Tagline: Anywhere is possible.
A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between “Jumpers” and those who have sworn to kill them.
The science fiction thriller leaps into a new realm with Jumper, which begins the epic adventures of a man who discovers that he possesses the exhilarating ability to instantly teleport anywhere in the world he can imagine.
From New York to Tokyo, from the ruins of Rome to the heart of the Saharan Desert, anywhere is possible for David Rice (Hayden Christensen), until he begins to see that his freedom is not total, that he’s not alone… but part of an ongoing, global war that threatens the very survival of his rare and extraordinary kind.
David Rice has grown up with a mysterious power of which many have dreamed. He is completely and utterly mobile, able to zap through wormholes in the space-time fabric to any city, any building, any place at all that his mind desires.
In the blink of an eye, he can “jump” from one side of the earth to the other and back again — he can tour twenty different sunsets in one night, he can have breakfast on the Egyptian Sphinx, spend the day surfing in Australia, then pop over to Paris for dinner and enjoy dessert in Japan. He can pass through walls and locked bank safes and enter the most forbidden chambers.
So far, he has used his powers to run away from his past, to take advantage of unlimited wealth, to remain fiercely independent. He’s never known limits or boundaries or consequences. Or true connection. Until now.
But when David discovers another young man like himself, a fiery, globetrotting rebel named Griffin (Jamie Bell), the truth of his existence begins to dawn. He is not just a lone freak of nature, but part of a long line of genetic anomalies known as Jumpers, none of whom are safe.
Now, David has now been identified by the secret organization sworn to kill him and all Jumpers. And he is about to be relentlessly pursued in a chase that will literally bound around the planet — as he becomes a key player in an unseen battle that has been raging, invisible to most of humanity, through the ages.
Director Doug Liman, who has developed a reputation for forging visceral, high-style action in such critical and box office hits as The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, brings the mythic fantasy of Jumper to life with a mix of state-of-the art special effects, international intrigue and a savvy twist on a modern-day superhero in the making.
Jump Start: The Mythology of Jumper
The thrilling and imaginative tale of JUMPER is, in the words of co-writer and producer Simon Kinberg, “the origin story of a hero — an accidental, very reluctant hero who is just on the cusp of beginning to wonder what would happen if he used his extraordinary power to help others in jeopardy.” Director Doug Liman, Kinberg and producer Lucas Foster spent the last several years developing not just the JUMPER screenplay but the rich mythology and back-story of an epic adventure about a young man trying to forge a real life in spite of his fantastic, temptation-filled power to teleport anywhere on earth in an instant.
For Doug Liman, whose deft passion for character-driven, unpredictably high-wire action has come to the fore in two of the most popular and acclaimed thrillers of recent times — Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity — the potential for JUMPER was irresistible. It was a chance to put his own hyper-modern twist on a now venerable genre of storytelling.
“Most of the stories we see about superheroes were actually written a century ago,” Liman points out. “But what I loved about JUMPER is that it felt very fresh and modern. Ultimately, it became the biggest creative challenge of my career.”
The evolution of the story began with a duo of young-adult, sci-fi novels by Steven Gould –Jumper and Reflex– which introduced the character of David Rice, a troubled young man whose seemingly inexplicable teleportation abilities help him to start a dream-like new life far from the pain of his past. After debuting to high praise from both critics and readers, Gould’s series quickly developed a strong following; but it was clear the story had the potential to go even further. When executive producers Vince Gerardis and Ralph M. Vicinanza encountered the books they knew immediately they had the material for a great cinematic adventure.
That’s when David Goyer, the sought-after screenwriter who cut his teeth working with classic superheroes and villains in such action-thrillers as Blade and Batman Begins, entered the picture. He not only adapted Gould’s tale for the screen but enlarged it, bringing in the new character of Griffin, another mysterious Jumper who has been on the run since he was a child, and forging a larger scope for the story. Along the way, Goyer shattered the usual conventions of superpower tales, delving into how his characters struggle mightily with the very real temptations of their consummately escapist powers. He unfolded the story’s non-stop thrills against an unlikely story of a young man learning the consequences of total freedom.
“What I loved about David Goyer’s original draft is that it was about somebody who gets superpowers and the first thing he does with them is go out and rob a bank. I really liked the honesty of that,” says Doug Liman. “It was something I hadn’t seen before and as a character-driven director it really interested me. I was also drawn to how imaginative and outrageous this canvas would allow me to be. Having done two action films in a row, I was attracted to the challenge of working with these profoundly human, complex characters.”
Producer Lucas Foster was also drawn to Goyer’s approach, especially the way it emphasized the humanity roiling beneath a young man’s one superhuman power. “Jumping gives David Rice a way to escape his unhappy home life, but it also puts him out into the world on his own where he has to learn how to be an adult and to be courageous enough to deal with the tough issues in his life,” says Foster. “The way David has to learn to step up and face his demons head-on is something to which I think everyone can relate. Unique as his situation as a Jumper is, there’s something universal about his story.”
