Allied, a WWII romantic thriller, starring Oscar nominee Brad Pitt and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, will be released by Paramount next week.
For secret World War II operatives Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard), the key to survival is never being truly known by anyone. They are experts in deception, play-acting, second-guessing and assassination. When they accidentally fall for each other in the middle of an extraordinarily risky mission, their one hope is to leave all the double-dealing behind – but instead, suspicion and danger become the core of their wartime marriage as husband-and-wife are pitted against each other in an escalating, potentially lethal test of loyalty, identity and love…with global consequences.
From Oscar® winner Robert Zemeckis, the innovative director behind Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Flight, comes Allied, at once a mesmerizing espionage thriller, sweeping war drama and passionate romance between two assassins who may be fated soulmates or deadly enemies – or both. In a sumptuous, visually evocative production that roams from Casablanca to London’s Blitz days to German-occupied France, Zemeckis creates the kind of grand tale that flourished in Golden Hollywood – full of mystery, thrills and romantic heat – yet told with all the richly immersive power of 21st Century cinema.
The film unites Best Actor Oscar® nominee Brad Pitt (Moneyball, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Twelve Monkeys) and Best Actress Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose, Two Days, One Night, The Dark Knight Rises) as the two crafty spies caught between their feverish feelings for one another and an act of duplicity that could detonate everything they care about.
The year is 1942, and 26 countries have just aligned into the Allied Forces to fight the Nazi threat overrunning Europe. On an urgent assignment for the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), Canadian airman Max Vatan parachutes into occupied Casablanca to take out Germany’s ambassador. There, he encounters ravishing French resistance fighter Marianne – chosen to pose as his spouse. But their growing flame for each other soon becomes more than an act, even as they face devastating odds. Daring to reunite in London, their love only deepens and they start a family. But then comes the day Max is informed his idyllic new family life may be a monumental deception – sparking a desperate chase after the truth through a potentially lethal maze of borders and alliances both international and personal.
Paramount Pictures and GK Films present Allied, a film by Robert Zemeckis from an original script by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises, Locke). The producers are Oscar® winner Graham King (The Departed, Argo), Zemeckis and Steve Starkey (Forrest Gump, Castaway, Flight,), with Denis O’Sullivan (The 5th Wave, The Young Victoria), Jack Rapke (Flight, Castaway, Beowulf), Jackie Levine (The Walk), Patrick McCormick (Black Mass) and Steven Knight serving as executive producers.
The accomplished behind-the-scenes team who viscerally recreate Allied’s distinctive mix of gritty and glamorous WWII realms includes: Oscar®-nominated cinematographer Don Burgess (Forrest Gump, Spider Man, Flight), production designer Gary Freeman (Maleficent, Everest), special effects supervisor Kevin Baillie (Flight, The Walk, Star Trek Beyond), Oscar®-nominated costume designer Joanna Johnston (Lincoln, Saving Private Ryan, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Forrest Gump) and editors Mick Audsley (Everest, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and Jeremiah O’Driscoll (The Walk, Flight). Two-time Oscar®-nominated composer Alan Silvestri (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Castaway) wrote the score.
When Love Collides With War And Deceit: The True Story Of Allied
Some true stories you hear once and can never forget.
That was the case when screenwriter Steven Knight – an Oscar® nominee for Stephen Frears’ London thriller Dirty Pretty Things and honored for the screenplays for David Cronenberg’s Russian Mafia tale Eastern Promises as well as writing and directing the daring one-man drama Locke – heard the story of two undercover WWII spies who fell madly in love only to be set mortally against each other when their true identities were exposed.
They say all is fair in love and war, but when the two combine in the most volatile of ways, the moral certainties of the world can quickly spin out of control.
The story that instantly obsessed Knight centered on a Canadian spy and a French school teacher turned resistance fighter who met on assignment, then defiantly decided to marry, a practice that was discouraged by intelligence agencies. Still it seemed a happy ending – until abruptly, one was outed as a double-agent providing vital intel to the enemy, putting their love and their lives in imminent danger.
Sudden romances were known to spark among some World War II operatives working in life-and-death situations at close quarters, especially since men and women often posed undercover as couples. But there was a daunting rule – the so-called “Intimate Betrayal Rule” — that hung over them: should two agents marry and should one discover their partner divulging secrets to the other side, that agent was expected, in heartbreaking self-sacrifice, to execute his or her lover without delay … or face immediate hanging for high treason.
The idea of lovers facing the ultimate dilemma between the shatterproof promises of marriage and their profound loyalty to country in a must-win war for the world’s future fascinated Knight and became the jumping off-point for a script that soon was drawing lots of attention.
Knight re-envisioned the story to center on a particularly hard-nosed and proficient assassin, Max Vatan, who is not the type to let flirtation cloud his thinking. He made Max a member of the legendary, highly-trained British Special Operations Executive (SOE) – the top-secret intelligence agency that was ordered by Winston Churchill to “set Europe ablaze,” and did exactly that, collaborating with the French Resistance in a series of audacious sabotage missions and assassination attempts behind Nazi lines.
Then, Knight created the alluring, enigmatic woman even Max could not resist with the French resistance fighter Marianne, who is every bit as smart, skilled and tough as he is – yet might not be what she seems. The mistake people make in such situations is feeling, says Marianne, but neither can turn off their longing for the other. From the start, Max and Marianne are constantly testing and teasing one another in playful ways – but that play becomes deadly serious when Max is forced to shadow his beloved wife to answer the most unthinkable question: could she truly be a traitor?
The snowballing intensity, shifting trust and sheer danger between the two, unraveling across several war-torn countries, made for a read that was as sensuous as it was relentlessly suspenseful.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen an epic wartime thriller and grand, tragic love story like this,” says producer Graham King, who knew as soon as he met with Knight about the script concept that he wanted to make the film. “It’s the kind of rich storytelling on an ambitious scale we rarely experience anymore and it’s also very relevant to today’s world. It’s about what war and divisions can do to the beauty of love.”
