AS: Did you bring any crew from the States?
JF: The art department was all Australian. And when I went to Guadalcanal I used people from Guadalcanal. We built a village there. Today’s villages have evolved and changed, so we built a period village. The drawings would be made with a stick in the dirt. I’d say, Well, we should put a house here and the center lodge here. The first day probably fifteen people showed up to help build. Half of them were men. After we’d built our first structure the men got in there and started chewing betel nut. That gets them a little bit high and from that day on they just sat in there and chewed betel nut. The women did all the construction. They would be carrying rocks down the beach, collecting materials and thatching the houses. They were great workers.
On the way to work, I would stop at the open-air market and pick up three or four live chickens and throw them in the back of my car. I’d drive to set and one of the women would take them out and go to a stream and get them ready for lunch while the other women were building. We’d go up in the jungle and get sago palms. We built it just like they used to. On some days I’d see grandparents bringing little children into the village to show them how they used to live.
Ian Gracie was there the first day and we went hiking up in the mountains looking for all the palms and wood we needed. There was a beautiful stream and it just looked like heaven and he said, Oh, I’m going to drink some of that. I said, I don’t think you should. And he said, No, no, I think it’s okay, look how far up it is.
Well, the next day he was really sick and ended up having to go back to Australia. But it timed out well because he and his wife were having a baby in a couple of days so he got to go back home and be there when his son was born. We had to be careful, Guadalcanal is the malaria capitol of the world. The studio did not want us to shoot in Guadalcanal. But it’s just such an exquisite place.
We shot the ship approaching Guadalcanal off Santa Catalina in California. It had been a rainy winter and the island was lush and green and it looked amazing.
AS: Do you mostly build 360 degrees and avoid using set extensions?
JF: When I started to work with Terry I saw it was hard to know what he was going to shoot because when he gets behind the camera he just goes! So I started building 360 degrees. I just do as much as I can. And then it sort of became the way I like to work because it creates a world. It creates more work for the art department but it really helps the actors.