A Flying Jump: Developing the Rules of Jumping
Taking off from what Gould, Goyer and a second screenwriter, Jim Uhls, had started, Liman, Kinberg and Foster began forging a vast, eons-long history for the Jumpers, whose ability to bend time and space with their minds is passed down in a family lineage than can be traced back in time for thousands of years.
The team began by researching the pantheon of beliefs about teleportation, from the mystical to the cutting-edge physics theories that could make it possible. “We talked to a lot physicists so we could understand the science of how teleportation might work and we used that to ground the story in reality. But we also researched the mythology of teleporting, which has been part of the cultural imagination for thousands of years,” explains Kinberg. “Sufi and Hindu mystics supposedly practiced teleportation centuries ago. I think the idea of being able to put yourself instantly on a mountain that no one can climb, or just the ability to do mundane, everyday things in life such as being able to skip over the line in the passport office, offers huge appeal to the imagination. The wish fulfillment element is really strong.”
But the wide-open nature of Jumping also offers equal opportunities for evil-doers. “Instead of using jumping to do cool, fun things like eating breakfast on top of the Sphinx then going surfing in Australia in the blink of an eye, someone with bad intentions could take a nuclear weapon and drop it in the White House, or do other evil things. When you think it through, you realize that while Jumping is amazing, it can also be a kind of curse,” notes Foster. “If the power is in the wrong hands, or used by someone to manipulate Jumpers, they could be anywhere and do anything.”
This stark reality in turn led to the concept of the Paladins, a highly secretive, elite force that for several thousand years has tried to stop Jumpers from using their dangerous powers for ill gain. Those Jumpers who make it to adulthood become the instantaneous targets of the merciless Paladin agency, who will do anything to eliminate them, no questions asked, no matter what.
To set a solid foundation for the epic story’s complex inner mechanics, the team came up with two foundational rules of Jumping:
1) You can jump anywhere that you can currently see; and
2) You can jump anywhere that you’ve seen before, even in a photograph, so long as you have a strong visual memory of it.
Also integral to the rules of Jumping are the “Jump Scars,” momentary blips or rends in the space-time fabric left behind by a Jumper — and which any other Jumper can use to follow their trail.
Then there are “tethers,” electronic weapons which the Paladins use to ground, trace and ultimately eliminate free-roaming Jumpers. A tether is a Jumper’s worst nightmare.
Despite the fantastical nature of all these elements of teleportation, the emphasis always remained on keeping things as rooted in the real world as possible. “We wanted this story to feel like it could truly take in our world in our time,” notes Kinberg. “David Rice doesn’t wear a cape, he doesn’t have a code ring. In most ways he’s an ordinary guy with a single incredible, abnormal ability — and how he deals with that is really the core of our movie. How would any of us react if we suddenly discovered we’d inherited an ability that could make our lives very exciting and free? David has a very human impulse to use his teleportation to better his own life. It’s only in the course of the story that he learns that he can do much more than just rob banks and live in penthouses. He begins to see that he can help his loved ones.”
Equally vital to the story is how a Jumper like David Rice might handle falling in love. Continues Kinberg: “The Jumping allowed us to explore a theme that’s central to every good love story — which is whether you can ever really be in a good relationship with someone unless you’re fully honest with them. It’s something we also explored in Mr. And Mrs. Smith in a very different way.”
By now, the producers were also getting very keyed up about having Doug Liman at the helm of this truly unique vehicle. His spontaneous, creative, on-the-fly, guerrilla style of filmmaking seemed a perfect fit for a story about unbridled mobility. “What’s going to be really exciting about this story is not just the ideas behind it but the tone, the look, the grittiness, the rawness and the real emotion,” sums up Kinberg. “It’s not something you’ve seen before in the superhero world. It’s not the bright and shiny universe of Spider-Man. It’s not the dark and gothic netherworld of Batman. Doug’s strong sense of realism brings some very fresh blood to the superhero genre, and twists and tweaks it in playful ways.”
Adds Foster: “Doug pumped new life into the espionage theme with The Bourne Identity, raised the bar on action/comedy with Mr. and Mrs. Smith and now does the same now for Jumping.”
Jumping In: Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell Become Jumpers
At the heart of JUMPER’s mythology is David Rice, whose mother left him when he was five, who grew up in an unhappy home life and has all kinds of problems he’d like to escape from — until he discovers he possesses the amazing ability to do just that: escape from it all whenever, and wherever, he chooses. At first, David believes he is completely alone in his powers of teleportation, but as he comes of age and tests the limits of his skills, he makes a chilling discovery that he is part of a long line of people just like him — and is about to be relentlessly hunted down because of it.
