devise a biological method of killing the female creatures. To do that, however, they first need to capture one alive. And unless a solution can be found before a horde of white spikes overruns their ocean-based lab, Dan’s family back home – and humanity as a whole – won’t stand a chance.
The Tomorrow War is directed by Chris McKay (“Robot Chicken,” The Lego Batman Movie) from a screenplay by Zach Dean (Deadfall, 24 Hours to Live). The film stars Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), Yvonne Strahovski (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Chuck”), J.K. Simmons (Juno, Whiplash), Betty Gilpin (“GLOW,” The Hunt), Sam Richardson (“Veep,” “Detroiters”), Jasmine Mathews (“The Rookie,” The Man From Toronto), Edwin Hodge (“Six,” “Mayans M.C.”), Ryan Kiera Armstrong (“American Horror Story,” Black Widow), Keith Powers (Before I Fall, “What/If”), Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24,” Night School), Mike Mitchell (“Love,” “Brews Brothers”), Seychelle Gabriel (“Falling Skies,” Sleight), Chibuikem Uche (“American Housewife”) and Alan Trong (“NCIS Los Angeles,” Paper Tiger).
The Tomorrow War is produced by David Ellison (Terminator: Dark Fate, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation), Dana Goldberg (World War Z, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Don Granger (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Top Gun: Maverick), Jules Daly (The Grey, Boss Level), David Goyer (The Dark Knight, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) and Adam Kolbrenner (Prisoners, The Christmas Chronicles). Executive producers are Rob Cowan (Aquaman, San Andreas), Chris Pratt, Brian Oliver (Rush, 1917) and Bradley J. Fischer (Ready or Not, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse). Co-producer is Samantha Nisenboim (The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie).
The director of photography is Larry Fong (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Kong: Skull Island). Production designer is Peter Wenham (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mission: Impossible – Fallout). Costume designer is Betsy Heimann (Pulp Fiction, Green Book). The editors are Roger Barton (Titanic, 6 Underground) and Garret Elkins (Anomalisa, The Lego Ninjago Movie). Casting is by Deborah Aquila (La La Land, The Shawshank Redemption) & Tricia Wood (La La Land, The Spy Who Dumped Me).
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Director Chris McKay is a lifelong fan of the science-fiction, fantasy and horror genres, so when the script for the thrilling sci-fi action epic The Tomorrow War came his way, he instantly leapt at the chance to direct the film. “I was so excited by the concept of ordinary people fighting to save the world from a terrifying alien menace,” McKay says. “But I was particularly moved by the emotional elements of the story. The Tomorrow War is science fiction on a massive scale, but it’s also a bit of a character study, too, which was exactly what I was looking for.”
Award-winning actor Chris Pratt, who plays the lead character Dan Forester in The Tomorrow War, felt just as strongly about the script’s multifaceted approach to genre and storytelling.
“I just loved it from beginning to end,” says Pratt. “It’s a fantastic original concept filled with humor and heart, but it’s also a gigantic movie with a ton of action and visual spectacle. Best of all, it’s grounded in real relationships. I have to confess, making a film where I get to fight aliens and save the world while cracking the occasional joke is right in my wheelhouse. Chris McKay and his team of designers and visual effects artists pioneered some incredible new technologies to bring the creatures to life in this movie, and it was extremely cool to be part of that process and give my input as an executive producer along the way.”
A Strikingly Original Script
The Tomorrow War tells the story of Dan Forester, his wife Emmy, and their young daughter Muri, who are forced to confront an uncertain future when Dan is sent to the year 2051 to join the war effort against a deadly alien species.
“Essentially, the film is Dan’s story,” says screenwriter Zach Dean. “It deals with his relationship with his family, and it looks at who he is as a man, a husband, and a father. Yet at the same time, it explores what the future might have in store for all of us, so it really tells two stories: One is very personal about the Forester family, and the other is a science-fiction action epic about humanity as a whole.”
The inspiration for The Tomorrow War first came to Dean during a family vacation in Iceland. While exploring a glacial lagoon in a boat, the captain of the vessel pulled up a chunk of ice floating in the water and offered a piece to Dean’s son. “He asked him if he wanted to taste five-million-year-old ice,” recalls the screenwriter. “So there was my kid, eating this ancient piece of ice, and I was just blown away by the implications of that.”
Dean asked the captain how long the lagoon had been there, and was shocked to learn it had existed for just 80 years. “I thought, my god, what’s going to happen when this entire landscape changes so quickly after having been frozen for millions of years? What type of nightmare could that possibly unleash?”
With that thought in mind, he began crafting an exhilarating action thriller about an everyday guy caught up in the battle for human survival against an alien menace that is directly related to the real-life environmental threat looming over our world.
“At the end of the day, I wanted to write a bold science-fiction movie that would fire up the audience,” Dean says. “Although The Tomorrow War tells a highly entertaining and exciting story, there’s a serious undercurrent to the film that talks about where we’re headed as a species. And that’s something we all need to think about right now, because we can’t afford to put it off until later.”
A Futuristic Action Thriller With Heart
After developing the idea for The Tomorrow War with producers Adam Kolbrenner of Lit Entertainment Group and David Goyer, Dean pitched it to diversified entertainment studio Skydance Media, the company behind such action blockbusters as World War Z, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Star Trek Into Darkness, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Old Guard and Terminator: Dark Fate. Skydance took an immediate interest in the concept, recalls chief creative officer Dana Goldberg. “One of our VPs, Matt Grimm, heard Zach’s pitch and loved it. So he brought it to me, and I agreed it was fantastic. At that point we quickly bought it.”
With Skydance on board, Dean dove headfirst into writing the script. “He spent a lot of time working on it, and many drafts later we took it to Chris Pratt’s representative,” says Goldberg. “Chris loved the material so much that he not only agreed to star in the film but also to make The Tomorrow War the first narrative feature he executive produced. Initially, the idea of soldiers traveling back in time to ask for help was what caught everyone’s attention. But as intriguing as that concept was, what truly hooked us was the script’s deeply moving family dynamics.”
Don Granger, Skydance president of feature film production, agrees. “One of the things we look for are action-adventure and science-fiction movies based on original ideas, and it’s quite hard to find one that also has an incredibly emotional character arc at its center,” he explains. “So from Zach’s very first pitch through all the various drafts, our focus was always on the inner journey Dan takes, both in the present and in the future, and how he becomes a changed man through that process.”
Producer Jules Daly, whom Skydance brought on later to work with the filmmakers on location in Atlanta and Iceland, was similarly struck by the story’s central human drama. “It’s rare that you see a big movie with this much heart,” she says. “Oftentimes, the emotional material suffers in a movie like this because of all the huge action scenes. But The Tomorrow War is rooted in what the Forester family is going through, which is enormously refreshing in a big, fun, commercial movie like this.”
An Inspiring Leader
With the script written and lead actor attached, the Skydance producers met with potential directors for The Tomorrow War, and quickly decided on McKay. “The thing we all found incredibly attractive about Chris McKay was that he approached the material purely from a character standpoint,” says Granger. “Of course he wanted to build an amazing post-apocalyptic world and design incredible action sequences and aliens, but what really won us over was when he said he saw The Tomorrow War as a sci-fi version of It’s a Wonderful Life. We immediately knew what he meant by that and were completely sold on his directorial vision at that point.”
McKay, who made his feature-film debut with the acclaimed Lego Batman Movie, felt confident his extensive background in animation would be helpful when directing a live-action movie like The Tomorrow War, where the aliens are, for the most part, created using computer graphics. “We do a lot of pre-visualization work in animation, and a film like The Tomorrow War uses pre-vis in the same way,” he says.
Additionally, his animation work often required him to coach voiceover actors about action taking place in scenes that hadn’t yet been fully animated — communication skills that would be essential when helming a visual effects-heavy sci-fi epic like The Tomorrow War. “What’s fun about making a movie like this is accessing the actors’ creative imaginations,” McKay says. “As a director, you have to communicate to the cast that there’s a terrifying monster over there, so they need to run this way and shoot that way, and then jump and hide. Getting those visual ideas across to them is a really playful process, and to me, that’s what’s fun about making movies. It’s like being a kid again!”
Executive producer Rob Cowan emphasizes that McKay’s energy, innovation and humor were crucial to the movie’s success. “Chris has an amazing work ethic, and he really pushed the boundaries on this film to make sure it was the best it could be,” Cowan says. “He inspired everyone to bring their A-game, and the entire crew responded to him because he’s such a fun, charming guy to be around on set.”
Pratt believes McKay’s animation expertise was invaluable to the success of the project. “Chris’ background was supremely helpful because there were so many elements of animation involved,” he says. “The Tomorrow War was his first big live-action film, and it was really fun to watch him take command of the set. He’s got the right temperament for directing because he never loses his cool.”
The admiration is mutual, says McKay. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner than Chris Pratt on this movie. He’s a very generous actor and human being. Obviously, he can credibly play a former military guy, which was something this role required, but he also brought a sense of honesty and vulnerability to his portrayal of Dan that was really attractive. I can’t say enough good things about working with him. He understood everything about this movie on a cellular level.”
The Perfect Everyman
Pratt describes the character of Dan Forester as an Army Special Operations Command veteran who is trying to find his place in the world when he’s suddenly drafted to fight aliens in the future. “It’s a story about second chances,” he says. “Dan is a guy who feels like he’s always been destined to do something extraordinary with his life, but hasn’t actually done it yet, and I think that’s a feeling a lot of people can relate to. At one point or another, we’ve all wondered if the life we’re living might not be the one we were meant for.”
