DreamWorks’ I Am Number Four, which highlights the lives of two young fugitives from the planet of Lorien and a young teenage girl who helps them in their quest for survival, has a radiant cast. D.J. Caruso helms the project with Michael Bay as producer, so expect tons of explosions and daring action scenes.
Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron, Teresa Palmer and director D.J. Caruso sit down to discuss the arduous process behind the making of this alien film for modern times.
Q: D.J., did you get involved in this movie because you loved reading the book or was it your relationship with Steven Spielberg?
D.J. Caruso: I got a call from DreamWorks. It was Steven and he said they'd bought this book for Michael Bay, but Michael was now going to do Transformers and they were talking about directors and asked if I would read the script and the book. They sent the script and the manuscript over for the book and I read them, and I found something in there that I thought would be really cool.
So that's how I kind of got involved, worked on some of the drafts. And then DreamWorks really didn't give me much time. They sort of said, If you want to make this, you have to start shooting in four months. And I said, "Okay. I think we can do that." It’s been a race ever since.
Q: How is this project different from other sci-fi films with aliens?
Dianna Agron: It’s interesting because I was trying to describe this movie to my mom and my friend and I said to them it’s sort of Rebel Without a Cause with aliens. I think my mom was picturing Mars Attacks! with aliens coming down and lasers. From what I’ve seen of the cut, D.J. has it really grounded within this world. It’s easiest when you see it to understand. The imagery is so amazing. You’ve got these bad guys hunting down Alex and Teresa and other kids and yet they don’t have pointy ears, or a pointy nose or an alien head they are very sophisticated. This is a very different vehicle that I think has never been driven before.
Q: What’s the difference between Superman and Number Four?
Alex Pettyfer: Superman is someone who knows his destiny, wants it and fights it. He kind of endures the fact that he has all these powers. But [Number Four] doesn’t really want any of his powers. He wants normality.
It's kind of like that Jason Bourne feeling of not knowing who you are. He wants the normal life where he is in the same place as the same people around him--wants everything to be normal. And that's not who he is and that's not what his destiny is.
Q: Teresa, what super power does you character have in the film?
Teresa Palmer: I am fireproof and I also have the power of invisibility. On top of that she is an incredible warrior—she has been training in martial arts for years and years. She has been hunting the enemy alien. So she is fierce and that meant that I had to do a ton of physical training. A lot of conditioning and stunt work, sword work, shooting and I learned to ride a Ducati motorbike. I did some intensive training.
Q: How does Number Six help Number Four?
Palmer: Well Number Six has been searching for Number Four for a while. She knows that if they can find each other with their powers combined, they can become the ultimate weapon to defend themselves against the enemy. So she has been searching and searching and she finally finds him and realizes that he is very new to this whole "powers" thing. He’s not really committed, he wants to have his own normal life and Number Six comes in and says, “You've got no choice, you are one of us and you need to step up and bring these guys down.” They pair up and they are an incredible team. The fight sequences in this movie are incredible: he can shoot these lightning bolts from his hands and if fire gets thrown at us I can deflect that. It’s remarkable to watch.
Q: Were there any difficulties in creating the lumen that comes from Alex’s hands?
Caruso: The lumen didn't particularly provide injuries, but Alex basically had, like, a practical appliance that was at times as big as your cell phone and other times quite smaller. It was important that the light not just be CG light and that there's an interactive element to it. I think it was probably hard to run and grab things and try to figure things out [but Alex] became a lumen pro after a while with light wires coming up his hands.
Pettyfer: I had this suit jacket I put on and these wires came down from either side and we had sticky tape. One word of advice: do not go near water when you got it on, but it's all worth it because it makes it real.
Q: Dianna, Teresa and Alex have intense actions scenes. What sort of stunt work can we expect from you?
Agron: Well, I do some falling and running. [Laughs] And it was so much fun! I For some reason, I don’t know why, but I’ve never been skydiving or bungee jumping or any of those things yet it interests me so much, particularly when I started doing the stunt training. They asked me if I was afraid of heights, are you this, are you that and I said, “No, come on, let’s go.”
There was this one experience where we are running out of this alcove and I was supposed to be leading the way and I’m thinking, oh god, I was a ballerina growing up so I hope I don’t trip and fall. What if I can’t run really fast? They were [filming] in high speed and all of a sudden they yell "cut" and everybody is laughing hysterically. And I’m thinking, what did I do? Do I look like an idiot running? What’s going on? They show us the playback and I am running so fast, especially on the high speed, and no one is next to me. It’s just me taking off like a mad woman. They were like, "Maybe you shouldn’t run that fast."
Q: What’s different about Sarah compared to Quinn on Glee?
Agron: They are both teenagers in high school and obviously I’m still blonde in this film. Some people that have read the book can say that she is also a cheerleader and she was popular, and those are things that are not really touched on in the film. She loves photography and she likes the idea of escaping the smaller pond that she has existed in for so long. What I loved about her is that she’s strong and sensitive at the same time and when Alex’s character, John, comes into town it’s kind of a new beginning for her. She finds this guy who interests her so much and sees her for her and doesn’t have all those preconceived notions or experiences that perhaps her other peers had with her. So, it’s a really great bond that they form and fall in love with each other right away. With Glee all of our characters are on this hyper reality and everybody has real emotions but everything is so poppy. Granted there are real moments, but this character in particular is an old soul.
Q: How are you mentally preparing yourself for the possibility that these films, along with the books, could become phenomenon?
Palmer: Well it is so flattering to hear that this could be a massive movie, a phenomenon or that there are going to be sequels. I think we all had an incredible time shooting this movie and if it is successful, and audiences embrace the story and want another film, I would be so excited to be part of that. I know the next book is called The Power of Six so it focuses a lot on the character of Number Six. I would totally embrace [the opportunity] with open arms. I have been continuing my martial arts training. So just in case there is a second film I think that it is good that I keep up with my motorbike riding and sword fighting. I figured that if I have a foundation, I might as well continue on with it. I definitely enjoyed it.