Producer Steve Starkey hopes the film gives audiences a chance to experience the kind of sweeping narratives that that have themselves been swept aside in an era when most films are either huge fantasy blockbusters or small-scale dramas. By harking back to the vaster dramatic canvases of Golden Age filmmaking, he sees Zemeckis bringing modern immediacy to the sprawling suspense epic.
“For people not raised on the 1940s style of movies, they’ve likely never seen this kind of picture, one that offers a big, visual spectacle and excitement but also profound human emotions,” says Starkey. “The film was made in the most modern, technological way which makes for intense action. But Brad and Marion also embody the kind of grand movie romance we haven’t seen in a long time.”
As Zemeckis’s first foray into WWII territory, executive producer Patrick McCormick notes that the film heads in a different, more psychologically thrilling, direction than the battles that have long been a cinematic staple. After all, the danger for Max and Marianne goes beyond the gunfire of their missions and the bombs showering London; they also face a more insidious peril: the hidden truth.
“Though the film is set against the stunning backdrop of World War II’s different warfronts, Allied is a story of double lives, one that is incredibly compelling on a human level,” McCormick observes. “What’s so exciting is that in every scene in this story, the two main characters of Max and Marianne are operating on two different levels – what you see and what you don’t — and their every action resonates with unspoken secrets. That makes for a powerful and unique subtext to both the thriller elements and the love story, because there is a boiling cauldron of suspicion coming to a head beneath them just as the war is building to its climax.”
A Visual Innovator’s POV On WWII: Bob Zemeckis Takes The Helm
Producer Graham King knew he needed a director who could bring a dynamic, contemporary sensibility to an expansive Golden Hollywood scope of storytelling running the gamut from espionage and assassinations to seduction, betrayal, fear, courage and unbreakable love. Ironically enough, that director ultimately came to him. “Bob Zemeckis walked into my office one day and said ‘I love this Steve Knight script and I want to direct it.’ I had never even met him before, but I was a big fan of his work,” recalls King. “I learned later that Bob has long had a desire to make a World War II film.”
Continues King: “Having Bob come aboard was absolutely essential to making the film the way it was made. It’s the reason the film looks the way it does and also a big part of the reason we were able to cast Brad and Marion. Bob may be known as a technical genius but he’s also very character-driven. It’s so rare to find both in the same person and that is exactly what this story needed.”
Steve Starkey, who has been working with Zemeckis since the pioneering animation-live-action-hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit, believes no current filmmaker could be a better fit for Allied. “If you have a story you want told on a grand scale, then you have to think of Bob,” he notes. “He is a filmmaker who loves to tell a big story. He is always willing to hang it all out there and take huge creative risks.”
Zemeckis’s long and varied career has been marked by both visual innovations and cultural influence, with films ranging from the seminal Back To The Future series to the comic special-effects fantasy Death Becomes Her to the historical adventures of Forrest Gump to the recent The Walk, which recreated the extraordinary tightrope journey between New York’s former World Trade Center towers. But Zemeckis has equally been associated with films that are about the raw power of storytelling as in Cast Away, the story of one shipwrecked man reckoning with his life, or Flight, which excavated a heroic pilot’s inner battle with alcoholism.
And yet, for all the wide span of stories Zemeckis has explored, he’d yet to tackle the genre of the period romance. Nor had he brought his visual style to the evocative landscapes of WWII — and both called to him as a filmmaker. He was drawn to Allied at once as an absorbing mystery, a web of deception, a fresh look at survival in WWII and a love story of unusual depth and power that becomes about lasting honor. Above all, he saw a film full of visual potential that could match the story’s themes.
Says Zemeckis: “The screenplay had a sweeping, epic, romantic feel. The thing I most love to do as a director is to move audiences — and when you have a story as powerful as this one, and with so many emotional twists and turns, you have immense opportunities to do that. This type of story is perfect for a filmmaker like myself because I like to make audiences really feel and use all the tools as my disposal to do that.”
Zemeckis saw the story as one that asks questions we all ask of loved ones – Do I really know you? Can I trust you completely? Will you betray me? How far would you go to save what we have? — but these same questions take on a deadly, mounting ferocity within the high-wire world of WWII spies.
“Allied is absolutely a story of betrayal and that’s the universal theme of this film: how we react when we start to think someone we love isn’t who they say they are,” Zemeckis comments. “It’s something that happens in life, but in the realm of Max and Marianne, you have two people already pretending to be someone else from the get-go and the truth is elusive to them. So how do you establish trust? And how can you even talk to your loved one if you believe the enemy is listening in on you?”
As soon as he read the script, Zemeckis had a driving vision for the film’s style – capturing not just the devastation of WWII but equally the exuberant, fervent life of people intoxicated by the sheer wonder of survival. He re-creates with the verve of 21st Century style the tense but glossy glamour of occupied Casablanca; the austere, windswept beauty of the Moroccan desert; the shadowy corridors of the SOE’s Baker Street offices; the powder keg of Dieppe, France where a failed Allied raid left behind a Nazi occupation and struggling French resistance; and the shattered but boldly defiant London of the Blitz.
“I especially loved how the screenplay really evoked the feeling of war-torn London,” Zemeckis says. “London was being bombed nightly but despite that, the people carried on with the life of the city. That was even their slogan: carry on. So that was something I wanted to capture in this: a world where the machinery of war is always there in the background – and sometimes in the foreground – yet people are living with a kind of total abandon because they realize that life could end at any moment. There was a kind of fatalistic quality both to the way people behaved and the way that London looked in that time. That really interested me – and that’s what I wanted to created both in the atmosphere of the film and its design. It’s a world where people are trying to defy death at every turn, including Max and Marianne, whose love develops in danger and cannot escape it even when they marry.”
Max Vatan: A Husband Left Out In The Cold
Max Vatan has been trained by the British SOE to be intrepid, coldly focused and silently deadly. He knows exactly how much to show of himself and what to omit. He can leave behind his Canadian upbringing at a moment’s notice and assume any identity. And yet, nothing in his training prepares him for what he goes through when he meets the woman known as Marianne Beauséjour in Casablanca. They are supposed to be a temporary, pretend couple – but even though Max’s cautious head tells him not to get involved, his heart cannot help but be magnetized to Marianne, with her vivacious wit and probing questions. As they turn, against all odds, from make-believe couple to real one, the line between their false identities and the real truth threatens them more than any mission they have yet survived.
