SHH! Elektra Set Visit – Part 1

On June 17th, 2004 I had the great privilege to visit the set of Elektra in Vancouver, Canada. As you already know, the movie is a spinoff from the film Daredevil and it is set to be released in February 2005. Just to give you a little background on myself, I’m a long time reader of Marvel Comics. Though I didn’t read many Daredevil or Elektra comics, I’m familiar with the character after having followed Marvel titles for almost 20 years. So it was with a lot of excitement that I headed to Canada.

After an uneventful trip, I made it to the beautiful city of Vancouver. It was my first trip to Canada, but I knew I had officially arrived when, after about 3 minutes, the taxi driver ended a sentence with, “Eh!” The following morning I met the rest of the geek press in the hotel lobby for the trip to the location shoot. There were members from IGN FilmForce, SciFi.Com, Starlog, Cinefantastique, Wizard, and more. It’s always a pleasure to get together with the geek press because they offer up the best conversation about movies, comics, and other such fun stuff. After meeting and getting acquainted, we hopped on a bus and headed north out of town.

Our destination was a park just outside of Vancouver. I don’t recall the name of the park, but it was at the city’s reservoir and in the shadow of a mountain known as the “Two Lions”. As we arrived, I began to see all of the trucks, trailers, and caterers supporting the hundred –or-so person crew. The amount of personnel and equipment out there was amazing, and more so because they had only been there a few days. After being oriented to the area and the day’s schedule, we were taken to the location where they were filming.

We were led to a path in the park up a hill and in some nearby woods. The forest was stunning. I’ve seen forests all over the world, but this was definitely unique. Everywhere you looked there were dense trees with huge trunks in every direction. The green canopy was high overhead. We made our way down a trail with the Fox PR folks. As we walked along, I saw two girls that looked like twins. However, as we got closer, I realized they were not twins at all. They were 13-year-old Kirsten Prout and her stunt double. Prout plays Abby Miller, a young girl who has been targeted for assassination by Elektra. As we passed by Prout, she and her stunt double began practicing fight moves for an upcoming scene.

We continued walking and along the trail came a couple of ninjas. The first thing I noticed was that their outfits were white. In the comics they were always black or dark red, so this was a surprising change to me. The ninjas were also white guys, so it seems the Hand has gone multi-cultural. (We did see other Asian ninjas later on the trail.) Their outfits were an off-white color with symbols on each shoulder towards the chest. They carried swords and they had a small quiver type bag on their lower legs. They passed by and we moved on.

The geek press and I then continued on through the forest towards the main set. Through the trees I could see floating balloons filled with large lights. We got closer and then I was able to see dozens of crew members milling about preparing for the scene. The first member of the cast that I spotted was Goran Visnjic who plays Mark Miller in the film. You may know him better as Dr. Kovac on E.R. In Elektra, Miller is the father of Abby and is also marked for assassination by our heroine. However, Elektra is reminded of herself and her father by the two, and she then pledges to protect them from the Hand, an evil group of ninjas with supernatural powers. As I passed Visnjic, he was talking with a stunt coordinator and playing with a large knife. He also has a small bit of fake blood on his temple. What struck me about Visnjic, who was wearing a black sweater and blue jeans, was just how tall he was. I’m about 6’ 5” tall and he seemed just as tall if not taller. Most celebrities I’ve seen have been significantly shorter, but Goran was definitely taller than I expected. He never really spoke to us or interacted with the geek press until later in the day.

As we moved through the location, we were led by the monitors and the director’s chairs. On them, you could see one of the film’s temporary logos. The Elektra logo was made up of Greek lettering in gray and white with a small sai over the top. Here we were able to talk with producer Gary Foster. He also produced Daredevil, The Score, and Sleepless in Seattle. Foster was a very nice, genuinely friendly fellow who seems very enthusiastic about Elektra. Foster took the time to explain the plot of the film and then discuss the scene we would be seeing shot that day.