To play David Rice, the filmmakers turned to one of today’s fastest rising leading men: Hayden Christensen. Christensen came to international fame when he was cast by George Lucas as in the sought-after role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episodes II & III. He has garnered equal acclaim in dramatic roles, including Life as a House and Shattered Glass. Christensen’s mix of charisma and emotional veracity made him the entire team’s standout choice.
“As soon as Hayden expressed an interest in playing the role, we didn’t really look any further,” recalls Foster. “He’s perfect for the character of David Rice. Besides being a very intuitive actor he’s just such a compelling and earnest guy, and I think those qualities come across on screen.”
Doug Liman concurs: “I’ve become a huge fan of Hayden Christensen. He’s incredibly talented and hard-working, and I’ve made him do some crazy things. He been physically and emotionally pushed in this role, yet he’s given us one thousand percent. I think people are going to say, `wow, we haven’t seen that guy do anything like that before.’ He’s a great David Rice.”
Christensen knew the role would be unlike anything else he’s done on screen so far, and that was a huge draw for an actor who thrives on taking risks. “The character of David Rice isn’t like anyone I’ve played before and it was exciting to get the chance to explore something entirely new,” says Christensen. “He has a really interesting journey, and the whole concept of teleportation is just so cool. I loved that the story presents Pandora’s Box of fantasy `what-ifs?’ It’s the kind of movie I’d like to see as an audience member.”
the wild “what-ifs” of teleportation himself. “There are so many things I would do if I could teleport. The thought of never getting on a plane again and spending all your downtime traveling the world is really appealing,” he says. “I also fantasized a lot about what it would feel like to do things like jump off a building, then teleport back to the top before you hit the ground, and stay in a perpetual freefall. Basically, the whole idea opens up infinite possibilities for your imagination.”
But Christensen was also acutely aware that David Rice’s life of endless opportunities is masking a lot of internal turmoil. “Although David has become very acclimated to life as a Jumper it’s a very solitary life because he has this secret he can’t share with anyone,” he explains. “He has every toy any man could want but he’s still insecure and lonely. He really believes that he just wants to be left alone. But I think what’s so interesting about David is that he begins to change. He’s a very reluctant hero who resists his transformation into one the whole way, which makes him so interesting. The events around him force him to mature, to come clean and face his past as well as his uncertain future.”
David Rice feels isolated, in part, because he believes his teleportation ability is just an accident of fate. But when he meets Griffin, another Jumper with the same method of zooming around the world in milliseconds, he realizes there is far more to who he is than he ever realized. Christensen loved working with British star Jamie Bell in the role of the Jumper who is at once his rival and his mentor in this brave new Jumper world. “Jamie did wonders for the role,” he says. “He likes to invent, to create things on the spot, and he brought new ideas every day. He made Griffin into this very likeable sort of punk figure who has total disdain for authority but does it with a wink and a grin.”
Christensen continues: “For me, it was great because you understand why my character wants to team up with this guy. And once they do, they have some pretty amazing experiences, doing things you could never do without teleportation. Both David and Griffin are pushed to new heights in just trying to keep up with the other.”
Christensen also loved that this role would reunite him with Samuel L. Jackson, with whom he had starred in the Stars Wars films. Here, Jackson plays Roland, the Paladin agent who seeks to destroy Jumpers like David Rice forever. “Sam provided guidance for me as a young actor, so it was really exciting to come back and do another movie with him. He brings so much weight and gravitas to the role, he elevates everyone around him,” Christensen comments.
Meanwhile, even amidst all the mind-blowing, teleporting action, Christensen also had to expose the vulnerable corners of David’s heart, as he starts to fall in love with the childhood friend who reappears in his life, Millie, played by Rachel Bilson. “David and Millie have a really unusual love story,” he muses. “David is tempted to bring her along on all his adventures, but he can’t really ever come clean to her. You also have this juxtaposition of a man trying to start a romance, while he’s also trying to escape from people who want to kill him — and trying to never let those two paths cross.”
Christensen notes that, in attempting to “jump” fully into the no-limits life of a Jumper, the most vital skills of all were an open mind and adaptability. “For six months, my character was constantly on the run, constantly having things go wrong, constantly getting beat up or tossed around,” he explains. “We were definitely put through the gauntlet but it came with a lot of satisfaction.”
For Jamie Bell, who plays Griffin, the intense action of JUMPER was real change of pace. Bell came to international acclaim in the poignant title role of Stephen Daldry’s Oscar¬nominated indie hit Billy Elliot, in which he played a working-class British boy with an unlikely dream of becoming a dancer. He has gone on to diverse roles ranging from the servant Smike in Nicholas Nickleby to a young seaman in Peter Jackson’s King Kong and a U.S. Marine in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers — but the role of Griffin was like nothing he’d attempted before.