To play the role of a man of action expected to act against his wife, a man caught in a trap between his undying love and his duty to a country fighting for a freer world, Brad Pitt was an exciting choice for the filmmakers. In a career that has made him a superstar, Pitt has played a particularly broad range of roles – garnering Oscar® nominations for some of his most unexpected: as an activist gone mad in Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, a man who is aging in reverse in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and colorful Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball. (In addition, he has won a Best Picture Oscar® as a producer on Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave and was nominated as a producer for The Big Short.)
Pitt had all the qualities the role demanded, says Robert Zemeckis, but he also brought unexpected shadings. “Brad is always such a compelling actor to watch with his remarkable screen presence. But here he does something tricky – carving out a portrait of a man who goes from a dashing secret operative to a man experiencing profound confusion and emotional anguish as he faces the first real threat to everything that means something to him. Brad really, really rose to the occasion with his emotional portrayal of Max,” says the director.
Graham King, who has worked with Pitt several times, including on the Academy Award® winning The Departed and the recent blockbuster World War Z, also feels Pitt’s performance is something yet unseen from an actor who has created so many memorable characters. Pitt’s take on Max is as a highly efficient warrior who, despite what he does for the war effort, dreams of a life of love and peace on the plains of Medicine Hat, Alberta.
“Brad told me he wanted to play Max as a very quiet guy, a guy who usually just observes what goes on around him, but when it comes to danger, he is able to react immediately,” recalls King. “He said that quality is what keeps Max alive – but it’s also the very thing that he can’t stop when he is told Marianne might be a traitor. Nobody can play on your emotions like Brad; when his character is broken by his realization, the audience really roots for him to come back and fight for what is true. I saw Brad really put his whole heart and soul into his preparation for this character.”
Pitt devoted himself to getting inside Max’s skin, even working with a dialect coach to learn the very specific kind of Quebecois French accent Max has, to Marianne’s amused dismay, when he arrives in Casablanca. Pitt also asked Robert Zemeckis if the director could shoot the film as much as possible in chronological order. It was important to Pitt to let his character evolve authentically from the cool indifference he displays in the film’s opening scenes to his steamy passion with Marianne to the seeds of paranoia and finally, to his all-out determination to get at the truth. Indeed, Pitt’s performance shifts as Max’s perceptions of his wife also shift from one view to another.
Says King: “It was a very smart idea because when the audience sees Max meeting Marianne for the first time in the Casablanca night club, the two actors really were meeting for the first time on screen. Then, you see their relationship building in real time and that adds even greater realism to the suspense.”
Everyone was gratified by the volatile chemical reaction Pitt and Cotillard seemed to have the minute they were put together on the screen – and that became the underpinning to every twist of the mystery between Max and Marianne. “If you’re making a love story, you just pray your two leads will have that incredible chemistry that you can feel coming off the screen,” says Zemeckis. “That is what happened on this film: Brad and Marion had that movie star spark. They each gave so much emotionally and it was magnified by the chemistry every time they’re in the frame together.”
Marianne: A Treacherous Love
The mounting suspense and sweep of Allied all hinges around the concealed identity of Marianne, the stunning and skilled French assassin who meets her husband Max while she’s portraying an invented persona for a mission. Though sly deceptiveness and spirited probing fuels their initial affair, Marianne seems happy to leave behind the lies and pretense of pretending to be someone she is not…or does she? Is Marianne still living behind a veil of menacing secrets even as she becomes a wife and mother?
To take on such a tricky, ever-changing performance, the filmmakers sought out one of today’s most honored French actresses: Marion Cotillard. Cotillard riveted filmgoers in the role of legendary torch singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose, winning the Academy Award® for Best Actress. Following a Golden Globe nominated role in the musical Nine, the blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises and lauded performances in Rust and Bone and The Immigrant, she recently received another Oscar® nomination as the working mother who has one weekend to save her job in the Dardennes Brothers’ Two Days and One Night.
“We simply could not imagine anyone other than Marion to play Marianne,” comments Steve Starkey. “She is perhaps the greatest French actress of her generation – and she’s just as compelling as Brad on screen so that your eye is drawn to both equally as they test one another.”
Agrees Graham King: “You cannot take your eyes off Marion whenever she’s on screen. Her reactions are so electric and she is beautifully matched with Brad. Whether she is being playful or tender or deceptive or sad, she is just completely present in a way you feel.”
For Robert Zemeckis, Cotillard brought unerring authenticity, both of nationality and of nuanced emotions. “Marion is an absolutely magnificent actress and with this role, she has a lot of different emotional, psychological and physical dimensions to play with,” he says. “She’s French of course, so she brings that touch of reality but she’s also the kind of performer who can keep the audience completely guessing.”
The script riveted Cotillard on first read. “I love the fact that it felt like a very entertaining thriller and at the same time it felt like a very deep and profound love story,” she muses. “Then, when I heard Bob Zemeckis was on board and Brad Pitt would be playing Max, it was even more exciting to me. Bob is such a visionary director. He’s done so many special movies only he could have created, so I felt it would be really cool to be part of a project that is a new genre for him.”
There was another draw: in a sense, Marianne begins the film as a kind of actress herself, a woman hired to play a role, albeit a deadly one. But that role becomes all too entwined with real life when she falls in love with Max. Marianne posed a fascinating challenge: how to play a woman so caught up in a multi-layered performance that she has lost sight of her own reality. Cotillard believes that amid the confusion of where her national loyalties lie, Marianne only knows for certain that her unassailable love for Max is real – even if that fact puts them in mortal danger.
“Max and Marianne really have such a short time to get to know each other when they meet and right away, they’re both pretending to be other people while facing the possibility they might not survive. So that creates a certain kind of relationship between the two of them immediately,” Cotillard observes. “What was interesting to explore is how that feeling between them of reality being changeable reverberates in their married life.”
Seeing the well-hidden layers of the characters peeled away as the epic action mounts is what makes the film unique, says Cotillard. “I think Allied is equally a story of suspense and one of tragic romance,” she summarizes. “Bob starts with a classic recipe for creating entertaining movies, then takes it in his own contemporary and insightful direction.”