The movie takes place a couple of years after Daredevil. Elektra, after having been mystically healed from her wounds from Bullseye, ends up under the tutelage of Stick, a blind martial arts master. Stick trains her, but when he sees that she’s turning toward the dark side, he casts her out. Now without a father, a sensei, or Matt Murdoch, Elektra becomes an assassin. She also falls in with a group of ninjas called The Hand. Masters of black magic, they hire Elektra to kill Mark Miller and his daughter Abby. However, Mark and Abby remind her of herself and her father, so she turns on The Hand and decides to protect them. The Hand then sends ninjas and deadly assassins with incredible magical powers to kill them all.

In the scene we are to see shot, Elektra, Mark, and Abbey are discovered at the abandoned Natchios mansion by the Hand ninjas. As the trio flees into the woods, the ninjas pursue. In the woods, Elektra takes on some of the fighters, but she is ultimately defeated by Typhoid Mary. Pinning Elektra on the ground, Mary kisses her with her lethal lips. With Elektra unconscious and out of action, she turns on Abby and Mark. Little do they know that Abby has talents beyond their expectations. As Typhoid Mary starts heading for Abby, Kirigi steps in her way and stops her. Kirigi is the biggest, baddest super assassin in the Hand. Not only does he have aspirations to rule The Hand, but he seems to have other plans for Abbey. However, the young girl pulls a wire beaded bracelet off of her arm and whips it towards Kirigi’s head. He grabs it at the last second with his hand, then turns to face Abbey. It is then that Stick jumps in and knocks away the whip with his bow stick. Stick, it turns out, has joined Elektra in protecting Abby and Mark. However, just as Stick begins to face off with Kirigi, ninjas descend out of the trees and surround our heroes. They kidnap Abby and disappear into the forest. Stick and Mark are then left to attend to the seemingly dead Elektra who’s lying on the forest floor.

As Foster explains the day’s scene to us and answers questions, the cameras continue to set up. As I look across the crowd, I see Terrence Stamp among them. As you’re probably aware, he plays Stick in the film. He’s wearing a loose beige outfit with a beige cap. Stamp also holds a large ‘bo’ stick in his hand – his character’s weapon of choice. As I debate whether or not I should kneel before Zod, he continued to mill about waiting for time to start.

It’s then that I get my first glimpse of Typhoid Mary as she arrived on the set. She’s played by Natassia Malthe (aka Lena Teal). She is half-Norwegian, half-Malaysian, so her look is quite exotic. Natassia arrives wearing a big black overcoat and when she removed it, I got my first look at her full costume. She doesn’t have a half-white face, frizzy hair, or fishnet stockings like in the comics. The new Typhoid Mary is wearing all black. She has tight back pants, a laced up black shirt with purple stripes up the inside, and black high heels. Her eyeshadow and fingernails are teal. But of all things, her dark black hair is the hardest to describe. The geek press and I searched for the right wording to describe it. “Mullet” was thrown out there, but that wasn’t quite right. Comparisons were made to Joan Jett, and that was a little bit closer. The final verdict was that “punk” was the best term for Typhoid Mary’s hair. Mary doesn’t just have a deadly kiss in this movie. Anything living that she touches dies. Her eyes also change color from green to blue to completely black. At this particular moment in the film, her eyes are black. I asked if we’d be seeing Typhoid’s alter ego in the movie and I was told that we wouldn’t.

Also milling about the set was Will Yun Lee who plays Kirigi. Like the other members of The Hand, he doesn’t look like his comic book incarnation. He had long hair and was wearing white and off-white robes. Lee carried a sword and a tattoo was clearly visible coming out of his shirt and up his neck. Kirigi was described to us as the baddest of the Hand ninjas. He’s obviously a major player in the film.