This was key for the filmmakers who wanted a very unpredictable presence for Griffin, the defiant Jumper who initiates David Rice into the entire mythology behind who he really is — and explains the perilous stakes he faces. But Griffin also has his own story of loss and anger-fueled vengeance that will become deeply intertwined with David’s survival.
“Griffin is this fast-talking, roguish, impish, crazy-pixie of a character and as such, brings both a certain manic energy and comic relief to the film,” explains Simon Kinberg. “But we also wanted him to be emotionally honest and true, and to have a very personal back story that would motivate his war against the Paladins. Jamie had the combination of skills that would make all of that possible.”
Continues Lucas Foster: “We were incredibly lucky to get someone as amazingly versatile as Jamie, who took the role and really ran with it. With his Griffin, you really never know what he’s going to do next; he has this improvisational quality to him that has had us writing furiously just to keep up. He turned this character into something we couldn’t have expected.”
Bell was first and foremost magnetically drawn to the concept of JUMPER. “There was something about the script that I really connected to, something that reminded me of being a kid desperately searching for a way out,” explains Bell. “Teleportation is the ultimate out. You can go anywhere at any time. Who doesn’t dream of that? As for Griffin, he’s incredibly wild, colorful and funny. He has this intense, kinetic kind of energy; he doesn’t have anything that’s permanent, he doesn’t have any sense of family or a social life, and in fact he has no real social skills at all, but I think all that makes him a really dynamic and interesting character.”
Bell not only was intrigued by Griffin’s internal world but by the chance to use his physical skills to explore Griffin’s external style as well. No stranger to bounding and soaring on film, he worked closely with the filmmakers to develop Griffin’s own personal mode of moving, and especially Jumping. “He’s got a frantic, kinetic way of being that I think you need to see in his Jumping,” Bell explains. “His jumps are very intense and almost brutal, which is something Doug wanted to see.”
Equally intriguing to Bell was the evolving relationship between Griffin and the uninitiated David Rice, whose partnership gets off to a rather shaky start. “Every good relationship starts with a punch,” laughs Bell. “Griffin has lived a renegade existence since his parents were killed by Roland and so, at first, he sees David as a liability. But I think he also secretly enjoys the fact that he is able to teach him the rules, to teach him to defend himself and to really open up the world of Jumping to him.”
That edgy but real rapport came naturally between Bell and Hayden Christensen. Says Bell: “Hayden really stepped up my game. We just reacted off each other so well.”
Adds Doug Liman: “Hayden and Jamie played off one another so beautifully that we ended up re-writing entire scenes so there would be more of that. We redesigned the Colosseum fight sequence so that they would literally be tied together and it would be about them and their relationship. We were constantly trying to come up with fun things for Griffin to do to challenge David.”
Bell notes that Liman’s spontaneous bursts of vision were a big part of the production’s fun. “I really respect that Doug’s mind is basically wild with creativity,” he summarizes. “It was something I came to feed off in playing Griffin.”
The Heart Jumps: Rachel Bilson and Diane Lane Join The Cast
An equally pivotal influence on David Rice is a young woman from the ordinary world — Millie Harris — to whom David has been attracted since they were children with dreams of traveling the world together. In David’s case, the dream became reality when he discovered his teleportation powers. But Millie has never left her hometown, until David comes back into her life in an unexpected way.
To play Millie, Doug Liman turned to the alluring young actress Rachel Bilson, with whom he first worked when he cast her for the hugely popular show “The O.C.” Bilson went on to become widely known as Summer Roberts on that show and, in 2006, was named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People.” “I’ve been a huge admirer of Rachel’s talent from the moment I met her,” says Liman. “She’s a terrific actress and she and Hayden have incredible chemistry.”
In addition to the opportunity to reunite with Liman, Bilson was drawn in by the edge-of-your-seat experience of reading the script. “JUMPER was so completely different from anything I had ever read,” she says. “I found it really exciting. I loved the characters and the fact that it was full of special effects and action. People don’t always think of me for action movies so it was cool to get this chance.”
In playing Millie, Bilson was drawn to her feminine strength. “Millie’s an extremely capable and independent woman,” she explains. “She had a lot of dreams and aspirations, she wanted to travel the world but she never got out of her hometown and she’s okay with that. She’s not apologetic, she’s living her life and she’s content. Then, of course, David turns up and invites her to go to Rome… and everything changes, for both of them.”
A very human inner strength is at the heart of what makes Millie so different from the conventional damsel-in-distress in superhero movies, notes Liman. “David Rice is the one with the superpower. She’s just a girl from Ann Arbor. But there comes a moment when it is Millie who must rescue him,” he muses.
Hayden Christensen found an instant affinity with Bilson. “Rachel does an amazing job as Millie. She’s very beautiful and brings a real sincerity to the part. The role is such an important one because Millie is the only outsider to the Jumping world whom David has contact with, so the audience sees a lot through her eyes,” he observes. “She goes from being an outsider to David’s world to becoming a very proactive protagonist in the story.”