To infuse the character with additional nuance and emotional depth, Pratt incorporated elements from his own personal life into the portrayal. “As you see in the film, Dan has a really complicated relationship with his father, and I felt like that was something I could bring my own experiences to,” he says. “Although my situation and Dan’s are quite different, there were definitely a few aspects of this character that I mined from my own background.”
Cowan describes Pratt as “the perfect everyman,” and says the star’s innate charm and likability made him the ideal choice to play Dan. “Chris brings a ton of genuine humor and a boyish quality to the role, like someone who hasn’t quite grown up fully yet. But then you put him into the film’s intense combat sequences and he effortlessly assumes the mantle of action hero, even though he’s got a lot of flaws that we can all relate to.”
That relatability is one of Pratt’s biggest strengths as a performer, according to Goldberg. “Chris is such a loveable guy, and that’s what we needed to bring Dan to life,” she says. “For this movie to work the way it should, everyone in the audience had to feel like they could sit on a couch and watch a soccer game with Dan. And that’s why we needed Chris. He’s a normal, everyday guy, and he’s hilariously funny on top of it. He brings a genuine lightness to the parts he plays that very few other actors can match.”
Serving as an executive producer on The Tomorrow War was a new experience for Pratt, but one he says felt surprisingly natural. “On the last few films I’ve worked on I’ve tried to be helpful when it comes to rewrites and casting decisions and things like that,” he says. “And here I was officially allowed to have a say in making the movie. So it was definitely more responsibility than what I was used to, but that’s exactly what I wanted. This project was basically the next step in my career toward becoming a filmmaker.”
Granger has nothing but praise for Pratt’s work in the expanded role. “Chris was very involved in the development of the script after he joined the project, and he also helped us set the right tone for the movie,” says the producer. “He generously encouraged everyone’s ideas on set and then he was deeply involved in the editorial and post-production process as well. Basically, he wore two hats on this movie and committed himself fully to both jobs.”
Strahovski Takes Command
For the role of brilliant military scientist and elite warrior Romeo Command, who represents Earth’s last best hope of eradicating the alien threat, the producers tapped Yvonne Strahovski. The Australian actress, perhaps best known for playing Serena in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” initially submitted her audition via video, which producer Daly feared would make it difficult to tell if she was right for the role.
“Romeo Command is an integral part of this movie and we needed to make sure Yvonne had chemistry with Chris Pratt,” Daly says. “So after we watched her tape, we did a long-distance chemistry read, and even though Yvonne and Chris were on different continents, you could see right away that they connected with each other. As cliché as it sounds, something magical happened between them during that read. And once they met in person, it grew even deeper.”
Cowan was impressed with Strahovski’s authoritative presence. “She really carries herself like someone who’s in charge of this massive global operation,” the executive producer says. “And when you see her fighting the white spikes, you really believe it. She’s basically the leader of the military science division and has a plan to save the world. Plot-wise, she’s a very important character.”
Pratt sums up Strahovski’s performance even more bluntly. “Yvonne is a complete badass in this movie. She plays a tough, take-charge colonel, and she’s the lead research scientist trying to prevent the end of civilization. We got very lucky in casting her. The first time I saw her audition tape, I knew immediately she was the right choice for the role.”
McKay was astounded by Strahovski’s intense physical commitment to the film’s numerous battle sequences. “Yvonne just threw herself fully into every action scene of the film, body and soul, and she was always game for the fight against the aliens. She’s just an incredibly powerful actor. I’m still blown away by what she brought to this role.”
A self-described fan of action movies involving aliens, Strahovski couldn’t put the script down once she began reading it. “I was flipping the pages as fast as I could because it was just so exciting,” she says. “It’s the kind of story where you need to buckle your seatbelt once it begins, because it’s a ride that just doesn’t stop. It keeps racing forward until the very end, which makes it a lot of fun.”
Strahovski was particularly compelled by how huge the stakes were for her character. “She’s living in a future where there are less than 500,000 people left alive on Earth, and she’s humanity’s last chance in a lot of ways. She’s desperately trying to find something that might save the human race before we become extinct, and she only has a limited amount of time to do it.”
The intensive military training the cast went through in preparation for shooting was one of her favorite parts of the job. “There’s a certain type of physicality that comes with that type of training, and it definitely informed my characterization of Romeo Command,” Strahovski says. “It influenced the way I stood, the way I moved, the way I fought and the way I fired my weapons. I really found it invaluable.”
The scene where she and her fellow soldiers enter a white spike nest to capture their queen was a highlight for the actress. “At one point, we were attached to ropes and dropped down into the nest from 60 feet up, which was really amazing,” she says. “I got to go up in a Blackhawk helicopter with real Navy SEALs, and although I was attached to a safety harness when I did my rope descent, the SEALs literally jumped out of the helicopter and did it for real, which was an incredible thing to witness!”
Acting opposite Pratt was also a joyful experience, says Strahovksi. “I shared most of my scenes on this film with Chris, and he’s just awesome. As you might expect, he’s cracking jokes right up until the last second before they call action. He has a natural ability to be funny and improvisational, but then he instantly flips a switch and becomes this super action guy in the combat scenes, and he looks super cool while doing it.”
J.K. Gets Jacked
Oscar®-winning actor J.K. Simmons plays Dan’s estranged father, James Forester, a reclusive military veteran with a take-no-prisoners attitude. “It’s hard to describe how lucky we were to get J.K. in this movie,” says Daly. “In the lead-up to shooting, he and Chris Pratt spent a lot of time talking about the reality of their father-and-son relationship. And because both of them are dads in real life, they were able to draw on their own personal experiences, which helped make their relationship feel truly authentic on screen.”
Pratt was excited to finally get a chance to work with Simmons. “J.K. and I had been circling one another for several years, almost working together on various things, and I’m thrilled that this is the project we’re finally in together,” he says. “Any time you have a heavyweight actor like J.K. join the cast you just kind of pump your fist in the air. It’s like winning a first-round draft pick.”
McKay had a very specific vision in mind for Simmons’ character, one that highlighted his emotional as well as his physical strength. “Shortly before we cast J.K., I saw a press photo of him in a gym with a shaggy beard and huge, muscular arms, so when I spoke to him about being in this movie, I said I wanted him to look like that guy again. And he was like, no problem! He worked out for months to prep for this role. And it really paid off because he’s positively jacked in this film!”
Simmons describes his character as “a bit of an enigma,” which fascinated him. “I’m always searching for some level of ambiguity in the roles I take because that’s what people are like in real life,” he says. “But I also look for parts that offer a journey for the character, and James definitely goes through a major one in this story. In terms of his relationship with Dan, it’s strained when we first meet them. They’ve been leading separate lives, and Dan is angry at his dad, and rightfully so. There’s a reluctance on James’ part to admit to culpability for anything that happened between them in the past, which adds to the drama.”
The actor developed an off-screen bond with his co-star during production. “Pratt brings a level of humor to whatever he does, which is important in a movie like this,” says Simmons. “And the way he talks about his wife, his kid, and the farm he lives on, you can tell he has a genuine love of life beyond all the showbiz stuff, which is a beautiful thing. If you have to spend 13 hours on a set with someone, he’s a great guy to spend that time with.”
Simmons is equally effusive when it comes to McKay’s ability to motivate the cast and crew to deliver their best work. “I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of talented directors from different backgrounds throughout my career, and one of the things the best ones have in common is an all-encompassing grasp of what the project is about, and a way to keep everyone on the same page. And Chris McKay does that effortlessly.”
Richardson’s Gift for Comedy
Much of the humor in The Tomorrow War arrives courtesy of award-winning actor Sam Richardson, who plays lovable novice draftee Charlie. “Unlike Dan, who has military experience, Charlie is just an average guy who’s drafted into this insane war,” says Richardson, the star of HBO’s Emmy-winning “Veep” and the hit feature comedy Good Boys. “He’s not a soldier, so he uses humor to calm himself down. But when he’s put in this impossible situation, he actually manages to rise to the occasion, and that arc really excited me.”
Richardson had no idea what the aliens in the film would look like when he initially signed on to the project, and was amazed by how truly frightening they were when he finally saw them. “During our first table read, they showed us an animatic of the white spikes, and the way they moved was like a scorpion mixed with a snake mixed with a ferocious dog,” he says. “I got freaked out just looking at that preliminary version.”
Shooting the jump to the future required the actor to do some of his own stunts, including one where he splashes into a pool wearing full military gear. “In the movie, the jump goes wrong and we end up falling out of the sky and into a swimming pool on top of a building. There was a camera filming me underwater and stunt guys landing all around me, and I had to hold my breath the entire time while making it seem like I was drowning. But after pretending to drown for 20 takes, your body really starts to panic! That was a tough day for sure.”
Describing himself as a lifelong animation fan, Richardson was extremely excited to work with McKay. “I love the Adult Swim show he directed called ‘Titan Maximum,’ and I think his Lego movie was fantastic, so as soon as I heard he was directing The Tomorrow War, I was like, please let me be a part of this!” Richardson says. “Somehow he’s able to see the entire movie in his brain ahead of time, which is a great skill for a director to have, but he’s also open to deciding what’s best in the moment, which is kind of unusual on a project of this scale.”
