The clone ranger
Michael Bay combines morality and mayhem in The Island
By Chris Betros
When you go to see a Michael Bay film, you pretty much know
what to expect: escapism, car chases, car crashes, explosions
and general mayhem. After all, this is the man responsible
for Bad Boys, The Rock, Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. Bays
interest in thrills-a-minute movies was piqued when, age 15,
he got a job on the set of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where
he was able to watch his idol Steven Spielberg direct.
Things have turned full circle now with Spielberg asking Bay
to direct The Island. Its the first time that Bay has
not made a film in collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer, who
launched him on his road to success in the 1990s. Jerry
was slightly pissed. Weve had a great partnership and
we will continue to make movies together, but being asked
by Spielberg to direct was cool, said Bay during a recent
visit to Japan.
Set in the near future, The Island tells the story of a utopian
society sealed off from the rest of the world. The residents,
who live a carefully controlled existence, believe that a
major contamination once took place in the outside world and
that the only other paradise is an island where lucky lottery
winners get to visit. However, two residents (Ewan McGregor
and Scarlett Johansson) start to question their reality and
find out that they are actually clones, waiting to be harvested
for spare parts by ailing, wealthy sponsors.
Besides having the usual mayhem of Bays other films,
The Island deals with moral issues such as cloning. Its
one of the most complicated questions there is, said
McGregor via satellite hookup from London, where he is appearing
in the stage production of Guys and Dolls. It deals
with the very fabric of existence. Were already at the
point where we can tamper with life. Im not really sure
how I feel about it. If cloning could help cure illnesses,
the benefits could be enormous, but the implications could
Bay said the movie is not meant to be a commentary on human
cloning. Its more to show how selfish we can be,
he said. We all want to live longer. Its how we
go about doing it that counts. I wouldnt order a clone
of myself for spare parts because I dont
think it is right to take another life.
Scottish star McGregor is having a big year. Besides The Island,
he can currently be seen in Star Wars: Episode IIIRevenge
of the Sith and is one of the voice cast of Robots. He said
he had no hesitation about doing The Island straight after
Star Wars. Too often, action films are just about action,
but The Island has a strong story at its heart. Anyway, I
dont think you can put The Island and Star Wars in the
same bracket. The Island is set in the near future with a
theme that is more relevant to our society, while Star Wars
is set, as they say, in a galaxy far, far away.
In The Island, McGregor gets to indulge in one of his passionsriding
motorbikes. He also gets to be passionate with Johansson.
When I cast them, I didnt know if theyd
have any chemistry, Bay joked. So I told them
to go to their trailer for three hours and make out and then
Bringing hope from Hiroshima to the stage
This Saturday, Aug 6, marks 60 years since
the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Studies estimate that more
than 230,000 people were killed by the bomb and the radiation
it caused. Another 100,000 died from the atomic bomb dropped
on Nagasaki three days later. Noriko Ina, 41, is the director
of Red Cranes, a theater company that will perform A Thousand
Cranes in English to commemorate the worlds first nuclear
Where are you from?
I was born in Saitama and grew up in Kanagawa.
When did you start acting?
When I was 6. I wrote stories, made sets and acted in front
of friends. Later I studied and performed with the Takarazuka
before going to Hollywood to the Stella Adler Academy.
What do the Red Cranes symbolize?
We want to be a wing between Japan and other countries. Red
is the symbol of our passion.
Tell us about your play.
Its the story of a 12-year-old girl called Sadako, who,
dying after the bomb, folded paper cranes in the hope of one
wish: to be able to run again. Its not only about the
Hiroshima tragedy, but also hope, peace, friendship and dreams.
There is a famous statue of Sadako in the peace park in Hiroshima.
You also performed in the US?
Yes, as part of Stella Adlers childrens outreach
project. After 9/11, everything changed, and our challenge
was to pick up the story of Hiroshima there. We performed
13 times in front of 1,000 kids.
What was their reaction?
They loved it. I directed it kabuki style, and they were really
interested in the movements, masks and kimono. They asked
us lots of questions about the bomb, the cranes and kabuki.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Anywhere with my kids and good friends.
What are your favorite plays or musicals?
The Seagull, by Chekhov; Summer and Smoke, by Tennessee Williams;
Musical Passion, by Stephen Sondheim.
Do you think Japan will always be a peace-loving nation?
Yes. We have to be.
What is your personal message to your audience on this
The time has come to fold a thousand cranes again.
Red Cranes will perform at Tsutsujigaoka
Studio in Chofu on Aug 6. See stage listings for details.
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