A far more shadowy female figure in the story is that of David’s mother, who left him when he was five, yet is intimately connected with his fate. To play Mary Rice, whose surprising past has everything to do with David’s future, the filmmakers recruited one of today’s most acclaimed screen actresses: Academy Award nominee Diane Lane. “As Mary, Diane is an integral presence in the film, even when she’s not on screen,” explains Simon Kinberg. “Mary Rice is the thing David has been running from since he was a child and he’s about to discover some things that will help him to finally understand what happened, and that will make his mother much more multi-faceted than he ever believed. We needed someone with the presence to represent all those things to him.”
While not wanting to give away the secret revelations of her character, Lane says her attraction to the film was three-fold: “First, I really wanted to work with Doug Liman and second, I wanted to get to work with Hayden as my son because I’m a real fan of his,” she says. “But I also think teleportation is a timeless human dream and what I liked most about this story is that it gives shape to that dream.”
Jump Back: Samuel L. Jackson Leads The Paladins
Central to the complex history and mythology of the Jumpers in our midst are their sworn enemies: the Paladins, a secret organization whose members have, century after century, waged a relentless war against Jumpers in the hopes of stopping any nefarious Jumper from destroying the earth.
For the filmmakers, the imperative was to keep the Paladins just as fascinating as the Jumpers. They might be dangerous adversaries of the Jumpers, but they’re not exactly black-and-white villains.
“In JUMPER, we wanted to create a bad guy world that felt as fresh, textured and real as the Jumpers themselves,” explains Simon Kinberg. “We spent a lot of time building up the mythology of the Paladins, their philosophy, their powers and their weaponry. It was really important to Doug — to all of us — that the Paladins become multi-dimensional characters who are not just out to kill our heroes but actually have a very valid and moral ethic of their own.”
Adds Lucas Foster, “The Paladins believe that the Jumpers are ultimately a disaster for humanity and that they must be stopped. They’re not doing it for money; they’re not doing it for medals. They lead anonymous lives and they are anonymous heroes in their own world.”
To play the role of the head Paladin — the savvy, unflinching Roland — the filmmakers always had in mind one actor: Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson, the rare performer who seems to bring believability and authority to every role he plays, no matter how diverse. “Sam brings a very thoughtful approach to his craft and the different characters he plays. The character of Roland is absolutely vital to this story and Sam really helped him to evolve, to give him validity,” says Liman.
Jackson has played a lot of tough, larger-than-life characters — from assassins to Jedi Masters — in his career, but notes that Roland is unique even among that unconventional roster. “He’s an iconic character who has a dynamic impact on the story that I think will be memorable,” says Jackson. “Roland is a mysterious guy, because you’re never quite sure who he works for. What you do know is that his main raison d’être is to kill Jumpers, no matter what age they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. And that he does it with a specific zeal.”
For Jackson, part of the Paladin mystique is how highly trained they are in their one singular mission to keep Jumpers from impacting human history. “Paladins are ancient warriors, soldiers who have honed skills over the centuries most people don’t have,” Jackson explains. “You might think the Jumpers have the advantage because they can teleport, but they’re not warriors like the Paladins.”
Jackson especially welcomed the opportunity to share the screen with his former Star Wars co-star Hayden Christensen again. “It’s been fantastic watching Hayden grow since the years we spent together on the Star Wars films. He has an interesting sort of James Dean quality, brooding and intense, with something under the surface that feels like it might be unleashed at any point.”
Playing against such a formidable foe also was a physical challenge for Jackson. “There was a lot of fighting, swinging and jumping off of high places, and I have old knees, ” laughs Jackson, “but it was also very cool to get to fight two people with the abilities of David Rice and Griffin.”
Most of all, Jackson was thrilled to work for the first time with Doug Liman, whose style seemed so perfectly suited to this tale. “Doug is a unique individual who was able to see this story from many different angles in one instant. It’s almost like he’s a Jumper in his mind,” remarks Jackson. “He jumps from here to there and back into space which always leads you into interesting territory.”
Jump Shot: Creating the Jumping Effects
As soon as the filmmakers began developing JUMPER, they also began thinking about the Jumping effects. Having carefully developed the rules of Jumping, they wanted the effects to reflect them with credible realism; yet, at the same time, be original enough to give audiences a fresh experience. That’s why they brought in visual effects supervisor Joel Hynek, who won an Oscar for the eye-popping What Dreams May Come and was integral in developing the cutting-edge effects seen in The Matrix, and visual effects producer Kevin Elam (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) to create the visual essence of Jumping as well as the film’s other visual effects shots. Stunt coordinator Simon Crane, who previously worked with Liman on Mr. and Mrs. Smith and whose additional credits include such films as X-Men: The Last Stand and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, also entered the mix, training and choreographing a whole team of stunt-doubles in the tricky art of Jumping on screen.