Filming on location in Iceland was an incredible experience for the actor. “I’d never been there before, and naturally it was extremely cold, but I’m from Detroit, so I’m no stranger to freezing temperatures. The interesting thing was that it really helped me in terms of acting. We shot on the largest glacier in Europe and there’s something about being a million feet in the air and shivering that makes you want to act harder. The fact that you can’t just leave the set and walk out the door in sunny California forces you to immerse yourself in the role.”
Richardson thinks audiences will identify with the characters in the film because of how realistic and natural they are. “It makes you feel like you could potentially be a part of the story,” he says. “After all, most movies like this are about guys who’ve been training for combat their whole lives. They’re the best of the best, and they take no prisoners. But in The Tomorrow War, the soldiers could be your auntie. They could be your mailman or the chef at your favorite restaurant. So I think people will naturally imagine themselves in that situation.”
Drafting Civilians and Soldiers
Rounding out the impressive supporting cast is a rich ensemble of talent that includes Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin as Dan’s wife Emmy Forester, award-winner Edwin Hodge as tough-as-nails Dorian, Mary Lynn Rajskub (“24,” Little Miss Sunshine) and Mike Mitchell (“Love,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) as fellow draftees Norah and Cowan, and Jasmine Mathews (“The Rookie,” “Blue Bloods”) as soldier-from-the-future Lt. Hart.
According to Goldberg, pairing Gilpin and Pratt as a married couple paid off handsomely when the cameras rolled. “Betty and Chris really formed a wonderful partnership on screen,” the producer says. “They play two realistic parents who are just trying to make the world safer for their daughter, and Betty pulls that off with intelligence and wit. She and Chris make quite a combo together.”
Hodge, who currently stars in the FX series “Mayans M.C.” and appeared in the sci-fi action film Bumblebee, describes his character Dorian as an intimidating warrior. “I mean, he’s got a giant shotgun and an alien claw around his neck, so he’s definitely someone that you don’t want to cross,” the actor observes. “But at the same time, you want him on your team when you’re in the thick of it because he’s a leader who knows how to kill these creatures.”
Daly was delighted with the way Rajskub and Mitchell bonded on screen playing two average citizens who find themselves in over their heads when transported to the future. “I love the hint of a relationship that we see develop between their characters,” the producer says. “Mike and Mary Lynn are wonderful comedic actors and they brought a lot of levity to their roles.”
The cast of warriors from the year 2051 includes Jasmine Mathews as Lt. Hart, Seychelle Gabriel as Sgt. Diaz, Chibuikem Uche as Lt. Ikemba, Alan Trong as Lt. Trang and Keith Powers as Maj. Greenwood. “I loved working with the future soldiers: Jasmine, Seychelle, Chib, Alan and Keith,” says McKay. “Keith was so good as Yvonne’s right hand man, and nailed the exact kind of soulful energy for his scene with Chris. Seychelle was the first person to fire the guns Gary Tuers created for our movie. She was such a badass and always game to try anything. That whole future crew was so much fun!”
Piercing the Membrane of Time
Time travel has played a role in countless films over the years, but The Tomorrow War offers a unique take on the concept, according to Pratt. “Our philosophy in The Tomorrow War is that time is like a river flowing in one steady direction, and the devices that the draftees wear on their arms allow them to jump between two rafts on that river of time,” he explains. “You can jump from one raft to another, but that’s it. So if I jump 30 years into the future and spend ten days there, when I jump back again it’ll be ten days after I left.”
Gilpin believes the notion of time travel is well-suited to the film’s domestic drama. “There’s something about it that’s strangely conducive to telling a family story, because families sort of exist simultaneously in the past, present, and future,” she says. “After all, when you’ve got a family member in front of you in the present, you’re always picturing them the way you did when you first met them or when they were first born. And at the same time you’re also imagining growing old with them. So this movie literalizes that concept.”
Award-winning VFX supervisor James E. Price (Aquaman, Pacific Rim) was brought on to assist McKay in achieving his goal of designing a fresh new way to depict time travel. “Chris wanted something more visually compelling than other time-travel movies had gone with before, so we took a lot of inspiration from astronomic photography,” says Price. “We looked at images of the northern lights and the view of Earth from space, and at one point I showed him a bunch images from the Hubble Space Telescope because there’s something kind of intimate and mysterious about those pictures.”
Rather than offer a variation on the familiar wormhole imagery that other films fall back on to depict time travel, Price and his team invented a new method of launching humans into the future. “We wanted the time jumps to capture the sensation of physical travel, so in order to convey speed, distance, and momentum, we designed what we call the membrane, which is like a force field that forms above the draftees right before they jump in time,” he says. “The travelers slowly rise up, pierce this membrane, and begin their journey.”
Overseeing the visual effects on The Tomorrow War was a dream job for Price. “Chris told me up front that he was interested in capturing realistic effects, which thrilled me because I love that approach to filmmaking. He wanted to make sure the visual effects were integrated with the rest of the story, not just added in later, and he didn’t want them to stand apart from the rest of the movie. So with that in mind, we started brainstorming each scene to determine how we could create effects with an eye towards realism.”
The task of creating the dazzling time-travel look fell on the capable shoulders of Oscar-winning special effects supervisor J.D. Schwalm (First Man, Venom). “Chris really wanted the time jumps to look completely new and original, especially the jump at the beginning of the movie where more than two dozen people from the future appear out of thin air in a soccer stadium,” he says.
To capture the effect, Schwalm and his team first ran tests using an underwater cloud tank to simulate the time-displacement effect. “But then we got the bright idea to use a practical wall of smoke instead,” he says. “We made the smoke thick enough so the camera couldn’t see through it, and then one of our stunt coordinators rigged the actors on wires and literally flew them through the wall of smoke. We added a bunch of CG electrical currents in post-production, and when you finally see it on screen it looks as though the actors are materializing out of thin air.”
Building the Ultimate Creature
The terrifying otherworldly threat in The Tomorrow War is a ferocious extraterrestrial species known as white spikes. Screenwriter Dean explains the origins of the moniker: “When I was developing the story, I needed to find a term for them that wasn’t too esoteric. I thought it made sense to come up with a visual reference, or some type of slang term you might hear on the battlefield if you were fighting them. The name ‘white spike’ is based on that terrifying initial feeling you get in your gut when you see them for the first time.”
Ravenous monsters that hunt in packs like wolves, the white spikes communicate with each other using signals based on a mysterious biological hierarchy. Designing them was a yearlong process that involved some of the most talented special effects artists and creature designers in Hollywood.
“We wanted to create aliens the audience had never seen before,” says McKay. “They needed to have a feral intelligence, along with some kind of organic weapons that could shoot projectiles at people. And they had to look extremely hungry, as though they’re constantly starving. Their texture was also very important to me. I wanted them to have a tough exterior, as though they’ve been around for thousands of years. Basically, they needed to be incredibly scary, but in a way that made you curious about them.”
Production designer Peter Wenham says designing the white spikes was one of the filmmakers’ primary focuses during much of preproduction. “They’re fundamental to the story and if you get them wrong then everything else can fall apart like a house of cards,” says Wenham, whose numerous credits include Mission: Impossible – Fallout and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. “And it’s no mean feat coming up with a creature that isn’t reminiscent of anything that’s ever been seen on film before.”
Cowan agrees. “Our goal was to find a creature design that served the movie and the characters, but also had a distinct personality, because that’s what all the greatest movie monsters have in common. It took us quite a while, but in the end, I think we came up with a creature that will stand the test of time.”
In researching visual references, the filmmakers looked at rhinoceros and hippopotamus skin, studied cheetahs and leopards for the way their joints allow them to run quickly, and examined snakes for their ability to unhinge their jaws. Marine predators were also part of the search. “There’s this 300-year-old shark that was photographed off the coast of Greenland, and when I saw a photo of its black eyes and its mangled teeth, I knew we had to incorporate some of those things into our design too,” says McKay. “As for their skin, I envisioned it being raw and covered with psoriasis and pock marks and things like that.”
Creature concept illustrators Ken Barthelmey (Godzilla vs. Kong, The Maze Runner) and Carlos Huante (Goosebumps, Blade Runner 2049) helped assemble the various components together in one nightmarish package.
“Since the white spikes attack and eat everything they see, Chris McKay asked for a compelling design that conveyed their bottomless hunger,” says Barthelmey. “It was also important that they be extremely agile and able to move very fast.”
Barthelmey incorporated many different scientific and zoological references into his creature designs. “I often use photos of real animals for inspiration, which I then mix with things from my own imagination,” he says. “I think it’s important to find a healthy balance between realism and imagination.”
For the head of the white spikes, Barthelmey says he incorporated various references to deep-sea fish, especially the viperfish. “That was a big influence when I designed the creatures’ face. Shark eyes were my inspiration for their eyes, because there’s something very eerie about black shark eyes.” He also added elements from the insect world. “For example, the white spikes’ small front arms are based on praying mantis claws, and their back plates resemble the shell of a grasshopper,” he says.
With the design complete, the special effects team constructed a full-size creature puppet, along with several smaller pieces used for specific shots. “We built a couple of animatronic white spikes because we wanted something physical for the actors to react to on camera, and we also relied on our talented stuntman, Troy Brenna, who brought the creatures to life in a motion-capture suit when the cast had to interact with them,” says Cowan.
