The Impossible is based on the true story of a Spanish family of five, the Alvarez Belons, who faced one of the worst disasters in recent history, the tsunami that struck the western coast of Thailand on Dec. 26, 2004. In the movie, the family is English, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts portray the parents.
Principal photography for The Impossible took place at a studio in Spain and at multiple locations in Thailand, many of which were where the actual events had occurred. Because the film is about real people who underwent unimaginable horror and devastation, to honor and portray their experience, director Juan Antonio Bayona insisted on a rigorous authenticity to the events that happened. This meant figuring out how to represent the worst natural disaster ever faced by the country of Thailand.
Award-winning special and visual effects masters Félix Bergés and Pau Costa were tasked with creating the tsunami itself, possibly the most important character in the film. For Bergés, the only option was to use real water. “Digital water was not considered for very long; it just isn’t realistic enough,” he says. That decision led to some daunting production challenges. For example, the crew had to move over 35,000 gallons of water on a daily basis in order to re-create the violent mass of water.
For Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero, the horrific aftermath of the storm proved to be the greatest hurdle. “Initially, the greatest challenge of the film was to re-create the tsunami. The big surprise was to discover that it was nothing compared to what came afterwards.”
Caballero adds that perhaps the most meaningful part of creating the world of The Impossible was the reaction of the local people who worked on the movie or appeared as extras as they saw havoc and destruction of the tsunami reappear.
“Many of the people that worked with us were local, families that lost members in the event, and there were very different reactions. I remember a taxi driver who arrived with a passenger at The Orchid resort when we had it all set up with the destruction. He stared at the set for two minutes, shaking his head. He had lost his wife who had worked in a hotel, too; for him it was like going backwards in time.” Caballero recalls.
The stars of the film felt the pressure to be authentic as well. “A movie based on real events is easier and harder in different ways,” Watts explains. Easier in that you’ve got the voice of truth as a touchstone but also there’s pressure because these people really went through this. It was our responsibility to honor it with as much authenticity as possible, to convey as honestly as we could what it felt like at the time.”
The Impossible is available starting April 23 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC.