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LEONARD,BRETT – T REX; BACK TO THE CRETACEOUS

CINEMA’S NEW EXTREMIST
Brett Leonard is determined to make one of the first, if not THE first, IMAX 3D feature films, and running feature length. The director who has just made T Rex; Back to the Cretaceous, is looking very much forward, as he tells ANDREW L. URBAN.

T Rex; Back to the Cretaceous, the 45 minute drama on the huge IMAX screen, is not just about dinosaurs. For one thing, it’s a story with real actors playing made up characters. There is daddy the scientist (Peter Horton as Dr Donald Hayden) and bright young daughter (Liz Stauber as Ally Hayden) who is whisked back 65 million years following a mysterious accident in the museum.

"the amount of digital artistry required was five times anything used in Jurassic Park"

Ally explores the rainforest home of dinosaurs before they disappeared, and we go with her, coming face to face with several, including the Big T bone.

The detail needed to create the digital dinos was "way beyond anything ever done before," Leonard explains. "Because of the sheer size of the image and the absolute clarity, the amount of digital artistry required was five times anything used in Jurassic Park."

IMAX approached Leonard with the script, and asked his company, L Squared Entertainment for a feasability study. "It was incredibly challenging," says Leonard. "That’s why I did it – that’s why I get up every morning. It’s a challenge. And that’s why I’m playing with IMAX 3D; it’s the closest you can get to immersive, interactive, extreme entertainment, I call it. And we’re now working on the next, the life story of [illusionists] Siegfried and Roy, which will be a wild, trippy ride in 3D. But a very human story, more than anything ever done in 3D before."

Leonard and his partner in L Squared, Michael V. Lewis, are also working on the fusion of movies and the internet. "We’re working on an environment that allows character and drama elements to be manipulated by participants, with artificial intelligence as the director system. We have developed a cinematic operating system, which allows users to create their own experience."

"the awesome power"

But in T Rex, Leonard refrains from interactivity, although he does immerse his audiences – and his actors - in an extreme entertainment. Although all the dinosaurs are digitally created, you would only know that if told. Sitting in the cinema, the critters’ breath seems to fluff your hair at times, and there are moments when the awesome power of their presence is almost tangible.

The serious flashback sequences, set 65 million years in the past, were shot in the Olympia rainforest in upper Washington state and ooze with strange and lush vegetation. Other locations, from the Red Deer River to the Donosaur Provincial Park in the Badlands region of Alberta, Canada (the region acknowledged to be one of the richest in dino bones), are just as impressive.

T Rex is the first example of seteroscopic, photo-realistic dinsoaurs seen on the giant IMAX screen; it took more than 60 people 18 months to make, and is a great example of the marriage between IMAX 3D technology and dramatic cinema.

Leonard, who directed Virtuosity, starring Denzel Washington, Kelly Lynch and Russell Crowe, made his debut with The Lawnmower man, which helped popularise the concept of virtual reality.

"He is a new breed James Cagney" on Russell Crowe

He says fondly of Russell Crowe that he is "firstly, a very good actor. He is a new breed James Cagney…he has that intensity and menace but you just love the guy. My best experience on Virtuosity was working with Russell."

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