The Loyalists: Jared Harris On Colonel Heslop and Lizzy Kaplan on Bridget
Max’s boss at the SOE – and his most trusted confidante when Max’s whole world is turned on its head – is Colonel Frank Heslop, portrayed by Jared Harris, whose roles have ranged from the comedic-tragic business manager Lane Pryce on television’s iconic Mad Men to Ulysses S. Grant in Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln.
Says Graham King: “Jared Harris was the actor we all most wanted for the role, because he is someone who can let you see into emotions that are entirely under the surface. I knew he could combine that very rigid British military demeanor with letting the audience realize that he is quietly rooting for Max and Marianne’s relationship to be true.”
Harris says the chance to work with Zemeckis was the thing he couldn’t resist. “I’m a big fan of his movies,” he comments, “but I was also very interested in this particular script because it’s not really like anything else out there right now. I found it to be a complex meditation on relationships and the one question we all ask: who is this person who I’ve given my heart and trust to, and what do I really know of them? It’s a very clever and exciting exploration of identity.”
It is Heslop who warns Max that there is a difference between lasting love and the electrical exhilaration of surviving a mission with a fellow agent. “Heslop certainly has empathy for Max and the situation he’s in with Marianne,” observes Harris. “Maybe he foresaw that this might happen between them – but I think he also has an intuition that, no matter what, it might not end well.”
Harris especially enjoyed watching Pitt embody Max so completely. “I think it’s one of Brad’s more visceral, emotional and raw performances,” he says. “Brad’s Max is full of paranoia and confusion as you see him grasping at straws, hoping to find a way out of his incredible predicament.”
In the civilian world, the singular person Max can trust is his sister Bridget, a role taken by versatile Lizzy Kaplan, currently seen in Showtime’s critically acclaimed hit, Masters of Sex. “Lizzy brings so much youthful energy and an iconic look to Bridget,” says Starkey. “She puts a great spin on this character, who is really the only outlet for Max to share his inner life.”
Kaplan felt instantly seduced by the character, who shows a not-often-seen side of the war years. “Bridget is one of wartime London’s free spirits,” she explains, “and a bit of a Bohemian. You might think that during the Blitz, people were cowering in their homes, but I found in my research it was quite the opposite. Many people were living life to the fullest and having all kinds of wild times. I think Bridget finds survival itself a bit thrilling and she revels in it. She has a Polish cellist girlfriend and they try to have a lot of fun, even while destruction and chaos surrounds them.”
As for Bridget’s reaction to Max’s new wife, Kaplan sees her as open-minded but ultimately in fear for what might be happening to her brother. “To Bridget, Max has always been such a serious and lonely guy, she’s just happy he has found somebody,” Kaplan says. “I think Bridget is hoping Marianne’s love for Max is real — but how can she or anyone really know, especially in a time of war?”
Watching Pitt and Cotillard together was a deep and daily pleasure for Kaplan. “The two of them are proper movie stars in the best, old-fashioned sense,” she muses. “They’re amazing to see in action and because of that, every single day was a great learning experience for me.”
WWII Now: The Immediacy Of Allied’s Design & VFX
The labyrinthine story of Max and Marianne as they face relentless odds as spies – and even more so as a married couple with deadly secrets – is matched in Allied by an epic visual sensibility that infuses every frame. From the opening shot of Brad Pitt parachuting into an aerial frame suspended above the Moroccan dunes to Marion Cotillard giving birth while dodging German shells in a London hospital to the film’s stormy airfield climax, the film sets out to stimulate the senses as it raises adrenaline.
One of the big cinematic challenges of Allied is that it takes place in worlds that no longer exist, and are increasingly challenging to re-create. But that only fueled visual powerhouse Robert Zemeckis’s creative instincts. He fashioned the film via a seamless, one-of-a-kind mix of practical locations, highly convincing soundstage sets and VFX that allowed cast and crew to travel the globe “virtually” — while the camera was freed to move in any creative way that Zemeckis wanted.
Zemeckis forged the lush, distinctive look of Allied with an alliance of his own – working in close collaboration with cinematographer Don Burgess, production designer Gary Freeman, VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie and costume designer Joanna Johnston to transport audiences into the heart of a divided Europe battling the Nazis.
From the get-go he had the idea of switching the film’s subjective POV from Max to Marianne partway through the film, flipping the narrative and the entire visual ambiance as well. While the first half of the film is rife with the wide open vistas of sand dunes and rooftops, the second half unfolds in tighter quarters – cramped rooms, interrogation offices, French prisons, cramped WII-era cockpits – as the world closes in on Max and Marianne.
Says Zemeckis: “I had long conversations with Don Burgess about how we could evoke as much emotion as we could just from the camerawork. The most specific thing we did was to keep increasing the claustrophobia as the story progresses. Of course it’s all very subtle and subconscious but hopefully the audience will feel it. Our lenses get longer and longer as the story goes deeper and deeper.”
Burgess has worked with Zemeckis since the Back To The Future days, but he says each time working with Zemeckis presents utterly new challenges. “Bob is always so exciting to work with because he’s such a visually oriented director. From day one on this film, he had all kinds of ideas about how the camera could help tell the story and we started talking shots and angles,” comments Burgess.
Zemeckis and Burgess began their conversation talking about how to bring viewers into the lives of Max and Marianne with a sense of immediacy. “We wanted the audience to feel really connected to the story, so we tried to use the camera to that end, to really let people in on what these characters are feeling at every moment. That meant putting the camera in positions that show you exactly what the characters are seeing, and also how they’re seeing it, in cinematic ways,” Burgess explains. “We used a lot of different visual techniques including practical elements, as well as blue-screen to create our backgrounds with maximum effect.”
Burgess worked with the versatile cutting-edge, 8K digital RED “Weapon” camera while using timeless Leica Summicron lenses. “We wanted the look of the film to feel dynamic and fresh, but also to resemble the photography of that 1940s period,” Burgess says.
