On the eve of the release of The Guardian, the cinematic event that will finally provide the moviegoing public with the Kevin Costner/Ashton Kutcher grizzled veteran/pretty hotshot pairing they've long clamored for, the LAT details the incredible lengths the production went through to ensure that its doggy-paddling stars seemed like they were battling sufficiently realistic waves. Sensing that the treacherous, water-wing-shredding conditions of the Magic Mountain wave pool might not adequately mimic the churning waters of a hurricane-stirred Bering Sea, Disney decided to build its own, enormously expensive wave-generating apparatus:
CONSTRUCTION on the tank — measuring 80 by 100 feet and 12 feet deep, with a 50-foot-high blue screen behind it — began in New Orleans late in the summer of 2005. "We were about 80% done with it at enormous expense," says Ahmad. (Neither he nor anyone else involved would divulge the cost.) Then Hurricane Katrina hit, and the production had to shut down and relocate to Shreveport, La., where the tank had to be rebuilt.
The tank holds 750,000 gallons of water. The water had to be heated to 80 degrees for the actors. But even then the actors and others in the water were often chilled. "Every single time we went to the tank, the temperature dropped in Louisiana," Ahmad recalls. "It dropped down to the 40s."
Moreover, the actors and support staff would often get nauseous in the rolling waters. "They were heroic," Ahmad says. "They were in the water for very long periods of time." [...]
[Director Andrew] Davis admits the tank work got pretty crazy at times. The noise from the motors was so loud that a special public address system had to be built to communicate between scenes. And he had to sit in a soundproof booth with three different headsets so he could talk to the camera operators, the special effects crew and the actors.
Regrettably, no film's seasickness-verisimilitude budget is unlimited; once audience testing revealed that reshoots of some of the action sequences would be required, there was no money left for the prohibitively expensive reassembly of their custom-built water tank. Sharp-eyed audience members may be able to detect the corner-cutting moments from the reshoot, where the raging Bering looks suspiciously like the infinity pool in director Davis' backyard, and in which Costner and Kutcher do their best to act buffeted by the somewhat smaller waves generated by the off-screen splashfight of some kickboard-mounted PAs.