Interview with Craig Viveiros, director and executive producer of The War Of The Worlds
The War Of The Worlds: A major adaptation by Peter Harness of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi title ON AIR: Sunday 17th November 2019 at 9pm on BBC1
When were you first aware of The War Of The Worlds?
How do you achieve a balance between the period drama and the modern futuristic elements?
The original book looked at the dawning of the industrial revolution and a diminishing empire, and we were keen to have our series discuss themes that were relevant today. Peter had answered these things quite cleverly in the script in relation to where we are as a nation. For me, I wanted to have a discussion about our relationship with technology and the advances in areas such as Nano technology and artificial intelligence. I came up with this idea of an exoskeleton that was self-forming and regenerating, material that humans would love to be able to create and harness - but the aliens had already made that step toward.
This was something that you could look at and immediately feel it was alien in nature and impenetrable and I think there is something about that that is quite frightening.
What was the initial inspiration for the look of the alien tripods in the series?
I started looking at the bark of the trees and studying the different layers and I realised that this was like armour for the tree to protect itself and a way of shedding its skin to inform its growth. If the tripods in our series adopted the same process, as if they were seeds that were born and grew, and as they grew they became stronger and tougher, that could mimic this layering of the bark I saw on the trees. The inspiration for the final look of the tripod exterior texture was also this tree bark visual.
The tripods need to look and feel organic, and to have a movement and life of their own. That was key to making sure they seemed solid and impenetrable, and the idea of a regenerative skin - this tree bark skin texture combined with the sound of these beasts - brought them to life. Every time you see a joint move beneath this exoskeleton tree bark skin it is accompanied by the sound of a crystalline cracking and creaking sound. This haunting crunching sound that the visual effects team could also match with a showering down crystal-effect gave a much more ominous feeling to these mammoth creatures.
The sounds of the Martian’s seem crucial to depiction of the tripods in this series. How did you go about creating it?
I wanted to make sure that when the actors are hiding under a table from a tripod or reacting to a Martian there are as many things in place as possible for them to respond to. I didn’t have a 130-metre tall tripod towering over London, but what I could provide was an audio link and a sense of placing one’s self in the world. It was quite a challenge to run speakers and lines of cable everywhere and have the right sounds on standby and timed precisely to the action. It was a very co-ordinated thing because there are scenes where the tripod is communicating with the Martian, and the actors need to play to those communications and play with the rhythm of the scene - so when you are constructing in pre-production you are making sure the orchestrations are coming together and hopefully make sense when you come to edit it all together.
Was it important for you to have a physical capsule for the cast to react to on set?
Who is Amy and how is she portrayed in this adaptation?
Amy is the leading light in this story as she tries to conquer and defeat the Martian invasion. Firstly her relationship with George is frowned upon, and for her to take on this relationship, to be with him for true love and even embark upon such a relationship, shows great strength. Having moved the story forward about five years from the original book, Peter has shifted the characters out of the end of the Victorian era and into the beginning of the Edwardian period. It places Amy in a time where there were lots of changes in attitude to women. The suffragette movement was in full flow and I think Amy wanted to be part of that change, pushing the needs and desires and rights of women forward.
What did Eleanor Tomlinson bring to the role?
What were the influences that led to each episode having a visual tonal difference?
There was an idea that the landscape would start with the warmth of the home-counties, with the use of greens and blues, and then slowly turn into a deeper darker demonic red and then travelling into this bleak, black landscape that was left behind. It is an apocalyptic tale and as Peter says, it is the massacre of mankind. The slow transition of colour lent itself to the idea that the zest for life was being sucked from the land as we journeyed through the three episodes. Part of the piece is an allegory on climate change and how we take our environment for granted, and what happens if we do not look out for each other or work together as a global community.
How did you come up with the concept for the Red World?
With music being a key influence in all your projects how was the soundtrack of The War Of The Worlds approached?
Some of the tools we had at our disposal allowed us to create a soundtrack that could exist in the world of TV and movies today. I decided to look for something that was not in keeping with the traditional classical score, that lent itself to a period drama but actually played with something a little more electronic to create a more hybrid score. It has a mix of classical and electronic and we tried to find musicians that would give it a unique edge and bring something fresh to the genre.
What is at the heart of The War Of The Worlds?
I was blessed to have such wonderful performers in Eleanor, Rafe, Robert and Rupert, who could bring these characters and Peter’s words to life. They are the beating heart of what this story is about. It's essentially a love story and it’s about people understanding how important these relationships are in life. It is a story about appreciating what we have, whether that is who we are as people or the relationships we have with one another.
It also relates to our relationship with our environment and it is important to take time to remember that life is fragile, relationships are fragile, the earth is fragile and we should be respectful of all those things.
Pictured: Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson), Lilian (Taliyah Blair), George (Rafe Spall)
November 12, 2019 4:15am ET by BBC One