How Will Smith reversed the ageing process in blockbuster flick, Gemini Man

Go behind the scenes of the groundbreaking sci-fi flick.

As modern technology becomes more advanced, the cinematic universe does too. Filmmakers are scrutinising how they portray a story, whether it be through visual special effects, camera perspective or the characters themselves.

Gemini Man is the latest blockbuster to push the technological envelope by creating two a world in which an assassin comes face-to-face with a younger version of himself – albeit a digitally enhanced version – who wants to kill him.

Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a retiring killer whose life is upended when he finds himself pursued by a fellow assassin who can predict his every move. Upon discovering the man is a younger clone of himself, Henry enlists the help of fellow agent Danny Zakarweski (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to find out who created it and why they want him dead.

Will Smith transformed into a younger version of himself in Gemini Man.

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The script has been circulating Hollywood since 1997 and a huge number of high-profile stars have been attached to the role. The list includes Harrison Ford, Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Michael Douglas, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Sean Connery. That’s 10 Oscar nominees!

Gemini Man is a high-octane thrill-ride, a popcorn blockbuster that sends bullets flying across the screen and your heart thumping out of your chest. But the storyline is somewhat secondary to the special effects that are used to de-age its leading star from a 53-year-old man to a “new breed of soldier” of just 23.

“Junior” as the clone is called, takes all orders and asks no questions. But when he comes face-to-face with a wiser Henry, the lines between morality and necessity blur together.

As you watch the film, there’s no doubt that the very first question in your head will be: How on earth did they do this? Well, never fear because we have the answers.

TV WEEK caught up with WETA Visual Effects Supervisor Guy Williams to discuss what it was like to work with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee and actor Will Smith, the challenges in creating a digital human and how they managed to rewind the clock.

Director Ang Lee gets up close and personal on set.

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Guy is no stranger to pushing the boundaries. The visual effects supervisor, who works for Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based agency WETA, has been a long-standing contributor to several films including the Marvel Universe. Along with his team, Guy has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Iron Man 3, The Avengers and Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

“It’s always a pleasure to be able to participate in the advancement of the technology of the film industry,” he tells TV WEEK. “When a director comes in and wants to not only challenge the norm, but redefine the base expectations of what film making is, you can’t help but be excited by the opportunity, as well as be a bit afraid of the challenge! Ang is very passionate about moving film along.”

Groundbreaking technology was used to capture and replicate facial features and intricate movements for both characters in the film.

(Credit: Supplied)


You may be surprised to learn that it’s a very intricate process! From examining early family photos of a Will Smith, to researching how the body moves and the skin creases, as well as aligning facial features and creating a balanced performance in both characters, no stone is left unturned. But perhaps, the biggest hurdle is showing it to an audience.

“Ang was very clear to us from the start that the movie relied upon the ‘Junior’ character being as believable as any other actor in the movie,” Guy explains. “We would not be successful if people thought we had made an incredible digital human, we needed to go so far with the realism that the audience would forget we worked on it and just relish in the performance by Will Smith (twice over). There was no single thing we did that pushed us over the line, instead it was a vast number of advances and changes to our pipeline for digital humans that got us to the end. We would render what we had and then all sit in a room and judge it mercilessly. Then we would repeat the process again until we eventually couldn’t find anything that made us feel off about the performance.”

Gemini Man is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K UHD.

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