For Liman, part of the challenge was mixing up cutting-edge effects with his signature in-your-face, hand-held photographic realism. “I’m not interested in effects per se,” notes Liman. “But with this film, I wanted to push the envelope in this arena and to try things that hadn’t been done before.”
This was exhilarating territory for Joel Hynek, who has a longstanding reputation for creative and technical innovation. “Just the idea of coming up with an effect we hadn’t seen before but was so integral to the storytelling was very exciting to me,” he says.
Hynek familiarized himself with the many different screen manifestations of teleporting seen in movies from the past, then determined that JUMPER would offer a new view. “Teleporting has almost always been seen from an objective view — in others words, you’re in a place and you suddenly see somebody arrive or depart. But we’ve created true POV jumps so that you get a sense of what it looks and feels like from the Jumper’s perspective to move from one place to another on the other side of the earth or the other side of a wall. In other words, this time the audience gets to go along for the ride.”
Hynek wanted the Jumping effect to be a dynamic, ever-changing event and never exactly the same twice. “We didn’t want to see the same thing over and over throughout the movie,” he explains. “So there are four things that effect how a teleporting Jump occurs: 1) the Jumper’s skill level; 2) his intention — whether he’s trying to be stealthy or destructive or just having fun; 3) his emotions at the time; and 4) the overall difficulty of that particular teleportation. A Jumper who is panicked is going to create a different effect than a Jumper who is feeling calm. The more upset the Jumper is, the more big effects you’ll see. This was a lot of fun to play with.”
The highly variable Jumping effects do, however, have certain elements in common. “There’s always a blur factor involved, which is basically a time exposed motion blur generated by the Jumper’s evaporation into space. There’s what we’re calling a vacuum condensation flow, which is the vacuum and the rapid suction of air the Jumper leaves behind when he suddenly departs. And then there are the “Jump Scars,” or which is the window, or more accurately the discontinuity in space, the Jumper creates to travel from one place to another. You would expect large forces, such as gravity, to be pretty intense at the juncture points that rupture space so objects come flying towards the scar to varying degrees, depending on the intensity of the jump.”
Hynek mixed and matched all kinds of technology to create this ever-changing array of effects. “What I love about working with Doug is that he’s like a student of cinema, willing to try any trick so long as it might accomplish something interesting,” he explains. “The biggest challenge was in blending Doug’s free-handed shooting with our wild effects without ever killing the energy and the creativity. We had to find ways to let Doug do his thing with the dynamics of the shot and solve the digital problems later.”
Updating a page from his work on The Matrix, Hynek utilized multiple, variable-shutter still cameras firing in sequence to create assorted blurring and stretching effects. He also relied on complex, carefully choreographed motion-control. But, even more intriguingly, he relied on a more Old School method that was surprisingly effective. This became known simply as the “freeze and action method.”
Explains Hynek: “It’s a very simple method. If you want the Jumper in a scene to go away, the director says `freeze.’ All the actors stop moving, the Jumper leaves the frame, the camera backs up just a little bit, and then the director says `unfreeze’ and the action resumes from where they left off. This works because with all the great digital tools that are now available, you can later morph together separate frames that are slightly off from each other and make it seamless.”
Stunt coordinator Simon Crane worked with large numbers of stunt-doubles to help pull off some of the more complex Jumping sequences. This meant that, at times, there might be five or six Davids and Griffins roaming the set. “It was like coordinating a dance routine,” says Crane. “We’d have each of the doubles doing the same action but in different places all around the set. This way, later, we could digitally rub four of them out. You only ever see one in a shot, but there might have been five of them there!” Digital tools were also used to replace the stunt doubles’ faces with those of Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell, creating a kind of family of clones.
In addition to the Jumping effects, Crane spent months inventing and rehearsing the highly unconventional battles between the Jumpers and the Paladins — which take place in multiple locales simultaneously. “Choreographing fight scenes with Jumpers required a whole new approach, an entirely different way of looking at things,” notes Crane. “The important thing was that it not be silly or over-the-top. Even though they are teleporting in the middle of their fight, these are very real, very gritty battles that simply use very different physical rules.”
Jump Cut: Designing The World of Jumper
For Doug Liman, establishing the complexity of JUMPER’s characters and the veracity of Jumping motion itself was just the start. Next, he would focus on creating a completely enveloping, trans-national world for JUMPER that would be at once based in reality yet filled with the fantastic possibilities of humans who can manipulate the space-time fabric to go anywhere, any time.
From the start, the filmmakers knew the production would be a major logistical challenge — since it literally jumps around the world. But Liman had done so before, with the globe-hopping espionage thriller The Bourne Identity, and knew that part of the key to making the story feel dynamically alive would be using authentic locations. Thus it was that the production itself leapt from Toronto to Rome, from Tokyo to New York, Mexico and Ann Arbor, with a second unit filming in London, Paris and Egypt.
