When creating the world of "Snow White and the Huntsman," not everything Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth encounter can be left up to computer-generated imagery. You have to add a bit of reality — practical effects like fire, explosions and rain — to bring the world to life.
To get the answers to how the filmmakers created so many of the fantastical effects for "Snow White and the Huntsman," we spoke with special-effects supervisor Michael Dawson about the challenges of setting a village on fire, submerging Charlize Theron in milk and letting Stewart sink into a bog.
According to Dawson, the biggest challenge of the entire shoot was a scene that was featured prominently in the most recent trailer. Dawson and his team set fire to an entire village during Hemsworth's biggest fight scene.
"They built the village out on stilts like a fishing village. If you can imagine, they built it out into the lake itself. We had about 10 huts we had to gas up," said Dawson, who is currently working on "Maleficent," starring Angelina Jolie. "It was all a thatched village, so we made all the thatched roofs out of plaster. Then we pumped through liquid propane, so it was really roaring away, and Chris was running through there, smashing people up."
One of the most talked-about scenes from the first trailers also posed one of the biggest tests for Dawson and his team. The queen's milk bath was initially conceived as one where Theron's character would enter and exit from a pool of acid, but as Dawson explained, the scene evolved into the version we know today.
"As the scene progressed, it gradually became apparent that they wanted a more viscous liquid so it would cling to her because she was kind of naked. They wanted it to cover her like a cloak. So we had to devise a product that could do that safely," Dawson said. "We eventually found a thickening agent that they use for cosmetics and toothpaste and a whitening agent that is used in makeup. We got it down to the right consistency, and then we had a company make 30,000 liters of it in a sealed environment so it was sterile."
Keeping the bath free of any bacteria was incredibly important for the crew and something that caused Dawson a bit of distress. "We didn't want any germs in it. It's always a worry when you put a lead actress of her caliber into something like that. You just think, 'God, I hope it's all right.' "
One scene called for Stewart to wade into a bog, and Dawson said that the actress handled it like a true professional. "She was amazing. This was a cold bog that we dug and filled it with this goopy brown stuff that was really nasty," Dawson said. "She was in it, and she was acting in it. She never moaned. She never complained."
Dawson said that being a good sport in situations like the scene with Stewart in the bog make his job easier. "When that happens, it sells the shot. If you can tell that somebody's not comfortable doing something, then it doesn't work."
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