That same idea infuses the work of production designer Gary Freeman, who works here for the first time with Zemeckis. One thing Freeman knew from the start, he says, is that “I wanted it to feel like a contemporary movie that just happens to be set in World War II. There are lots of authentic period details but we constantly played with proportions and color to give it a jazzier, more modern feel.”
Zemeckis found the creative rapport with Freeman exhilarating – and both agreed that tone was as important as period. “I think of production design as its own character that should bring its own emotions,” the director explains. “I felt the design on this film had to be about surrounding the audience with romance and tension. Gary is a really strong production designer who can do that kind of thing.”
Says producer Steve Starkey of Freeman: “Gary brought an artistic sensibility that was so right for the movie. He is an efficient and smart designer – and at the same time, he is a very inventive designer, and that makes for a great match with Bob.”
For Freeman, the design possibilities of the script’s sultry, gritty and mysterious locations were an instant draw. “We had fascinating contrasts to work with, from Casablanca as an exotic frontier town to London during the Blitz, as well as detours to France and Canada,” he notes. “It allowed for a great mix of visual ideas.”
Throughout, Freeman says Zemeckis kept him inspired. “The great thing about Bob is that he so appreciates the craft of design that he constructs his shots around showing interesting views of the sets. It’s been an absolute joy to see how he chose to shoot everything we created,” he says.
Freeman loved building intricate soundstage sets from scratch that gave Zemeckis that fast-moving, cinematic versatility he thrives upon. “We did use some practical locations as well, but Bob really likes to have as much control as he can to make each shot as beautiful and pure as possible, so that means a lot of soundstage work,” the designer explains.
Over the course of the shoot, Freeman and his team built nearly 80 different sets from the ground up. The process began with the film’s immersive opening in Casablanca – the multi-cultural port city in North Africa that was Vichy-controlled during WWII and host to both war refugees of all kinds and Nazis. The chance to recreate one of the most elegant and exotic cities of the war was a special thrill for Freeman, especially given its rich cinematic history.
“What’s interesting is that in the 40s, Casablanca was this bustling, cosmopolitan city full of French art deco influences and a truly glamorous feeling – whereas London was falling apart and all about raw survival,” observes Freeman. “So we really turboed up the scale and sophistication of Casablanca and played on the saturated colors of the Moroccan souks and the circular architecture, which echoes the intensity and danger Max and Marianne find themselves in when they arrive.”
Though he used effects that the Hollywood of that time could not have even imagined, Zemeckis definitely wanted to give his own nod to the beloved Michael Curtiz film with Humphrey Bogart and Ingmar Bergman. “We wanted our film to evoke the Casablanca that we already know from the classic Casablanca – and that’s really how it was at that time. It was a very elegant, stylish, sophisticated city at the crossroads of the war,” he says.
Now, however, Casablanca is full of high-rises and new construction and looks nothing like it did a half century ago. So the filmmakers forged a hybrid re-creation from locations in the Canary Islands, Freeman’s detailed sets and digital effects.
The Rivoli nightclub, where Max and Marianne first meet, forms the centerpiece of the Moroccan portion of the film. To swirl it with light, Freeman commissioned the creation of an enormous, 14-foot high Venetian chandelier, weighing 1500 lbs. “The chandelier is deco-inspired but it also has the feeling of a 1940s spaceship,” muses Freeman. “I’ve never really seen anything like it before.”
The designs whisked Marion Cotillard back to the 40s like a time machine: “I was so impressed when I first came onto the Casablanca sets,” Cotillard remembers. “All the details were so strong and felt so real, it was easy to believe we really were back in that place during World War II. It’s so important as an actor to have that kind of feeling and Bob and his team did an amazing job of giving us that.”
One of Pitt and Cotillard’s most torrid scenes takes place in the undulating dunes of the Sahara desert, a natural phenomenon that was also recreated by Freeman on an ambitious, VFX-enhanced set. “We even sculpted the footprints into our dunes so that we didn’t have to have a prop man constantly making them,” Freeman notes. “That’s the kind of thing that is important to Bob. He has a strong vision and he wants to be able to achieve what he sees without compromise because of weather, light or unpredictable circumstances.”
After the action in Casablanca builds to the explosive moment of Max and Marianne’s mission, the story moves fatefully to Blitz-time London, where the first shot sets the tone: a woman tip-toeing in heels through shattered glass after a bomb has dropped. That singular shot, though just a few seconds long, involved robotic technocranes, Steadicams and massive matte paintings.
“In my research on London during the Blitz, I read that one thing that was very noticeable was the sound of people crunching through broken glass,” recalls Freeman. “So Bob designed this incredible tracking shot of a beautiful woman’s legs as she walks confidently through the shards on Baker Street.”
Nevertheless, the look of London was designed to be much more claustrophobic. “Unlike the vastness of Morocco, in London, our characters are in these terraced cottages and very small rooms, and you can feel the pressure building,” says Freeman.
Max and Marianne’s London house is in Hampstead Heath, notably a community that drew young intellectuals, avant-garde artists and other free thinkers. “In London, Marianne takes on a Bohemian attitude to the way she constructs her life,” notes Freeman. “Hampstead was an area full of Eastern European refugees and there were lots of painters and photographers – so their house is full of bright, vivid art that’s a bit different than you might expect from 40s London. Part of the idea was to make Marianne very empathetic, while Max seems to be more of a mystery, the quiet one, as their marriage begins. Then, everything turns around dramatically.”
The famed SOE offices on Baker Street – where 10,000 people secretly worked on covert sabotage and espionage campaigns being plotted by Allied forces unbeknownst to the world — were re-created in an old, hollowed-out factory full of chilly ambiance.
“Gary and his team refitted that factory to create a mesmerizing and idiosyncratic set that resembles Churchill’s War room in a certain way and it’s so visually layered,” says executive producer Patrick McCormick. “It’s full of different vantage points and Bob and Don really took advantage of that.”
Freeman’s designs also synchronized with the lavishly detailed work of costume designer Joanna Johnston – who utilized the characters of Max and Marianne to maximum glamorous effect, from their crisp, sophisticated, desert-toned outfits in Casablanca to the mix of Marianne’s Bohemian-tinged garb and Max’s formality in London to the shifts from light to dark as the film’s suspense builds.