The final version of the aliens combines both practical and VFX work, according to SFX supervisor Schwalm. “Chris wanted to shoot practical effects wherever he could, and he only wanted to lean on visual effects for the bigger stuff if possible. Whenever the aliens interact with a large physical object, be it a car or a human or something like that, our practical effects team took over. So we relied on a blend of techniques to bring them to life.”
The fact that the draftees in The Tomorrow War are, for the most part, not equipped to be soldiers affected decisions about everything from casting to preproduction training. “This isn’t like in the Vietnam era, or World War II, where you’re drafting young, strong men in their late teens or early 20s,” says Pratt. “Instead, the recruits in this movie are primarily middle-aged men and women of all shapes, sizes, and experience.”
According to Cowan, the goal in casting Dan’s comrades-in-arms was to find actors who seem like ordinary people. “We wanted them to feel like someone you might meet during an average day, whether it’s a teacher, a dentist, a grocery store employee or whoever,” says the executive producer. “It also made weapons training tricky. Of course, we wanted the actors to know how to safely operate the guns and use them effectively, but we didn’t want them to look like they were any good at it. So we asked our military trainers to make sure they didn’t go too far with their instruction.”
A Stunning Location
Since the initial idea for The Tomorrow War was born during Dean’s family vacation in Iceland, it was only natural that the film’s spectacular climax should be shot there. In the story, however, the Nordic island nation stands in for Russia. “Shooting in Iceland gave the cast and crew a connection to the material that went far beyond the theoretical,” says Dean. “It affects your senses in a way that you just can’t experience in front of a green screen on a soundstage in Los Angeles. Everything feels much more extreme, and real, and palpable.”
Cowan acknowledges the challenges of shooting in Iceland, but he felt the rewards were worth the effort. “Sometimes you shoot on location and you come away wondering why you bothered going there in the first place. But not Iceland. We left Iceland with some of the most stunning footage I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been in this business for 30 years. That said, it wasn’t easy to pull off. All the equipment had to be dragged up a remote ridge, including a massive techno crane that we had to build skis for and use outriggers to make sure it didn’t tip over on the way. But once we got up there, we realized exactly why we came.”
For Pratt, shooting in one of the most beautiful and pristine regions on Earth was an eye-opening experience. “On the long list of amazing things that are part of filmmaking, being on top of a glacier as the sun is rising with helicopters and snowmobiles and dozens of crew people all around you is pretty high up there,” he says. “I remember Chris McKay and I looking at each other at one point and being like, is this really happening? It adds so much to the film’s production value. You just can’t fake that.”
Along with the gorgeous terrain, however, shooting in Iceland came with certain risks, according to McKay. “Filming on the glacier in Iceland was a lot of fun, but make no mistake, it can be a very dangerous place to work. You definitely capture a sense of realism there, but there’s a lot of responsibility involved as well when it comes to safety. There are massive crevasses that go down for hundreds of feet, and if you fall into one, you’re gone. It’s also very challenging because the weather is constantly changing and you only have so much daylight available. We had about six hours of shootable time each day, and then the sun would just crawl across the horizon and go down, leaving us in the dark.”
In a case of life imitating art, global warming in Iceland actually affected the work that production designer Wenham did on the project. “When we began scouting locations in Iceland, we looked at some really magnificent spots, including the Anaconda Ice Cave and the Blue Diamond Cave,” he says. “But when we went back there in the summer, they had almost completely disappeared. It was a bit unnerving to think that climate change had just melted them away. Ultimately, we found a large crevasse in the ice, and I was able to work with that instead, but we were operating on a wing and a prayer for a while.”
The Best Eye in the Business
To capture the look he envisioned for The Tomorrow War, McKay collaborated with acclaimed cinematographer Larry Fong. Having shot a number of blockbuster science-fiction and fantasy films in the past, such as Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Kong: Skull Island, Fong was no stranger to shooting movies about aliens and post-apocalyptic battlefields.
“Larry Fong is amazing,” says McKay. “Not only does he have the best eye in the business, he’s just a really fun guy to have around on set. As a director, you end up collaborating with a lot of different people on a film, and Larry was one of my favorites on The Tomorrow War. He creates jaw-dropping images, and he goes about everything so humbly! He’s a brilliant artist…and also strangely a really, really great magician! This is not a joke. In between setups he’d perform really clever magic tricks!”
Because McKay wanted The Tomorrow War to feel as real as possible rather than hyper-stylized, he chose to shoot on location as much as they could and limit the amount of green screen used. “Larry knew exactly how to make things feel real and tactile by bringing out the natural colors of the world we created,” says the director. “He made everything feel lived-in, which was exactly what I was looking for.”
Fong was surprised at how far McKay pushed him in terms of lighting and atmosphere. “He wanted more flares, more mood, and more contrast, and that’s the kind of thing cinematographers love to hear,” says the director of photography. “Although we shot The Tomorrow War digitally, Chris wanted the movie to have a classic vintage look, as though it was shot on actual film, so I used special modifications on our lenses and we shot anamorphic to give it a sense of grandeur and scope. We also made adjustments during the final color timing that made things look more visually dramatic.”
While much of the film was shot on location, certain key sequences had to be filmed in a studio, Fong says. “For example, when the soldiers are going down that long, dark, circular stairwell in Miami, we shot that sequence in a studio because we needed to carefully control everything about it. There was so much gunfire and stunt work involved, we needed full control to make it all work safely.”
The staircase sequence ended up being one of the DP’s favorite scenes to shoot. “I could tell as we were shooting in the stairwell that it was going to be really scary. It starts off so quietly, and then the music completely stops and you feel all of this tension begin to rise as they’re creeping further down the stairs. Then when the last guy looks up and thinks he sees something moving in the shadows, we used a long, slow zoom to stretch that out. Some people are afraid to use zooms, but Chris and I agreed it was the perfect moment to include one. It makes the whole sequence feel super tense, and it forces the audience to strain to see what’s up at the top of those stairs. I love doing things like that.”
Fong had visited Iceland a few times in the past, and even shot a car commercial there, and his familiarity with the place helped prepare him for the difficulties the location presented. “The cold in Iceland is absolutely brutal on the camera equipment,” he says. “It affects all the electronics, and you have to keep the cameras warm because the lenses tend to fog up if you’re not careful.”
Simply transporting the camera gear across the glacier was a major undertaking, says Fong. “We had to drive everything half an hour from the hotel to the bottom of the mountain, then we had to move it half an hour up to a lodge, and then transport it another half-hour in snowcats and four-wheel-drive vehicles to the very top of the glacier. People were completely bundled up and it was extremely hard to communicate, but that’s what you have to do if you want to get shots like that.”
Weather was also a factor during shooting in Atlanta, where many of the film’s intense combat scenes were filmed. “The sun would constantly come in and out, and since we had two units shooting simultaneously over long expanses of time, it was hard to get the lighting to match correctly. I was definitely losing sleep over that, but because those scenes have so much action, fighting, explosions and aliens, it all just blended together and worked out perfectly in the final cut.”
An Indelible Musical Score
The evocative score for The Tomorrow War was written by Scottish composer Lorne Balfe, whose credits include Mission: Impossible – Fallout and “The Crown” and who had previously collaborated with McKay on The Lego Batman Movie. “Lorne is just one of those gifted artists who constantly sends you fresh ideas,” the director says. “He’s brilliant at coming up with indelible themes, and I adore the ones he wrote for The Tomorrow War. He actually started writing music for the film long before we began shooting, so I was able to play some of it on set to help create the right mood.”
Balfe leapt at the chance to team up once again with McKay. “Chris was the primary reason I wanted to be involved on this project,” he says. “Working on The Lego Batman Movie with him was a joy, and I learned a lot from that experience, so I definitely wanted to be part of this film. But just as importantly, I’m a fan of science-fiction movies, and this one has all the traits of a modern classic.”
The composer wrote themes for several of the main characters in the film, and the themes for Dan and his daughter Muri were purposefully written so that they would blend well together. “There’s a connecting DNA strand between them, so Dan’s theme and Muri’s theme could musically play at the same time,” Balfe reveals. “The concept we came up with was to make this a realistic score that focused on the internal life of these characters instead of what one might expect to hear in a typical Hollywood blockbuster.”
The COVID pandemic made scoring The Tomorrow War far more challenging than usual because Balfe wasn’t able to be in the same studio with the musicians. “We recorded the score remotely over Evercast, which is a video collaboration platform that a lot of us used last year,” he says. “All the musicians had to remain socially distant, so we weren’t able to have all of them in together at the same time. We had about 80 musicians in total, and we recorded them in sections. So the strings had to be recorded separately from the brass, and so on. But that’s the magic of the internet for you!”
When it came to scoring the film’s dynamic action sequences, Balfe and McKay both felt the music didn’t need to work as hard as it normally would because the visual effects and the sound design were already so impressive. “I felt like I could actually pull it back at certain times,” the composer says.
That was particularly true when it came to the staircase attack sequence early in the movie. “The interesting thing about that scene is that it relies heavily on silence to build suspense,” Balfe says. “I worked closely with Chris and editor Roger Barton, and together we chose spots where less was more. The idea was that the audience didn’t need to be bombarded with a lot of music in the sequence. In a sense, using less music felt more psychologically disturbing.”
The same was true for the film’s climax, set in Arctic Russia and filmed in Iceland. “The scope and the power of those images makes you think differently in terms of music,” says Balfe. “Again, it was a case of less is more. The landscape was already so rich and expansive, the music didn’t need to make it feel any bigger.”