“We went all over the world in order to make this movie feel and be real,” says Simon Kinberg. “What’s so great about the idea of being a teleporter is that you can go anywhere in the blink of an eye and we decided early on that it was important to have our characters interact in cities and places in the world that people recognize. We certainly created a lot of visual effects and computer-generated images to enhance the action, but the real magic of the film comes from the true locations.”
Kinberg also notes that these authentic locations will be seen in ways they haven’t been seen before. “We’re not doing the National Geographic or guidebook version of a world tour,” he points out. “This is a power version of the world tour — it’s about total wish fulfillment, about being 25 years-old and what you would do if you believed you had no limits or consequences.”
To create this real but dream-laden world, Liman surrounded himself with a crack team of technical artists to bring his fluid and ever-changing vision to life. He brought in cinematographer Barry Peterson, who’d brought a joyful kinetic quality to the action-comedy of Starsky & Hutch. Also, very early on, he began working closely with production designer Oliver Scholl, whose work has often been about bringing original worlds to life on screen. He recently served as the production designer on The Time Machine, was a conceptual designer on Stargate and did illustrations for Batman Forever.
Scholl couldn’t have been more excited than to tackle a project like JUMPER. “I’m a total science fiction fan, so being asked to do a movie about teleportation was a gift, because the possibilities are endless,” says Scholl. “I thought to myself, I’m going to have a lot of fun.”
Although Scholl would be working in many amazing historical locations, he also would have to replicate those same locations on soundstage sets, in order to play with their physics to accommodate the Jumpers. “For example, we needed to use a lot of foam walls to rig the stunts, but obviously you can’t do that in a place like the Colloseum!” he notes. “So a lot of the initial work was determining what locations we would go to and what we would have to build.”
The scenes in the Colosseum were originally written to take place in the Pantheon and it was Scholl’s idea to move them into the 2,000 year-old, iconic amphitheatre in the center of Rome that once housed the gory spectacle of gladiator battles with hungry lions. The notion of this building where the memory of sweat, blood and fear is still embedded in the very walls appealed to everyone’s vision for the film — but it seemed like a pipe dream. Everyone knew the Italian government hadn’t opened the doors of the precious monument to any motion picture crews, let alone an action-thriller, in decades.
Amazingly, Lucas Foster’s tenacious perseverance paid off when the production was granted three days of unprecedented access to film not only in the Colosseum proper, but also in the labyrinth of the amphitheater, an area completely off limits to the public. “In the end, it came down to charm, endurance and winning their respect, and they opened their doors to us,” says Foster.
Nevertheless, the filmmakers were presented with strict rules for shooting in the fragile, ancient structure. They could only shoot between dawn and 8:15 a.m. and again from 3:30pm until dusk; they could rest no equipment of any kind on the hallowed ground of the precious antiquity; and the only lighting allowed was natural sunlight. “We were really challenged to come up with innovative ways to film — we had the crew carrying all our equipment around on their backs,.” he recalls.
But the sacrifices were worth it, as no set could have been more awe-inspiring. “The Colosseum was probably the most inspiring — and most stressful — environment I’ve ever filmed in,” comments Liman. “It forced us to be super-organized; you had to get it right the first time because you knew you could never go back. This flew contrary to my style of filmmaking — I like to shoot and reshoot. But to be in a location like that allowed me to ground the film, and give it an honesty that you wouldn’t normally see in a special effects movie.”
The cast was equally inspired by the history-drenched environs. “To be down there in the bowels of the Colosseum where they kept the gladiators and the lions and the public doesn’t even have access was really amazing,” says Hayden Christensen. “Your imagination goes wild and, really, it is up there with the coolest things I’ve even done. As an actor, it helps a lot to have that kind of actual interaction with a world that you can believe in.”
Scholl would then painstakingly recreate entire swaths of the Colosseum on a 6,000 square foot soundstage set in Toronto. He did so by first extensively exploring and photographing the real thing, and measuring everything right down to the bricks in the wall. He then replicated much of the structure’s labyrinthine level including the lower gladiator rooms, grotto and underground corridors. A stickler for detail, Scholl even duplicated the type of scaffolding currently being used in the ongoing restoration of the spectacular edifice. “With our set, we tried to create something as visually dramatic as the real thing but that could serve as a playground for the stunts and action sequences,” he explains.
Scholl’s success was vital in Doug Liman’s view. “It was important to me that the audience, and even the crew members, ultimately not be able to tell what was shot in the real Colosseum and what was shot on the replicated set,” he says.
In addition to the Colosseum, Scholl especially enjoyed creating both David’s sprawling, penthouse apartment in Manhattan and Griffin’s well-hidden Egyptian lair. David’s apartment, says Scholl, “reflects a time when he feels he’s at the top of the world, so we created it with big windows overlooking New York to convey that feeling. It’s also very clean and cold, because even though it’s where David is living right now, it’s not truly a place he feels is his home.”