Says Steve Starkey of Johnston, who has collaborated regularly with Zemeckis: “Joanna worked on Roger Rabbit for us, as well as Back To The Future and Forrest Gump, so almost the first call Bob made was to Joanna – and thank goodness it was. Our two leads look so romantic and beautiful in every scene. She worked tirelessly to make every period detail just right, but there’s also an original feeling to her work. She not only has a great design sensibility, she also knows a remarkable amount about British history and was a great guide for us in that area. She was key to the film’s entire look.”
The costumes that Johnston crafted for Marianne dazzled Marion Cotillard. “Joanna understood exactly how to create a kind of classic, glamorous look that makes Marianne both a little larger than life and believable as a real woman caught in this situation,” she says. “She knows Bob’s aesthetic very well and what he wants, and at same time she is always surprising him. It was really beautiful to watch her and Bob working together.”
Throughout the production, London’s Imperial War Museum proved an invaluable resource for the entire crew, providing documentary evidence of daily life in that time period and masses of archives for the various design teams to roam through.
One unusual design element in the film is the now-rare Westland Lysander plane that Max flies to Dieppe, France on a spontaneous personal mission to prove Marianne is on the side of the Allies. Used by the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 30s and 40s, and by the SOE throughout WWII, the agile, low-altitude flyer was perfect for covert landings behind enemy lines – able to evade radar and touch down in secluded fields, as it must attempt to do in the film.
Sadly, there was only a single remaining Lysander to be found in the UK; and while the owners were willing to let the production use it, that plane was too fragile to withstand the deluge of rain that racks the plane in the final scenes of the film. So, Freeman’s team recruited a team who build historic plane reproductions and had a mock Lysander built precisely to spec. The plane used is the spitting image of the original – lacking only an engine.
For all these real-world details, Allied is also a film that relies strongly on highly creative VFX, effects that are baked together with the sets to create a more palpable reality than locations alone could do.
Zemeckis loves to take full advantage of all that technology can offer a filmmaker – and he says on this film, there was no way to proceed without digital power.
“VFX allowed us to create a scope on this film that could not have existed without it. No one could afford to build all that we have portrayed in this movie without digital tools. We’re at a point now that you can do absolutely anything with VFX,” Zemeckis muses. “We could recreate the cities of Europe and North Africa in the 1940s and do it without facing an impossible amount of building.”
Freeman lauds the work of VFX supervisor Kevin Baillie, with whom he worked in tight creative collusion. “I was able to build things properly without ever holding back, knowing that VFX was going to do a great job extending the scope of every shot beyond the set,” says the production designer.
Baillie has been working with Zemeckis for years, most recently doing much-lauded work persuading audiences they were watching a tightrope walker between the now-destroyed New York Twin Towers in The Walk. For Allied, he wanted to focus even more on realism – and his challenges ranged from enhancing the Moroccan sand dunes to creating the rooftops of Casablanca to WWII flights.
“Even when we were creating images digitally, we wanted to forge a gritty, real world, without that CG sheen,” Baillie explains of his approach.
Working with Zemeckis is a distinctive experience, notes Baillie. “Bob is famous for being in the vanguard of directors using visual effects and I’d argue that he has demonstrated some of the most effective use of the medium across differing genres. He has an extremely strong understanding of what these tools can actually do for him and for the story. So it’s a great partnership because he not only knows exactly what he wants, but he also knows what I need to be able to give him what he wants.”
He goes on: “My favorite quote from Bob, which is very relevant to VFX, is that making movies is a crime against nature – you have to mess with the world a bit to get your best shot. We do mess with the world, but only to create a more dynamic and real experience. The great thing about working on a Zemeckis movie is that VFX is never regarded as a crutch – you never hear the words ‘we’ll fix that in post’ – but is recognized instead as an integral part of the storytelling process.”
The visual effects in Allied had to work in perfect synch with the complex visual design. “For example, for the rooftop scene in Morocco, our team started off with Gary Freeman’s great guidelines of that environment,” Baillie explicates. “Then, we actually went down to Morocco and laser scanned four different rooftops in the Medina in Tangiers, which still has that feel of the 1940s. Then, from those laser scans and thousands of photographs we created a digital library of images we could work with. So we go from conceptual to real environments back to conceptual again.”
By using cloud computing to render the images, Baillie’s team was also able to speed up the process, allowing more time for the most creative work.
Once production came to a close, Zemeckis moved on to the editing bay with editors Mick Audsley and Jeremiah O’Driscoll. The final touches were put on the film by Grammy winner and Oscar® and Golden Globe-nominated composer Alan Silvestri, a long-time collaborator with Zemeckis, who forged a lush, lyrical soundscape befitting the story’s sweep of action and emotions.
“The choice of Alan is a no-brainer since he’s done all my films since Romancing The Stone,” says Zemeckis. “We have this shorthand and I just can’t imagine making a film with any other composer at this point. I talk to him like I would talk to an actor – I speak to him about what I think is going on emotionally in a scene and then he takes that and runs with it musically.”
Each of the film’s elements became integral to building the film to a fever pitch of doubt, danger and selfless love as Max and Marianne are pitched into turmoil and international brinksmanship even as they watch their daughter take her first steps. All of it comes down to a wrenching choice, yet one steeped in hope for the future.
Sums up Graham King: “What Bob has done in Allied is combine a story of poignant love, raw emotion and the high tensions of war with incredible visual effects and set pieces. The audience will be on the edge of their seats and their hearts will be stirred.”
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ABOUT THE CAST
BRAD PITT (Max Vatan) one of today’s strongest and most versatile film actors, is also a successful film producer with his company Plan B Entertainment.
In the past few years, Pitt won an Academy Award® as a producer of “12 Years a Slave,” directed by Steve McQueen (the film also won Oscars® for screenwriter John Ridley and supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o), led a five-man tank crew in David Ayer’s World War II epic “Fury,” starred and produced “By the Sea” opposite his wife Angelina Jolie, who also wrote and directed the film, played a supporting role in “The Big Short,” and the lead in “War Machine,” a provocative satirical comedy from David Michod for Netflix, both of which he also produced with his Plan B shingle. Pitt can most recently be seen in Robert Zemeckis’ ALLIED opposite Marion Cotillard.