Balfe says action movies are always challenging to score because the audience needs to be able to relate to the characters even though the situations they’re in are not ones people have ever experienced. “For example, we don’t have the technology to be able to travel into the future, so musically you’ve got to find something that the audience can identify with, like the emotional bond between parents and children. So that’s what I latched onto when writing the themes for The Tomorrow War.”
Since Balfe began composing the score long before shooting began, he relied on the script and early storyboards to give him an idea of what the finished film would look like. But when he finally saw the completed movie, he went back and tweaked certain things to better fit the material. “The truth is, the aliens were far more disturbing than what I originally envisioned, so I changed the music a bit as I began to see the footage. And the same thing happened with Chris Pratt’s performance as Dan. He really added another dimension to the character, which meant I had to rewrite portions of his theme.”
In the end, Balfe was stunned by what McKay was able to accomplish on screen. “Chris has delivered a full cinematic experience with The Tomorrow War. It’s filled with emotion, excitement, and amazing action sequences, and that’s something we need at this particular moment in time. I think each of us could use a bit of escapism right now.”
A Duty to the Future
Finishing The Tomorrow War during the COVID pandemic required a major commitment from everyone involved, says Daly. “We shut down for two weeks when the country shut down in mid-March 2020, but then we delivered computers and Avid equipment to everyone’s respective homes and offices in order to continue working on the visual effects. And ultimately, we completed this huge movie at a distance, which is a true testament to the highly skilled crew we had.”
Fong believes audiences are in for a great ride when they see the finished movie. “You’ve got the dramatic emotional ups and downs of the characters, but then there’s this amazing fantasy element that’s rooted in reality. Plus there’s plenty of suspense in the film, and a lot of unexpected comedy as well. And the climax is truly epic. You’ve got these incredible helicopter shots that add a James Bond-style scope to the film, which I’m sure viewers will appreciate.”
For Simmons, the true appeal of the movie is the bond between each member of the Forester family. “Like all the best action sci-fi movies in history, at its core The Tomorrow War is a story about family, and love, and redemption. It’s as simple as that.”
Reflecting on his journey to bring The Tomorrow War to the screen, McKay hopes viewers will take the film’s core message to heart. “The white spikes represent an existential threat to the future of mankind,” he says. “We have a duty to future generations to leave the world in a better place than we found it. The message of the movie is about taking responsibility for what we pass on to our children.”
ABOUT THE CAST
CHRIS PRATT (Dan Forester, Executive Producer) recently appeared in the record-breaking hit Avengers: Endgame, which grossed more than $2.7 billion worldwide. This was the conclusion of the climactic story begun in Avengers: Infinity War, which also made more than $2 billion at the global box office. Prior to that, Pratt’s Star-Lord led Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise; the first installment was one of the top three highest-grossing films of 2014 with over $770 million in ticket sales globally. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trounced every other film that opened in the summer of 2017 and surpassed the first film’s total with over $860 million worldwide.
Pratt will next be seen on the small screen in “The Terminal List,” based on the Jack Carr novel, for Amazon. He is also executive producing.
In 2015 Pratt headlined Jurassic World, the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time, in the wildly popular role of Owen. He returned to star in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in 2018 and recently wrapped production on the third installment of the franchise, Jurassic World: Dominion, which is slated for a June 2022 release.
In 2016 Pratt starred in the sci-fi romance Passengers, opposite Jennifer Lawrence. He also appeared alongside Denzel Washington in Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, which opened the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and closed the 2016 Venice Film Festival. 2015 marked the seventh and final season of the Emmy Award-nominated series “Parks and Recreation.” Pratt’s breakthrough role as Andy Dwyer opposite Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman and Adam Scott may still be what he is best known for.
The actor’s other notable film credits include Oscar nominee Onward, animated blockbusters The Lego Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Spike Jonze’s critically acclaimed dramedy Her, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (an Oscar nominee for Best Picture) and Bennet Miller’s Moneyball, co-starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
YVONNE STRAHOVSKI (Colonel Muri Forester) has garnered wide critical acclaim for her role in Hulu’s Emmy- and Golden Globe®-winning original series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Strahovski netted an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, a Golden Globe bid for Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Miniseries or Television Film and two Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble (Drama Series).
Strahovski recently starred in “Stateless,” a six-part TV series that premiered on ABC Australia in March 2020, screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February and debuted on Netflix in July. The series was produced by and also starred Cate Blanchett, alongside Jai Courtney and Dominic West. For her performance Strahovski won an AACTA Award for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama.
In 2019 Strahovski appeared opposite Noomi Rapace in Kim Farrant’s psychological thriller Angel of Mine, which follows a woman’s descent into madness after she loses her daughter and becomes convinced that another woman’s child is in fact her own. Strahovski plays the woman accused of the girl. Strahovski also appeared in The Predator, a reboot of the 1987 sci-fi classic. The film, which grossed over $116 million worldwide, saw Strahovski star alongside Olivia Munn, Boyd Holbrook and Keegan-Michael Key.
Strahovski’s other film credits include He’s Out There, All I See Is You, Manhattan Night, I, Frankenstein and The Guilt Trip. On the television side she has starred in critically acclaimed dramas such as Fox’s “24: Live Another Day,” Showtime’s “Dexter” and ABC’s “The Astronaut Wives Club,” as well as the popular NBC comedy “Chuck.”
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Strahovski studied theater at the renowned Theatre Nepean, the prestigious actor-training institution within the School of the Contemporary Arts at the University of Western Sydney. Prior to her move to Los Angeles in early 2007 she co-founded a theater company called Sauna Productions, for whom she acted in and co-produced the productions “Kieslowski’s Neck” and “Finn City.” In 2012 Strahovski made her Broadway debut in the Lincoln Center Theater production of “Golden Boy,” which was nominated for a 2013 Tony Award®.
The actor currently resides in Malibu with her son and her husband, Tim Loden.
J.K. SIMMONS (James Forester) has appeared in a diverse range of projects spanning motion pictures, television and the stage, both on and Off Broadway. He won the 2015 Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a merciless jazz instructor in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, which garnered five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Simmons’ performance in the film also garnered him a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award, a Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award and a BAFTA Award, as well as many critics’ group honors around the world. He is also known for his memorable portrayal of an offbeat dad opposite Elliot Page in the hit comedy Juno and his role as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (as well as the recent reboot of the film franchise).
Simmons recently starred in Hulu’s “Palm Springs,” alongside Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. He also appeared in the Apple TV+ miniseries “Defending Jacob,” based on the 2012 novel of the same name. In 2019 Simmons starred in the second season of the critically acclaimed Starz series “Counterpart,” created by Justin Marks.
In 2018 the actor starred in Brian Kirk’s action thriller 21 Bridges, alongside Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch and the late Chadwick Boseman, and Simmons was also seen in Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, with Hugh Jackman and Vera Farmiga. He also co-starred in The Snowman, opposite Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson; Father Figures, with Owen Wilson and Ed Helms; Justice League, alongside Ben Affleck and Gal Godot; The Meddler, with Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne; The Accountant, opposite Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick; Patriots Day, with Mark Wahlberg; and I’m Not Here, which was directed by his wife Michelle Schumacher. He has contributed his vocal talents to films such as Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia.
Simmons’ other film credits include Terminator Genisys, Jobs, Labor Day, The Words, The Music Never Stopped, Jennifer’s Body, Extract, The Vicious Kind, I Love You Man, A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, Contraband, Hidalgo, The Ladykillers, The Mexican, Off the Map, For Love of the Game, The Gift, Thank You for Smoking, Rendition, Burn After Reading and Up in the Air.
On the small screen, Simmons’ breakthrough role came as Vern Schillinger on HBO’s acclaimed drama “Oz.” He also played LAPD Assistant Chief Will Pope on TNT’s hit series “The Closer” and had a recurring role on NBC’s “Law & Order.” Simmons guest-starred on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” and had a recurring role on TBS’ hit comedy “Men at Work.”
Also a distinguished stage actor, Simmons has appeared on Broadway in performances of “Guys and Dolls,” “Laughter on the 23rd Floor,” “A Change in the Heir,” “Peter Pan” and “A Few Good Men.”
SAM RICHARDSON (Charlie) is an actor, writer and producer perhaps best known as Richard Splett on HBO’s landmark, Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning comedy series “Veep,” which aired seven highly successful seasons. Alongside his lifelong best friend, Tim Robinson, Richardson is also the co-creator and star of Comedy Central’s critically adored comedy “Detroiters.”
Up next, Richardson leads the ensemble cast in Josh Ruben’s Werewolves Within, a horror comedy based on the Ubisoft game of the same name. The movie revolves around the shenanigans that ensue when a massive blizzard isolates a small Vermont town, causing simmering resentments to boil over as one by one the oddball townspeople are picked off by a mysterious creature. Richardson also wrapped production on Apple TV+’s murder-mystery comedy series “The Afterparty,” co-starring Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz and Ilana Glazer. Created by Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the eight-episode single-camera comedy series is set at a high school reunion afterparty. Each episode will feature a retelling of the same night told through a different character’s perspective, each with its own unique visual format and film genre to match the teller’s personality.
In the animated TV space Richardson voices characters in Marvel’s Hulu series “M.O.D.O.K.” and Fox’s new animated comedy “HouseBroken.” He will also lend his voice to the forthcoming TBS pilot “Kill the Orange-Faced Bear,” part of a cast that includes Sarah Silverman and Damon Wayans Jr.