As the crew continued to set up the lighting and cameras, Jennifer Garner finally arrived. Her hair was long and straight and pulled back in a ponytail. She was wearing a black leather coat and blue jeans. (She was not wearing her trademark red outfit, but more on that later.) And, of course, she had the green contact lenses in her eyes. All of the geek press and I noticed her arrive, but none of us said anything. Yes, we’re pathetic. However, Garner saw us from around 40 or 50 feet away, waved, and called out to us, “Hey guys! Welcome!” What did we do? The same thing you would have done. We stood there grinning like idiots wondering if we should wave back. Just then a couple of female crewmembers behind us jokingly said, “Guys! If Jennifer Garner waves ‘Hi’ to you, you wave back!” The other one added, “Maybe they were swatting at mosquitoes and she thought they waved back to her.” We all got a good laugh out of that.

As the crew continued to set up, Jennifer Garner made her way through the crowd saying “Hi” to people until she finally made her way up to us geeks. I have to say that she was a lot different than I expected. She wasn’t as tall as I thought and she was more petite than I was expecting. Garner was definitely beautiful, but not in the glamorous Hollywood superstar way that you might think. She had more “girl next door” good looks that still left all the geeks speechless. You might easily pass her in a crowd without ever recognizing her. She said, “Hi. I’m Jennifer.” There was an awkward schoolboy pause, and we kind of laughed and said, “We know!” She then said something to the effect of, “I couldn’t tell if you recognized me with the wig and padded bra.” Again, that cracked us up. She then proceeded to shake hands and talk to people before making her way back to prepare for the scene. (She was the only cast member that really took time to chat with us outside of the Q&A sessions.) At one point I saw her stop and start chatting with Terence Stamp. As they talked, you could see Stamp’s face light up and it was immediately obviously that they got along well. We’ll see if that good chemistry translates well onto the big screen where their characters have a master and apprentice relationship.

Producer Gary Foster then returned to our group and started talking more about the movie. He told us about a character named Tattoo. (At one time he was named Tengu, but the name is still in the air.) Tattoo is another Hand assassin covered with animal tattoos that he can magically make come to life. For example, in the film he has wolves jump off his body and attack our heroes. In another scene, a spider comes to life off of his shoulder and goes into a room to spy on people. He can see what the spider sees. (As it turns out, there are several unrelated Marvel characters named Tattoo who have the exact same powers. You can find them in the old New Universe Justice title and old Genetix series.)

As Foster continued to talk, it became more and more apparent that magic is a major part of Elektra. The Hand ninjas will disappear in their trademark green smoke. The Hand assassins will have strange powers. There’s even a hint at one point that magic plays a role in Elektra surviving Bullseye’s attack in Daredevil. Foster tells us that they have even created a name for this magic – Kimiguri. It is the power that the Hand has mastered and it even allows them to predict the future. Later in the day, the subject of magic in this film was a topic of conversation at a Q&A.

It was about then that director Rob Bowman arrived. Known for directing the X-Files movie and Reign Of Fire, Bowman is no stranger to genre films. As he met the geek press, he shook hands with people and said hello. As we all waited for the shot to be set up, Bowman and Foster took time to chat with everyone. The topics of conversation were wide ranging. We talked about The Terminal, whether or not Spielberg has passed his prime, the Star Wars DVDs, Spider-Man 2, Garfield, LXG, and more. (I told you the geek press always had the most fun conversation!) It was then time to begin the first scene.

The shot the day before was where Typhoid Mary kissed Elektra whom she had pinned to the ground. Now in the clearing in the forest there was a big black spot covered in black leaves. (Remember, anything living that Mary touches dies.) Jennifer Garner walked over to the spot and laid down in the leaves. Will Yun Lee (aka Kirigi) then stood behind a large tree trunk. Stick, Mark Miller, and Abby stood a short distance away behind the cameras.

Then it gets interesting.

Natassia Malthe (aka Typhoid Mary) walks over to Jennifer Garner and lays down right on top of her with her hands on either side of her face!

To be continued…

Source: Scott Chitwood