In 2013, Pitt starred and produced one of the year’s top ten grossing movies, “World War Z” for Paramount. Following Z, Pitt played a supporting role in Cormac McCarthy’s “The Counselor” directed by Ridley Scott as well as Andrew Dominik’s “Cogan’s Trade.” This is the second time Pitt has starred and produced a Dominik film, the first being “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” for which he was named Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. In 2011, Brad gave two of his most complex and nuanced performances in Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” and Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life,” films he also produced. Brad won the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the National Society of Film Critics Award for both roles. Additionally, Brad was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award for his work in “Moneyball.” The movie also received an Academy Award Best Picture nomination. “Tree of Life” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards as well. In previous years, Brad was an Academy Award® nominee for his performance in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys,” for which he won a Golden Globe Award. He was also a Golden Globe Award nominee for his performances in Edward Zwick’s “Legends of the Fall” and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Babel.”
In 2009, Pitt starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” as Lt. Aldo Raine; and appeared in Joel and Ethan Coen’s comedy thriller “Burn After Reading.” Opposite George Clooney, his “Burn After Reading” co-star, he also appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s hits “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.”
It was Mr. Pitt’s role in Ridley Scott’s Academy Award®-winning “Thelma and Louise” that first brought him national attention. He soon went on to star in Robert Redford’s Academy Award®-winning “A River Runs Through It,” Dominic Sena’s “Kalifornia” and Tony Scott’s “True Romance.” Pitt also received critical acclaim for his performances in the two David Fincher films: “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” His other films include Doug Liman’s “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” which was one of 2005’s biggest hits and Guy Ritchie’s “Snatch.”
Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment has been responsible for producing numerous award-winning and commercially successful films including “The Departed,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” “The Tree of Life,” “World War Z,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Normal Heart,” “Selma” and “The Big Short.” The company’s forthcoming slate includes David Michod’s “War Machine” for Netflix; James Gray’s “The Lost City of Z,” based on David Grann’s best selling book starring Charlie Hunnam; “World War Z 2”; as well as development with a number of marquee filmmakers and writers in both film and television.
Marion Cotillard (Marianne) BIO PENDING
A classically trained stage actor and former member of London’s famed Royal Shakespeare Company, Jared Harris’ (Frank Heslop) prolific career continuously showcases his ability to easily transition from one character to another, garnering him great praise and keeping him in the company of some of today’s most creative talent in film, television and stage.
Harris’ extensive film career includes Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award® nominated biopic, Lincoln, in which he played the iconic Civil War hero ‘General Ulysses S. Grant’ opposite Daniel Day Lewis; his portrayal of the villain ‘Professor Moriarty’ in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows opposite Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Noomi Rapace; his appearance alongside Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in David Fincher’s Academy Award® nominated 2008 film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; and a riveting portrayal of Andy Warhol in the acclaimed independent film I Shot Andy Warhol.
In 2015, Harris completed principal photography on two independent films – The Last Face and Certain Women. The Last Face, which also stars Charlize Theron, Jean Reno and Javier Bardem, was directed and produced by Sean Penn. In the film, Harris plays a doctor working in war torn Africa for Doctors Without Borders. In Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt, Harris plays a rancher who seeks legal aid from a lawyer played by Laura Dern. The film, which also stars Michelle Williams and Kristen Stewart, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.
Harris most recently appeared on the big screen in Guy Ritchie’s Man from U.N.C.L.E., which also stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, and Luca Calvani. The Warner Bros. film, a big-screen update of the 1960s TV series, was released August 14, 2015. That summer, Harris could also be seen in Gil Kenan’s Poltergeist, a contemporized remake of the classic tale about a family whose suburban home is invaded by angry spirits. In this film, which also stars Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt, Harris plays a ghost hunter/television personality who is called in to help the family get their daughter back from the poltergeists.
In 2014, marking his foray into children’s cinema, Harris’ voice was heard as “Lord Portley-Rind” in Focus Features’ Academy Award® nominated animated film, The Boxtrolls. The 3D stop-motion and CG hybrid animated feature is a comedic fable that takes place in Cheesebridge, a posh Victorian-era town obsessed with cheese by day; plagued by the mysterious Boxtrolls by night. Prior to this, Harris starred in John Pogue’s horror film The Quiet Ones, Paul W.S. Anderson’s action drama Pompeii, and the young adult fantasy adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, opposite Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Lena Headey.
This year, Harris will star as “King George” in the Netflix series The Crown from Academy Award® nominees Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours). The series is inspired by the play The Audience, which centers on the weekly audiences given by Queen Elizabeth II to prime ministers that date from her accession in 1952 to the present day.
In 2015 Harris was equally busy behind and in front of the television camera. He went behind the camera for the first time to direct the eleventh episode, “Time and Life,” of the final season of AMC’s award-winning hit drama Mad Men. Harris had previously starred in the show for two seasons as a 1960’s ad executive ‘Lane Pryce.’ The role earned Harris his first Primetime Emmy® nomination in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Harris appeared on screen as ‘Anderson Dawes’ in The Expanse, a limited series for Syfy.
Harris made his film debut in 1989’s The Rachel Papers, which was also the directorial debut of his brother Damian, and has since gone on to appear in over fifty films in a wide array of roles, including the sleazy Russian cab driver, Vladimir, in Todd Solondz’s Happiness, for which the cast received the 1999 National Board of Review Acting Ensemble Award. Additional credits include Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans; Sylvia; Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man; Jonathan Nossiter’s Sunday, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival; Igby Goes Down; Mr. Deeds; Michael Radford’s B. Monkey; Wayne Wang’s Smoke; and John Carpenter’s The Ward, among others.
Harris has accumulated an impressive list of television credits in both England and the U.S., including highly acclaimed performances as Henry VIII for the BBC production of The Other Boleyn Girl, John Lennon in the 2000 television drama and original VH1 film Two of Us, and the starring role in BBC’s dramatization of Simon Mann’s failed attempt to overthrow the oil rich African nation Equatorial Guinea in Coup! Additional BBC credits include the mini-series To the Ends of the Earth, and The Shadow in the North. Stateside, Harris has been seen in recurring roles for both The Riches, in cult hit Fringe, and has guest-starred on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Without a Trace.