Richardson’s other small-screen credits include “The Office,” “Arrested Development,” “Portlandia,” “New Girl,” “Drunk History” and “Champaign Ill.” His film work includes Bootstrapped, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Ghostbusters, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Spy, Office Christmas Party, Hooking Up, Superintelligence, We’re the Millers, The House and Horrible Bosses 2.
Richardson is an alumnus of the prestigious Second City Chicago Main Stage. Prior to joining the main stage he studied at Wayne State University and also performed at Detroit’s Second City and Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck, Michigan. In Chicago he wrote and starred in two revues: “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies” and “South Side of Heaven,” both of which earned him Best Actor nominations from the Jefferson Awards, the annual awards honoring the best of Chicago theater.
A confessed “comic-book nerd” and sneakers collector, Richardson lives in Los Angeles.
BETTY GILPIN (Emmy Forester) is a three-time Emmy nominee, two-time SAG Award nominee and three-time Critics’ Choice nominee for her work on the hit Netflix series “GLOW,” from producers Liz Flahive, Carly Mensch and Jenji Kohan. Gilpin is currently shooting Universal Television’s “Gaslit,” opposite Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, for director Matt Ross. She was last seen in Craig Zobel’s Blumhouse feature The Hunt and Michael Dowse’s action-comedy Coffee & Kareem, opposite Ed Helms and Taraji P. Henson.
Gilpin’s other film credits include The Grudge, Stuber and Isn’t It Romantic.
JASMINE MATHEWS (Lt. Hart) will appear in Patrick Hughes’ forthcoming action-comedy The Man From Toronto, opposite Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson. Mathews was previously a series regular on the Starz drama “Sweetbitter,” based on the bestselling book by Stephanie Danler. She was also recently seen in a recurring role on ABC’s “The Rookie” and her prior TV credits include roles in Paramount Network’s remake of “Heathers” and the CBS drama “Blue Bloods.”
Also a skilled theater performer, Mathews has appeared onstage in several productions with the Nevada Conservatory Theater and the Baldwin Burroughs Theatre, including “Water by the Spoonful,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.”
Born in Houston, the former Miss Morehouse College and Miss Historically Black College and University graduated from UNLV with a Master of Fine Arts degree in theater. She also attended the British American Drama Academy in London.
EDWIN HODGE (Dorian) is best known for playing Robert Chase in the military drama series “Six” or for his roles in The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year. Hodge’s other television work includes “For All Mankind,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Mayans M.C.,” “Genius,” “Secrets and Lies” and “Chicago Fire.” He has also been seen in the features As Above, So Below, Red Dawn and Bumblebee.
Hodge currently resides in Los Angeles.
RYAN KIERA ARMSTRONG (Young Muri Forester) recently joined Lily Rabe and Finn Wittrock in the cast of Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story,” now in its 10th season, and will next be seen in the Marvel feature Black Widow. She is also set to play the role of Charlie McGee opposite Zac Efron in the remake of Stephen King’s Firestarter. Armstrong’s other credits include the television series “Anne With an E” and miniseries “The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair” as well as features The Art of Racing in the Rain, It Chapter Two, The Glorias and Wish Upon a Unicorn.
Armstrong was born in New York City on March 10, 2010. The youngest of five children, she began her professional acting career in 2015. Her first audition was her first booking, first recurring role and the beginning of a life on the road. The years to follow would allow Armstrong to collaborate with and learn from a “who’s who” of Hollywood including Julie Taymor, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Timothy Hutton, Bill Skarsgård, Amanda Seyfried, Milo Ventimiglia, Kevin Costner, Chris Pratt and Scarlett Johansson, to name a few.
In addition to acting Armstrong loves school, soccer, drawing, swimming and being a total goofball with her friends.
KEITH POWERS (Major Greenwood) has delivered a number of eclectic and provocative performances that have made him one of Hollywood’s most in-demand rising stars. In 2021 alone Powers’ starring roles include the indie On Our Way, opposite Micheál Richardson and James Badge Dale, and the romantic comedy The Perfect Find, alongside Gabrielle Union. Powers recently wrapped production on the neo-noir thriller Door Mouse, starring opposite Hayley Law in the writing/directing debut of actor Avan Jogia (Zombieland: Double Tap).
Powers is well-known for his roles in F. Gary Gray’s Academy Award-nominated biopic Straight Outta Compton, Robert Zemeckis’ hit miniseries “What/If” and BET’s event series “The New Edition Story,” which set ratings records for the network with 29 million viewers the week of its premiere. His other small-screen credits include “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Famous in Love” and “Faking It.” Powers has also collaborated on memorable brand partnerships with Bvlgari Parfums, Calvin Klein, Montblanc and Old Spice.
MARY LYNN RAJSKUB (Norah) is best known for her unconventional portrayal of Jack Bauer’s trusted ally Chloe on the beloved Fox series “24,” alongside Kiefer Sutherland. Rajskub is currently developing her pilot “Rainbow Rink” for Comedy Central. Most recently she appeared in the comedy Night School, alongside Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish, and the indie Hero Mode, with Mira Sorvino and Sean Astin. She also played leading roles in such films as In Search of Fellini, opposite Maria Bello, and Wilson, with Woody Harrelson and Judy Greer. Her other film credits include Safety Not Guaranteed, The Kings of Summer, Little Miss Sunshine, Julie and Julia, Punch-Drunk Love and Sunshine Cleaning.
Rajskub’s small-screen resume includes the Amazon pilot “Highston” and the critically lauded Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience.” She has also appeared on notable series such as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Arrested Development,” “Mr. Show” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”
SEYCHELLE GABRIEL (Sgt. Diaz) can be seen in the horror comedy Blood Fest, opposite Jacob Batalon and Robbie Kay, which premiered at SXSW 2018. She starred as Lourdes in the TNT series “Falling Skies,” produced by Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks TV, and also secured the female lead opposite Jacob Latimore in the crime drama Sleight, directed by J.D. Dillard. Gabriel has played recurring roles on “Get Shorty” for Epix and the Fox series “Sleepy Hollow.”
MIKE MITCHELL (Cowan) is best known for playing the lovable Randy for three seasons on the Netflix series “Love” and he also recurred on the Netflix comedy “Brews Brothers.” He will next appear on AMC in the comedy “Kevin Can F**K Himself.” Mitchell also starred in the FX pilot “What’s Going On? With Mike Mitchell,” which was produced by Funny or Die. The pilot was based on his incredibly popular live talk show at the UCB Theatre. Mitchell’s other credits include “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” “The Mindy Project” and “The League.”
Mitchell is one of the co-creators and co-stars of the acclaimed sketch series “The Birthday Boys,” which aired for two seasons on IFC. The show was produced by Red Hour and Bob Odenkirk. Last year Mitchell developed the original pilot “Gamers” for TBS and his other writing credits include “Hidden America With Jonah Ray,” for Seeso.
Mitchell is the co-host of the popular weekly podcast “Doughboys,” on which he and his guests discuss their love of chain restaurants. Mitchell and company have also taken the show on tour across the country.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CHRIS McKAY (Director) is the award-winning filmmaker behind the worldwide hit The Lego Batman Movie, the second feature in the popular Lego film franchise. McKay was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production and the film itself was nominated for a Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award, a Critics’ Choice Award, an American Cinema Editors Eddie Award and an Art Directors Guild Award, among other honors. Additionally, McKay produced The Lego Ninjago Movie and served as co-director, editor and animation director of the 2014 blockbuster The Lego Movie. His work as an editor on that film earned McKay the American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Animated Feature Film as well as an Annie Award nomination.
Next McKay will direct Reborn, for Netflix; Renfield, for Universal Studios; and Jonny Quest, for Warner Bros. Pictures.
For television McKay has worked as a successful producer, editor and writer for Adult Swim/Cartoon Network. He won an Emmy in 2010 for directing “Robot Chicken,” one of the highest-rated and most critically acclaimed programs on Cartoon Network, and he has helmed more than 50 episodes. Since its premiere the show has received 14 Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Short-Form Animated Program, Outstanding Voiceover Performance and Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation.
McKay served as both director and producer on “Titan Maximum,” a groundbreaking animated program for Adult Swim that incorporated traditional stop-motion as well as 2D and 3D animation. Additionally, McKay was nominated for an Annie Award for Best Directing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form for his work on the darkly comedic “Morel Orel,” created by TV comedy writer Dino Stamatopoulos.
McKay is a board member of Black Girl Film School and a passionate animal rights activist. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
ZACH DEAN (Writer) is a screenwriter and producer with a wide array of projects in the pipeline. Dean recently worked on the Universal Studios film Beast, which stars Idris Elba. In 2020 Dean sold two original spec feature films: The Gorge, to Skydance Media, and Day Drinker, to 30West. Dean will produce both films with Adam Kolbrenner. He recently sold his original sci-fi film Canary to Imagine Entertainment for Ron Howard to direct. Additionally, Dean wrote Star Blazers for Chris McQuarrie to direct at Skydance and his original World War II film, Atlantic Wall, is set up at Imperative with Bradley Cooper attached to star. Dean has a biopic set up at Fox that tells the story of legendary rock promoter Bill Graham. He also wrote Voyagers, based on the life of Carl Sagan, for Warner Bros. The project is being produced by Lynda Obst and Sagan’s widow Ann Druyan. Also for Warner Bros., Dean wrote Methuselah with David Heyman producing, Danny Boyle at the helm and Michael B. Jordan to star. And finally, Dean has The Lightkeeper set up at Working Title Films, with Stephen Gaghan attached to direct, and Layover set up at Endgame with Thunder Road producing.