By contrast, Griffin’s lair, founding in a remote Saharan cave, is as wild and erratic as he is. “Griffin’s lair was really fun place to create — and it also had to be fireproofed to accommodate the flamethrower fight that takes place there,” notes Scholl.
Scholl also constructed on the Toronto stage such interiors as Millie’s apartment, the Ann Arbor Public Library and David’s childhood home. But much of the work Scholl did was with far-flung locations. In Italy, the authentic locations included the Piazza del Colosseo and the Arch of Constantine, where cast and crew had to brave huge crowds of tourists. Filming also took place in the Piazza della Rotonda where the Pantheon serves as the backdrop to David and Millie’s romantic interlude at a trattoria; the Exedra Hotel in the Piazza della Repubblica; and the Fiumicino Airport.
In New York, the production filmed on the Observation Desk of the Empire State Building, in Central Park, at Port Authority and in Times Square. Then it was off to Tokyo where, amidst the blinding neon and urban chaos, the production took advantage of locations ranging from a noodle shop in a claustrophobic alleyway in Shimbashi to Shibuya’s Hachiko Square where, while walking through a seven-intersection crossing — renowned as the world’s busiest — David convinces Griffin to join forces in the fight against the Paladins.
Also in Tokyo, Barry Peterson went to town shooting the Rainbow Bridge, a stunning suspension bridge with views of the Tokyo Harbor, Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Bay, offering a stunningly panoramic vantage point from which David and Griffin keep watch for Paladins One of the most thrilling scenes in Tokyo takes place in a Ginza Mercedes dealership when Griffin jumps a Mercedes SL65 AMG through the window of the dealership and takes David on a wild ride through Tokyo.
Director of photography Barry Peterson utilized a number of different rigging techniques that allowed placement of up to three cameras on the car, and used techno cranes to track the car and the action as Griffin and David flew through the neon-lit streets of Shibuya, Shinjuku and Shimbashi. Says stunt coordinator Simon Crane: “This was a really exciting scene to shoot because it’s every kid’s dream to drive a car like this without any rules. We had a chance to show the full potential of these vehicles.”
Another thrilling location was one of Tokyo’s cyclotron facilities — where particle accelerators are used in cutting-edge physics research — which provided the perfect atmosphere for the secret facility where the Paladins conduct research on ways to stop Jumpers around the world.
Back in the U.S., the suspenseful opening sequence where David falls through the ice was filmed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while the subsequent underwater shots were accomplished at Fox Baja Studios in Rosarito, B.C., Mexico.
Meanwhile, the film’s French costume designer Magali Guidasci, best known for her work with visually innovative director Luc Besson, also jumped from culture to culture, creating a wide variety of international clothing while emphasizing an elegant feeling to the film. She and cinematographer Peterson worked in a palette that emphasizes many shades of grey with pop flashes of color. “It was important to stay very simple and understated to keep things focused on the visual excitement of teleportation,” Guidasci notes.
This was especially true in her designs for Hayden Christensen as David Rice, which are sleek and classical. “I wanted to keep a timeless silhouette for David, iconic yet simple, with a coat, white shirt and pair of jeans,” she says. “He has the look of someone who went into a very expensive store and just bought the first thing he saw — and there are hints of the little boy he used to be.”
Guidasci stretched her imagination into unknown realms with the Paladins, who wear a variation on the classic secret agent’s trench coat, which hide specially crafted magnetic holsters that keep their Jumper-snaring weaponry close at hand. “The idea was that they could reach their weapons in the line of fire instantly,” she explains of the design. For Samuel L. Jackson’s Roland, Guidasci even made a coat out of ceramic fibers so he could remain comfortable on a set raging with fire.
As with the other elements of the film’s design, a mix of realism and imagination was always at the center of the costumes. This mix, so intrinsic to Liman’s style, became a constant source of inspiration for everyone on the set.
“Doug basically creates a living set,” says Lucas Foster. “It’s very unpredictable and raw and not at all manufactured. It was like we were really living this experience, jumping around the world.”
Hayden Christensen summarizes, “There’s a feeling that Doug Liman is constantly pursuing the truth. On this film, everything outside of the teleportation had to feel completely real to him. In so doing, he demanded the most of everyone working with him.”
Production notes provided by 20th Century Fox.
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, Max Thieriot, Shawn Roberts, AnnaSophia Robb
Directed by: Doug Liman
Screenplay by: David S. Goyer, Simon Kinberg, Jim Uhls
Release Date: February 14, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense action violence, language, brief sexuality.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Box Office Totals
Domestic: $80,172,128 (36.1%)
Foreign: $141,836,027 (63.9%)
Total: $222,008,155 (Worldwide)