Harris has appeared with some of the most renowned theater companies in both London and New York. His first theatre job at the Royal Shakespeare Company was in Mark Rylance’s Hamlet, which is considered to be the defining interpretation of his generation. Harris made his American stage debut as Hotspur in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2. He then went on to perform with the company in both Tis Pity She’s A Whore and King Lear. Additional stage credits include the New Group’s Obie Award-winning production of Mike Leigh’s Ecstasy, the New Jersey Shakespeare Company’s experimental production of Hamlet, in which he played the title role, the Almeida Theatre’s production of Tennessee William’s bittersweet comedy A Period of Adjustment, and the Vineyard Theater’s production of More Lies About Jerzy.
Harris was born in London, and is the son of Irish actor, Richard Harris. He attended North Carolina’s Duke University, where he majored in drama and literature and after graduation he studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Harris currently resides in Los Angeles.
Lizzy Caplan (Bridget Vatan) currently stars opposite Michael Sheen in Showtime’s critically-acclaimed drama series about the lives of the sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex. Among many accolades Caplan has received for her performance, she was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Critics Choice Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. On the big screen, Caplan recently appeared opposite an all-star cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Woody Harrelson in international hit Now You See Me 2.
Caplan’s additional film credits include the following: The Night Before with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen; The Interview with Seth Rogen and James Franco; Save The Date (Sundance Film Festival 2012); Bachelorette (Sundance Film Festival 2012); 3, 2, 1…Frankie Goes Boom; Hot Tub Time Machine; JJ Abrams’s sci-fi hit Cloverfield; Crossing Over; The Last Rites of Ransom Pride; and her breakout role as ‘Janice Ian’ in Mean Girls. She also produced and starred in the short film Successful Alcoholics, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
Caplan’s television credits include the lead role of ‘Casey Klein’ on the critically-acclaimed comedy Party Down, a show which earned an AFI Award in 2009 and was named one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Shows of 2010, as well as roles on True Blood, The Class, for which she was named one of “10 Actors to Watch” by Daily Variety, Related, Family Guy, American Dad, Tru Calling, Undeclared and Judd Apatow’s cult classic Freaks and Geeks. Her recent guest star credits include roles on The League, Kroll Show and New Girl.
Daniel Betts’ (George Kavanagh) career includes film, television and theatre. Allied marks his third role in a film starring alongside Brad Pitt, with previous roles in Fury and the future release War Machine.
In 2009, Betts appeared the Olivier nominated play The Great Game:Afghanistan, an exploration of the history of British forces and foreign intervention in Afghanistan, in four parts. A performance was organised by the British Army for forces embarking on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Much lauded in the original sell out run at London’s Tricycle Theatre, the play toured the USA and was invited to the Pentagon by senior staff. In a live New Broadcast, on US National Televison, Genral Sir David Richards, then Commander of ISAF, declared that if he had seen these plays before doing to Afghanistan, he would have been a better Commander.
Betts trained at the Drama Centre London, working with Christopher Fettes. Together they founded a theatre company, Concentric Circles, with Sir Anthony Hopkins as Patron, touring Phaedra, starring Sheila Gish, and Othello, starring Ricky Feron.
In 1995, he starred in the original staging of David Hare’s recently revived play, Skylight, alongside Michael Gambon and Lia Williams at The National Theatre. The production then played a sellout run in London’s West End.
Other West End stage appearances include The King’s Speech, Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce, and Sweet Bird of Youth.
For the Royal Shakespeare Company he starred in A Winter’s Tale and Strinberg’s Easter. In 2015, Daniel starred as Atticus Finch in a stage production of To Kill A Mockingbird, coincidentally touring the UK when Harper Lee published the book’s controversial prequel Go Set A Watchman, fifty five years after the original, leading to discussions of a reappraisal of the character of Atticus. The play was a huge success, being seen by over 250,000 people and garnering rave reviews.
In 1999, he appeared in Hallmark’s popular family comedy romance The Magical Legend of Leprechauns, alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Roger Daltry and Randy Quaid.
Betts will next be seen in the The Crown, a Netflix drama exploring the British Royal Family over the reign of the current Queen, Elizabeth II, written by Academy Award® nominee Peter Morgan.
Matthew Goode (Guy Sangster) has appeared in numerous films including Tom Forde’s award winning A Single Man, Oscar®-nominated The Imitation Game, as Charles Rider in Brideshead Revisited, the romantic lead opposite Amy Adams in Leap Year, Pressure, Selfless, Stoker, Belle, Burning Man, Matchpoint and South from Granada.
His television credits include Downton Abbey, Roots, The Good Wife, Death Comes to Pemberley, Birdsong and My Family and Other Animals.
Goode trained at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. He will next be seen on film in The Hatton Garden Job, with Joely Richardson and Larry Lamb.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Robert Zemeckis (Director/Producer) won an Academy Award©, a Golden Globe and a Director’s Guild of American Award for Best Director for the hugely successful Forrest Gump. The film’s numerous honors also included Oscars® for Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Picture. Zemeckis re-teamed with Hanks on the contemporary drama Cast Away, the filming of which was split into two sections, book-ending production on What Lies Beneath. Zemeckis and Hanks served as producers on Cast Away, along with Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke.
Earlier in his career, Zemeckis co-wrote (with Bob Gale) and directed Back to the Future, which was the top-grossing release of 1985, and for which Zemeckis shared Oscar® and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Screen play. He then went on to helm Back to the Future, Part II and Part III, completing one of the most successful film franchises ever.
In addition, he directed and produced Contact, starring Jodie Foster, based on the best-selling novel by Carl Sagan; and the macabre comedy hit Death Becomes Her, starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. He also wrote and directed the box office smash Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, cleverly blending live action and animation; directed the romantic adventure hit Romancing the Stone, pairing Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner; and co-wrote (with Bob Gale) and directed the comedies Used Cars and <em