Dean’s feature film 24 Hours to Live was released in 2017 and starred Ethan Hawke. He also wrote Deadfall, which Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner financed and Stefan Ruzowitzky (Academy Award winner for The Counterfeiters) directed. The film starred Eric Bana, Charlie Hunnam, Olivia Wilde and Kate Mara.
Dean currently resides in Santa Barbara, California.
JULES DALY (Producer) launched Big Red Films in 2018, after spending 17 years as president of Ridley and Tony Scott’s RSA Films. Big Red’s founding marked a full-time return for Daly to film and television, where she previously enjoyed success producing such critically acclaimed hits as The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, and the Oscar-nominated Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, with a cast led by Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck and Sam Shepard.
Daly began her career at RSA in 1990, producing commercials for Ridley and Tony Scott before becoming the company’s president in 2001. She has been an industry leader and advocate throughout her career, recently serving on the Cannes Entertainment Lions and Brand Film Festival juries. Daly was also chairperson of the AICP Awards and judge for AICP’s Diversity Program.
Daly is currently based in Los Angeles.
DAVID ELLISON (Producer) is chief executive officer of Skydance Media, the diversified media company he founded in 2010 to create elevated, event-level entertainment for global audiences. As CEO he sets and executes the strategic vision for the company across all of its divisions: feature film, television, interactive, animation and new media. Ellison currently oversees Skydance’s upcoming film slate, which includes Top Gun: Maverick, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, The Adam Project and the upcoming seventh and eighth installments of the Mission: Impossible series. Under his leadership, Skydance has produced a number of blockbuster and critically acclaimed films, including Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, The Old Guard, 6 Underground, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Annihilation, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, the Jack Reacher films and the Academy Award-nominated Western True Grit.
In 2013 Ellison launched Skydance Television, which boasts a diverse slate of series including the Emmy nominees “Grace and Frankie” and “Altered Carbon” on Netflix and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon. The slate also includes “Condor” on Epix, “Foundation” on Apple TV+ and “Reacher” on Amazon.
In 2016 Ellison formed Skydance Interactive, a dedicated subsidiary that creates original virtual reality games and licensing. The studio’s library includes the critically acclaimed VR game “The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners” and the mech-shooter “Archangel: Hellfire.” In 2017 he launched an animation division at Skydance, with the purpose of producing a bold and original slate of high-end animated feature films and television series. Already in the pipeline are the features Luck and Spellbound. In 2020 Ellison formed Skydance Animation Madrid, which expanded the creative capability, scale and leverage of the studio.
In 2018 Ellison announced that Skydance had entered into a partnership with Tencent Holdings Limited, a leading provider of internet value-added services in China. Two years later he announced the formation of strategic partnerships with RedBird Capital and CJ E&M, culminating in a $275 million equity capital expansion that saw Skydance’s valuation increasing to $2.3 billion. This partnership with CJ E&M expanded Skydance’s global television business, providing the company a strong foothold in South Korea’s entertainment market and access to CJ E&M’s expansive library of wildly popular entertainment.
Ellison is an accomplished pilot and a lifelong film enthusiast. He attended the School of Cinematic Arts at USC and is a member of both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Television Academy. Ellison currently resides in Southern California with his wife, musician Sandra Lynn.
DANA GOLDBERG (Producer) is the chief creative officer at Skydance Media, where she helps to set and execute the company’s overall creative vision across its feature film, television and animation units. Goldberg oversees an upcoming film slate that includes Top Gun: Maverick, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, The Adam Project and the upcoming seventh and eighth installments of the Mission: Impossible franchise. She also helps to oversee Skydance’s animated slate, including the forthcoming films Luck, Spellbound and Powerless (working title).
In addition to feature films, Goldberg has creative oversight of Skydance Television’s slate of original series. The company’s small-screen credits include Emmy nominees “Grace and Frankie” and “Altered Carbon” on Netflix and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon. The slate also includes “Condor” on Epix, “Foundation” on Apple TV+ and “Reacher” on Amazon.
Goldberg joined Skydance in 2010 as president of production and was responsible for the entire film slate. The company’s releases during her tenure include The Old Guard, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, 6 Underground, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek Beyond, Jack Reacher, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Terminator: Dark Fate, Gemini Man, World War Z, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and True Grit.
Prior to joining Skydance Goldberg was the president of production at Village Roadshow Pictures, where she served as executive producer on and oversaw many of the studio’s blockbuster and award-winning films, including I Am Legend and Happy Feet. Before Village Roadshow Goldberg was vice president of production at Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures.
Goldberg has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2007 and is also a member of both the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Television Academy. She holds a B.A. degree from the University of Missouri.
DON GRANGER (Producer) is president of feature film production at Skydance Media, where he is responsible for overseeing the development and production of the company’s robust feature film slate. Forthcoming releases include Top Gun: Maverick, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, The Adam Project and the upcoming seventh and eighth installments of the critically acclaimed Mission: Impossible series.
Granger has over 30 years of experience in shepherding tentpole films. He served as a producer on many notable Skydance releases including The Old Guard, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, 6 Underground, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Annihilation, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Terminator: Dark Fate and Gemini Man.
Prior to joining Skydance, Granger served as president of motion picture production at United Artists, where he ran the day-to-day development and production operations for five years. Before that he oversaw production, development and operations at C/W Productions as a senior executive, helping to bring such films as War of the Worlds, Mission: Impossible III and Elizabethtown to the big screen. He also served as producer on Ask the Dust and The Eye and was an executive producer on Death Race.
Granger previously served as executive vice president of motion picture production at Paramount Pictures, where he was responsible for supervising the blockbuster franchises Mission: Impossible, Star Trek and Tomb Raider as well as Tom Clancy adaptations such as Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum of All Fears. His other credits in this capacity include Varsity Blues, The Saint, Kiss the Girls, Along Came a Spider and the Academy Award winner Saving Private Ryan. Before his time at Paramount Granger served as a creative executive and producer at The Mutual Film Company, The Weintraub Entertainment Group and Touchstone Pictures.
Granger holds a B.A. degree from Yale University and is a member of both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Producers Guild of America (PGA). He currently resides in Southern California with his family.
SAMANTHA NISENBOIM (Co-Producer) is a film producer and co-founder of Giant Wildcat, the film production company she and Chris McKay started in 2014. In addition to partnering with McKay on all of his directorial endeavors, she also spearheads production and development for the company.
Nisenboim is best known for her work on the Lego film franchise, including The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie. She also consulted on Robert Downey Jr.’s Dolittle.
Next Nisenboim will produce Reborn, for Netflix; Renfield, for Universal Studios; and Jonny Quest, for Warner Bros. Pictures.
Nisenboim grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She is a proud USC Trojan and will always save room for dessert.
LARRY FONG (Director of Photography) most recently filmed the features The Predator, Kong: Skull Island and Now You See Me. Early in his career he shot the 2004 pilot for “Lost” with J.J. Abrams, which earned him an ASC Outstanding Achievement Award nomination. Fong went on to lens several episodes of the series before moving on to his first studio feature, 300, directed by Zack Snyder. They teamed up again on Watchmen (2009), starring Patrick Wilson and Malin Akerman; Sucker Punch (2011), starring Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish; and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), with Ben Affleck, Amy Adams and Henry Cavill. The cinematographer was reunited with J.J. Abrams on Super 8.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Fong’s interest in photography and film began in his teens with short films and experiments shot on Super 8, as well as cel animation and stop-motion projects. He graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in linguistics and later earned a degree in film from Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design. Fong got his start shooting music videos, including several MTV Video Music Award winners (for R.E.M., Van Halen and the Goo Goo Dolls). He went on to build a thriving career in commercials and booked assignments on two independent films and several TV pilots.
PETER WENHAM (Production Designer) netted Art Directors Guild Award nominations for his work on Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Mission: Impossible — Fallout (2018). His many notable credits include Chris Columbus’ Pixels and Ron Howard’s Inferno. Most recently he was the production designer on The Guilty, directed by Antoine Fuqua. Wenham is currently working on a film for Netflix that is shooting in New Mexico.
After studying interior design and architecture at De Montfort University, in 1987 Wenham began his career in the entertainment business by working at the BBC. He moved on to building his foundation of experience by working at Independent Television (ITV) and London Weekend Television (LWT) as an art director for a range of successful U.K. television programs such as “Poirot” (1989 to 1996). Wenham then ventured into film and television movies and received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries, Movie or Special for both “Hornblower: Mutiny” (2001) and “Hornblower: Duty” (2003).
Wenham’s success in television led to his career working as a supervising art director for feature films shooting in the U.K., including The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Kinky Boots (2005), The Queen (2006) and Blood Diamond (2006). As production designer for The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) Wenham was nominated for an ADG Award for Excellence in Production Design. Next Wenham’s career took him to the U.S., where he would design such films such as Battle Los Angeles (2011), Fast Five (2011), 21 Jump Street (2012) and Now You See Me (2013).
