AQUAMAN: Greg Beeman on Directing Mercy Reef
Back in 2006, director/producer Greg Beeman, who had been a part of Smallville from the beginning and was getting ready to move on to NBC's Heroes, helmed the Aquaman pilot Mercy Reef. He reflects on that effort in this interview excerpt.
Along with Al Gough and Miles Millar, Greg Beeman was one of the defining voices of Smallville, doing his part to enrich the journey of Clark Kent from angst-ridden teenager to his eventual destiny as Superman. And while in 2006 the producer/ director left Smallville to segue over to NBC and Tim Kring’s drama Heroes, he did manage to squeeze in the directing of the $7 million Aquaman pilot, Mercy Reef,which seemed destined to go to series, though it ultimately did not. Particularly noteworthy about the pilot is that it saw Justin Hartley in the role of Arthur Curry, prior to his being cast as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on Smallville. Several years ago, Voices From Krypton editor Ed Gross sat down with Beeman for an exclusive interview to discuss the making of the pilot.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Overall, what’s your feeling about having directed the Aquaman pilot?
GREG BEEMAN: It was a very good experience shooting it. The three big action sequences were the most challenging, particularly in making it feel like it was a cousin to Smallville while at the same time coming up with a different look from that show. We did that with a Caribbean, warm, Miami look, which I thought was successful. I really like the cast that we came up with; they were very appealing. It was a very difficult shoot as you can imagine. Even though it was a pretty healthy budget for TV, it was difficult to accomplish all of that water work and all of that special effects work, but it was fun.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: You mentioned three action sequences that were challenging. What were they and what was particularly challenging about them?
BEEMAN: The first sequence had this mythic quality, which was really exciting. I’ll tell you the truth, for the first sequence, which is the plane flying with the little boy and the mother in the Bermuda Triangle, I didn’t have a script for a long time. I was given an outline for that sequence, which was in December, and I started working on the storyboards immediately, presupposing what was going to be written. It was sort of a classic movie opening, I thought. It had elements of The Lion King, which I really loved, in the climax of that opening scene where he’s lifted up out of the water by the whales.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: It’s a pretty amazing and intense sequence.
BEEMAN: It also had the plane underwater. I love that kind of stuff, it’s really fun. Basically we had the chassi of a plane that was on a gigantic crane. We were in a swimming pool that was about 18-feet deep. Essentially when I yelled “Action,” they would lower the plane in the water and fill it up. I thought the D.P. did a great job of lighting it and we were referencing Titanic with the lights flickering. It was pretty amazing watching that plane on camera actually filling up with water every take. But one thing that I hadn’t really thought about before we got into it was hypothermia. Even if water is heated to 80-degrees, which I think is how warm the water we were in was heated to, it’s still lower than body temperature. When you’re in it all day long, it’s going to have an effect on your cast. The poor actress who was playing Aquaman’s mother had no body fat on her and she was freezing. When she was telling him to get out, she was shivering so hard. We’d already done four or five takes and between every take it would take 10 minutes to lift the plane out of the water again. She gave me this look which was like, “I’m going to do exactly what you want, and if you ask for one more take I’m going to kill you!” She did a great job with it.
VOICES FROM KRYPTON: How did Justin handle the water?
BEEMAN: Our very first day was him in a pool sort of on a bungee chord that was designed to pull him very quickly through the water. We had a gigantic blue screen in the pool, so we could use it for whatever shots we wanted of him swimming later. We probably did 60 or 80 takes of various swimming – swim left, swim right, swim over the camera, swim under the camera. But by the end of the first day in the water, he went to the hospital because his eyes were lacerated with chlorine; he couldn’t open his eyes. He spent like 14 hours in a chlorinated pool and his eyes were swollen shut. We had a couple of days off after that and we never had that problem again, but on that whole show, Al and Miles and I would constantly turn to each other and say, “What have we gotten ourselves in to?” Because it was just so big and we were trying to figure out how we were going to do this on a series.
To view the rest of this interview, please click HERE.
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