BETSY HEIMANN (Costume Designer) has been the costume designer on a number of memorable movies. Her work on Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction was widely acclaimed and she received a Costume Designers Guild Award nomination for her work on Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, starring Kate Hudson and Billy Crudup. Heimann and Crowe teamed up again for Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, and Jerry Maguire, starring Cruise and Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. More recently she designed Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, and The Marksman, starring Liam Neeson. Heimann is also the designer of the Netflix limited series “Godless,” for Scott Frank.
The costume designer’s prior credits include Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez; Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty, with John Travolta and Gene Hackman; and Scott Frank’s A Walk Among the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson. Heimann was also Neeson’s costume designer on The A-Team, Unknown, The Commuter and Taken 3.
ROGER BARTON (Editor) began his editorial career working on documentaries and made-for-TV movies including the Emmy-winning “Indictment: The McMartin Trial.” He soon made the transition to motion pictures and in 1997 was an associate editor on the decade’s biggest blockbuster, Titanic.
Barton quickly moved up the ladder, honing his skills at Jerry Bruckheimer Films on Armageddon and Gone in 60 Seconds. Since then he has worked with Michael Bay on Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, The Amityville Horror, The Island, and the last five Transformers films.
Barton also has cut for such leading filmmakers as George Lucas (on Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith), the Wachowski Brothers (Speed Racer), Jim Sheridan (Get Rich or Die Tryin’) and Joe Carnahan (The Grey and The A-Team.) He edited three films for Skydance Media: G.I. Joe: Retaliation, World War Z and Terminator Genisys. In 2016 he returned to work with Jerry Bruckheimer on Walt Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
In 2017 Barton co-founded Evercast, a creative collaboration platform that enables filmmakers to collaborate remotely. Three years later the global pandemic accelerated Evercast’s adoption to become the go-to Emmy award-winning collaboration platform for filmmaking, gaming and more.
Recent credits include John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place and Michael Bay and Skydance’s 6 Underground for Netflix.
Barton currently serves as an editorial creative consultant for Walt Disney Studios.
GARRET ELKINS (Editor) is best known for being nominated for an American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Award and an ASIFA Annie Award for his work on Charlie Kaufman’s Academy Award nominee Anomalisa, which won the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival and starred David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan. Elkins’ other notable feature credits include The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Ninjago Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. His television work includes “Community,” “Robot Chicken,” “Moral Orel” and “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole.”
Elkins graduated from George Mason University with a degree in theater. He directed shows in Washington, D.C., and Chicago before moving to Los Angeles to focus on editing and enjoying the warmer climate with his family.
LORNE BALFE (Composer) is a Grammy Award® winner and Emmy- and BAFTA-nominated composer who has consistently received accolades for his musical compositions for feature films. Originally from Inverness, Scotland, Balfe has created music in virtually all genres and for all visual media, with projects ranging from major studio pictures to independent films, tentpole video game franchises, beloved animated films, critically acclaimed television series and documentary features. He scored the most successful film of the Mission: Impossible franchise, Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout, and has been announced as the composer of the next two installments. Whether heightening the drama of an impossible mission, the heartbreak of the Queen, the perils of the Caped Crusader or the soul of a genius, Balfe creates a musical voice that reflects the characters and the stories that embody them.
Some of Balfe’s latest projects include Ad Astra, Gemini Man, 6 Underground and Bad Boys for Life. Up next is Black Widow, the upcoming animated feature Rumble and Season 2 of “His Dark Materials” for HBO/BBC. He previously composed scores for features such as The Florida Project, Terminator Genisys, Pacific Rim: Uprising and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. He also served as score producer for Dunkirk. Balfe’s other notable television credits include “The Crown,” for Netflix, and the BBC One miniseries “The Cry.”
Balfe began his film music career working for Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer. He provided additional music for Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Inception, as well as Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Inferno. Balfe’s big break came when he scored his first major feature film, Megamind. Within a year he had expanded his scoring talents into video games, co-composing “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations,” which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Original Music. His other video game credits include “FIFA 19,” “Crysis 2,” four titles in the “Skylanders” series, “Assassin’s Creed III,” “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Beyond: Two Souls.” As music director of the Game Awards, Balfe conducts a live orchestra for a massive show garnering millions of viewers online.
KEN BARTHELMEY (Creature Concept Illustrator) is a freelance creature and character designer from Luxembourg who has been working in the movie industry for the past 10 years. In 2012 he designed the “Grievers” for the film The Maze Runner, directed by Wes Ball. Since then Barthelmey has completed creature designs for a vast array of other popular films, including Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), It (2017), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and the upcoming Aquaman 2 (2022), directed by James Wan.
Barthelmey is a self-taught artist who showed a great passion for drawing and sculpting in his childhood. His multifaceted work in both 2D and 3D media has earned him several awards, including the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists’ prestigious Chesley Award.
JAMES E. PRICE (Visual Effects Supervisor) began his career in visual effects at the age of 8 by building models and photographing them with his father’s 8mm movie camera. In high school he discovered another method of crafting moving images: computer graphics. After pursuing a degree in computer science and a brief stint working in Silicon Valley, Price landed his first professional job in visual effects at Industrial Light & Magic in 1991. For the next 10 years he honed his skills by working at several seminal visual effects companies, including Boss Film Studios, Cinesite, VIFX and Dream Quest Images. Since 2001 Price has worked as a freelance visual effects supervisor and second unit director.
In addition to his professional endeavors, Price has lectured on visual effects at USC as a part of the Peter Stark Producing Program. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Visual Effects Society and the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
Price currently resides in Los Angeles.
DEBORAH AQUILA, C.S.A. (Casting) is an award-winning casting director whose recent feature credits include Coda, Cherry, La La Land, Wonder, Stronger, Deepwater Horizon and Woman in Gold. Her television credits include the critically acclaimed Showtime series “Dexter,” FX’s “The Shield” and TNT’s “Mob City.”
After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Stella Adler Conservatory, Aquila worked on the first two seasons of “Miami Vice” and several feature films including Michael Mann’s Manhunter and The Pope of Greenwich Village as an associate. Her independent casting director career began with Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Uli Edel’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. By 1993, when she moved to Los Angeles to cast Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, Aquila had completed over 18 independent films in New York.
That same year she was named senior vice president of features casting for Paramount Pictures. During her nine-year tenure Aquila cast such notable films as Primal Fear, Mission: Impossible II, Double Jeopardy, Varsity Blues, The Brady Bunch, Kiss the Girls, Mother and What Women Want. In March 2020 she returned to the studio as executive vice president of casting for Paramount Television Studios.
Aquila is a proud member of the Casting Society of America and has been nominated 16 times for the CSA’s Artios Award, winning for the features Red, My Week with Marilyn and La La Land. In 2003 she was recognized by the Hollywood community with the Hollywood Film Festival Career Achievement Award. In 2020 she received the CSA’s Hoyt Bowers Award for Career Achievement.
Aquila has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1994.
TRICIA WOOD (Casting) has cast over 150 feature films and televisions shows including La La Land, Wonder, American Pastoral, My Week With Marilyn and The Human Stain, as well as the pilot episodes of “Dexter” and “The Shield.”
She started her career as an intern in 1993 in the features casting department at Paramount Pictures under her mentor and then-senior vice president of casting Deborah Aquila. Over the next three years, Wood moved up from casting assistant to casting associate. After a brief period of working in production, she reunited with Aquila in 1999 to form Aquila/Wood Casting. In 2014 the company joined Lionsgate Entertainment as its in-house casting department. In September of 2019, the pair returned to independent casting, relocating to downtown Los Angeles. In March of 2020, Wood returned to Paramount as the head of features casting and is currently the studio’s executive vice president, casting film. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Wood is a member of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation and Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. She studied architecture at Oklahoma State University before moving to Los Angeles to pursue her career in film.
Wood is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
JOHN MARQUIS (Supervising Sound Editor & Sound Design) is a supervising sound designer, re-recording mixer and musician. He has been nominated seven times for a Motion Picture Sound Editors’ Golden Reel Award, winning once. Marquis’ recent film credits have allowed an unparalleled creative freedom in sound design and include such titles as Godzilla vs. Kong, Jungle Cruise, In the Heights and Pokémon Detective Pikachu.
An alumnus of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Berklee College of Music, Marquis spent several years composing music and designing experimental, audio-based installation artworks before transitioning to work on feature films. He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.
NANCY NUGENT TITLE (Supervising Sound Editor & Sound Design) most recently worked on the feature films Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, A Quiet Place Part II, It Chapter Two and Crazy Rich Asians. Early in her career she won two Emmys for documentary sound. She is currently slated to work with filmmakers George Clooney and Andy Muschietti on their upcoming projects.
Nugent grew up in the Pacific Northwest. She attended the Wharton School of Business for two years before her desire to pursue a career in sound led her to a training course in audio engineering. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two daughters.
GARY TUERS (Prop Master) is a third-generation prop master and owner of Xtreme Props and Weapons Rentals. Tuers started propping in 1997 and has prop-mastered many hits, including such films as Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Fate of the Furious and The Magnificent Seven. Next Tuers is serving as prop master and arming “The Terminal List,” an eight-part Amazon series starring Chris Pratt based on Jack Carr’s bestselling book.
Besides Tuers’ prop projects, Xtreme Props and Weapons Rentals has set the bar for motion picture weaponry with his work on John Wick: Chapter 2 and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. Other Xtreme credits include Godzilla: King of the Monsters and the AMC series “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Based out of Simi Valley, California, Tuers loves fishing and the Los Angeles Dodgers.